The Dallas Cowboys are two wins away from reaching their first Super Bowl in 20 years. They don’t have an easy road in their attempt to reach the NFC Championship, and they’ll need several players to overachieve in order to upset the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Dallas is one of the most talented teams in the league, with two MVP candidates on their roster. Tony Romo finished the regular season with the highest passer rating and completion percentage in the league, while DeMarco Murray led all running backs in yards.
It goes without saying that the Cowboys are hoping for big performances from their star players. Dallas suffered when Romo struggled, who threw two touchdown passes and five interceptions in his three losses as a starter. Murray might have been the league’s most consistent player in the first 11 weeks, rushing for at least 100 yards 10 times. In the past six games, he’s reached the century mark just twice, including 75 rushing yards in the Cowboys' first-round playoff win against Detroit.
Besides their starting quarterback and running back, other players on both sides of the ball will be key for the Cowboys in Green Bay. Below are four Dallas players to watch for in the NFC Divisional Playoff game.
Bryant is arguably the best wide receiver remaining the playoffs, ranking eighth in the 2014 regular season with 1,320 receiving yards, as part of the NFL’s No. 16 passing offense. He was limited to just 48 yards on Wild Card Weekend, recording less than four catches for just the third time this year. The Cowboys needed a late-game comeback to win, and they've struggled this season when Bryant has, losing four of his six worst receiving games. Green Bay has the league’s highest-scoring offense, averaging 39.8 points at home, and Dallas may require a strong performance from Bryant to help them keep pace.
Beasley is a crafty weapon for Romo, and is capable of lifting the offense with key gains. The Cowboys No.3 wide receiver in the regular season didn’t have a big year, catching just 37 passes for 420 yards. But he came up big against the Lions, catching four passes for 63 yards, which was his second-highest total of the season. Romo targeted Beasley eight times, which was more than twice the amount of passes that he sent Bryant’s way. If the Packers can contain Bryant in a similar fashion, Dallas may rely on Beasley to step up, once again.
The cornerback was a big part of the team’s first-round win. After being torched by Calvin Johnson in the previous meeting between the two teams, Carr helped limit Megatron to 85 yards on five catches, keeping him out of the end zone. His six tackles were his second-highest total of the season, and he’ll look to continue his strong play on Sunday against the league’s top offense. Jordy Nelson finished the regular season ranked fourth with 1,519 receiving yards, and only Romo had a better passer rating than Aaron Rodgers. How Carr performs against the Packers' receivers might be crucial to the Cowboys' hopes of reaching the NFC title game.
The rookie was involved in one of the game’s biggest plays against Detroit, recovering a fumble late in the fourth quarter, only to have the ball stripped and recovered by a member of the Lions. Lawrence redeemed himself on Detroit's final offensive play, sacking Matthew Stafford on fourth down with a minute remaining, while forcing a fumble and holding onto the ball. A broken foot kept the second-round pick out for the first two months, and he’ll look to make more big plays in Green Bay.