For all intents and purposes, this NFL season has been nothing short of fascinating. We experienced resiliency in Cleveland, hope in Miami and Buffalo, and the Cowboys have suddenly become a legitimate playoff threat. Dallas’ magical run takes another turn as they head to Green Bay to play Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in what is sure to be a showdown for the record books.
With all eyes honed in on how Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo handles the biggest and brightest spotlight of his football career, there are three major things that will have to fall in Dallas’ favor for there to be a chance at an upset.
Here are those keys to victory:
1. The Road Less Traveled
On Sunday we will all get to witness what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. The Green Bay Packers posted an impressive 8-0 record when cozy in Lambeau Field among all their Cheesehead faithful which, you would think, is great news… right?
Tony Romo and the underdog Dallas Cowboys have an even more impressive 8-0 tally in road games played this season. This includes wins in St. Louis, in Indianapolis, and — most notably — in Seattle against the defending champion Seahawks.
What this means (at least at first glance) is that, if anything, the Cowboys are NOT afraid of going into Green Bay against an excellent football team. If the game were being played in AT&T Stadium back in Arlington, a place where the Cowboys are only 4-4, the Packers might actually have a better chance.
With victory, not stats or likability, being the only thing that should be on Dallas’ mind coming into their divisional round playoff match up, we can expect this to be Green Bay’s most difficult test this season.
What a homecoming this is going to be.
Other than outstanding respective home-away records, the biggest difference between these two squads is the offensive line. Without big men, Aaron Rodgers would not have the time that he has had thus far to take his toll on the opposition. But without its own big men, you can kiss the Dallas Cowboys and any chance at the playoffs goodbye.
Thus far, the Cowboys have managed to attain the second-best rushing attack in the NFL — a feat the Packers are far from realizing. With this kind of rushing attack, led by DeMarco Murray, Dallas is going to be looking to tear up Green Bay and their 23rd-ranked rush defense.
The only way that Aaron Rodgers and company will be able to counter Dallas’ offensives is if they can keep a consistent and deadly air attack under their control. This would mean that the Packers offensive would have to play lights out for Rodgers to connect the dots in the eighth-best offensive squad.
All in all, it’s the boys up front that mean the world to both these teams.
Tony Romo is no stranger to falling from the spotlight, but what happens when it’s the temperature that drops and not the expectations? According to an ESPN report, when the weather is at or below freezing (i.e. 32 degrees Fahrenheit) and it’s a home game, Aaron Rodgers’ play dramatically changes in the playoffs compared to the regular season.
Holding his own at 9-2 in the regular-season games that fit that criteria, Rodgers is 1-2 in the same environment during playoff time. Further, according to the report, Rodgers gets sacked nearly twice as much when it’s freezing in the playoffs and his quarterback rating drops an average of fifteen points.
As for Tony Romo –aside from the Wild Card whoop-de-do a couple years ago in Seattle (when he was the holder on the botched field goal attempt) –there hasn’t been enough playoff experience to determine how exactly he will react to the weather in Green Bay.
It is also worth mentioning that Rodgers will be playing with a hurting calf, and Romo will not.
Romo might not be the best of the best, but I can tell you he’ll be ready to play in the biggest game of his life thus far, and Green Bay won’t be ready for the full effect.