Saturday, November 06, 2010

Packers - Cowboys Preview: Sunday Night Showdown

Two teams headed in different directions. That pretty well sums up the contest Sunday evening between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. After giving away a couple games they should have won, and sitting at a mediocre 3-3, the Pack put together great wins over the ViQueens and the Jets.

Both of those wins can be attributed more to the Packers' defense -- which, lest we forget, is the unit that has been hurt the most with injuries -- than the offense. At the mid-point of the season, the Packers' offense still has yet to play a complete game. Sunday night against the 'boys would be as good a time as any to put a complete game together.

The offense will be without veteran WR Donald Driver for the first time in...oh...forever, it seems. He was on crutches late in the practice week just to give some added relief to his quad injury. That means, likely, that Greg Jennings will take Driver's spot in the slot and has the potential for some big plays. As radio voice of the Packers, Wayne Larrivee points out about Dallas in his blog, "There is a gap of coverage between the linebacking corps, the safeties and cornerbacks that is wide open" because "Dallas will blitz a lot and they like to play quarters coverage behind those blitzes." Jennings and fellow receivers James Jones and Jordy Nelson should be chompin' at the bit to against the Dallas secondary. Let's just hope that they and their QB, Aaron Rodgers, are a bit more in sync than they seem to have been over the last few games. And that they hold on to the passes that come their way. If so, the Pack could rack up some points.

Rookie TE Andrew Quarless was battling a shoulder problem throughout the week and he is listed as questionable for the game. It was clear in some of head coach Mike McCarthy's comments during the week that he was less than satisfied with Quarless' ability to work through the discomfort and be on the practice field. McCarthy noted that the players that practice are the ones who will get the nod on game day...hint, hint, Mr. Quarless.

On the Packers' offensive line, rookie Bryan Bulaga will once again get the start at right tackle in place of the still gimpy Mark Tauscher. LG Daryn Colledge missed a bit of practice during the week with a bad back and it wasn't certain he'd be available for the game. Jason Spitz and T. J. Lang would be the backups if Colledge couldn't go. But he did practice Friday and says he'll be ready.

On defense, it was announced late Saturday afternoon that S Atari Bigby was activated off the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and now fills the last open roster spot which was made available earlier in the week when the Packers cut DE Michael Montgomery. Rookie Morgan Burnett had filled Bigby's starting spot at the beginning of the season until he was lost to season-ending injury. Charlie Peprah has been filling the role well the last few weeks. It will be interesting to see just how much play Bigby gets in the game against Dallas.

It will also be interesting to see if CB Al Harris is activated before game time. Ditto for the other member of the PUP list, rookie RB James Starks. The Packers have until Monday to decide what to do with them. There is some speculation that CB Pat Lee might be placed on IR after sustaining a high ankle sprain in the game against the Jets. Lee is listed as out for the Dallas game. If that's the case, and the prognosis on the sprain is not good, it would make sense that the Packers put him on IR opening up a roster spot for Harris. The consensus on Starks seems to be that the Packers will put him on IR for the rest of the season and then see what they have with him next year.

As for the Cowboys, at 1-6 they are, to say the least, underperforming given the talent on the roster. But a lot of talent doesn't necessarily add up to a team. The 'boys seemingly are in disarray, much like that team in the funky purple. But as a character in a Monty Python sketch reminds us (please say with an Australian accent), "There's nothing as dangerous as a wounded mosquito."

What has cost the Cowboys this season has been turnovers and penalties. If the Packers can create turnovers and convert them into points, that will help seal the deal for a win. If the Packers allow veteran QB Jon Kitna -- replacing the injured Tony Romo -- time to find any among the band of talented receivers, things could get interesting. The running backs seem good enough, but they have been underutilized it would seem. The special teams have a dangerous returner in Dez Bryant, who is also the receiver Kitna seems to have developed a quick rapport with. The Pack will have to shut him down.

Bottom line is if the Packers defense plays the way it has been playing, the special teams continues its fine turn-around, and the offense finally gets it in gear and can get up early on the 'boys, the Pack should come out of this game with a win and be at 6-3 going into the bye week. That would also leave them well in charge of the NFC North. And given what a mess there is in Minnesota right now, what some (or many) figured might be a loss in the Humpty Dump in two weeks could very well be the Pack's seventh victory. But we'll worry about that game then. Gotta take care of business at Lambeau against the Cowboys first.

The Packers are favored by 7-1/2 points (depending upon who you tend to be looking at for that type of info). I'm calling this game 30-20 in favor of the Pack.

Go Pack Go!!!