Vying for a spot in the NFC Championship, the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys renew their storied rivalry after nearly 20 years Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field. The winner earns the uneviable task of facing defending champion Seattle next week.
The last time these two squads meet was the 1995 NFC title game, when the Cowboys were in the midst of their third Super Bowl run in four years and guys like Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman stalked the Dallas sideline and a guy named Brett Favre still donned a Packers jersey.
Down three points heading into the fourth quarter, a pair of Smith rushing touchdowns eventually led to a Dallas victory, and it improved their all-time playoff mark against Green Bay to 4-1. The two sides met in three straight postseasons from 1993 to 1995, with Dallas victorious each time by an average of 15.6 points. The Packers lone victory was in 1967’s Ice Bowl, a game played 13 degrees below zero.
The weather this year won’t be nearly as freezing, but at kick-off time its expected to be 22 degrees, with the wind chill dropping it to 17, conditions that assuredly will affect on the game. It’s the kind of conditions that would force the Cowboys to prove their perfect 8-0 road record during the regular season was no fluke.
Both teams are coming off victories over the Detroit Lions, the difference being Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay got a week off as the No. 2 seed after beating Detroit for the NFC North title in the final game of the regular season.
Down 10 at the half in last week’s Wild Card round, Dallas and quarterback Tony Romo forged a comeback that was capped by receiver Terrance Williams' eight-yard touchdown reception with less than three minutes remaining.
Tossing two touchdowns with no interceptions in his first postseason start in five years, Romo’s posted arguably the best season of his career and the matchup against Green Bay’s Rodgers has all the glitz and glam of a broadway marquee.
Romo led the NFL in completion percentage (69.9), yards per attempt (8.5) and passer rating (113.2) and tossed 34 touchdowns to only nine interceptions, his lowest total in a full season since Dallas was last in the playoffs in 2009.
But the question is, what kind of Rodgers will we see? Viewed as the MVP frontrunner at the close of the regular season with 38 touchdowns to five interceptions, Rodgers has a tear in his left calf muscle. He’s expected to play, but the chance of sustaining further damage while going full-tilt in a playoff battle looms.
Rodgers may ask his top targets, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, who combined for 25 touchdowns this season, to extend their routes plays for him if his mobility becomes an issue as the game wears on.
Romo too has one of the game’s best receivers in Dez Bryant, who led the NFL with 16 touchdown receptions , six of which came in the Cowboys last three games.
With Rodgers hurt and the weather likely playing a factor, it’s possible that the quarterback matchup everyone at Lambeau came to see could very well turn into a grind-out battle between the NFL’s leading rusher DeMarco Murray and Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy. Murray was unstoppable in the regular season with 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns, setting a new league record with eight straight 100-yard games. Lacy pounded away his second-straight 1,000-yard season as a pro, scoring nine touchdowns.
Start Time: 1:05 P.M. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Betting Odds: Green Bay -5.5
Over/Under: 52 points
Prediction: Dallas over Green Bay, 30-27