Today is the day. In less than three hours the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys are set to do battle in the NFC Divisional playoff with a trip to Seattle and a potential ticket to Super Sunday on the line.
Per usual, the game has been analyzed from every possible angles by the experts and most believe it’s generally a toss up.
So do I.
The difference between the Packers and Cowboys appears to be razor thin. Both have MVP caliber quarterbacks. Each boasts elite offensive lines and dominating runners, playmaking receivers and defenses that exceeded expectations.
So when all things are generally equal, the difference between winning and losing in the NFL usually comes down to two things: quarterback play and turnovers.
Obviously, the two go hand in hand.
Rodgers, who will not be 100 percent must play at an elite level, which has been his norm at the famed Lambeau Field. He hasn’t thrown an interception there since 2012 and if that trend continues, Green Bay should find themselves at C-Link Stadium in Seattle next Sunday.
Yet, while Rodgers has been elite so has Tony Romo. The 2014 campaign was his best by far. And with DeMarco Murray behind him, plus Dez Bryant, Jason Written and Terrance Williams, he has plenty of weapons to lead Dallas to victory.
The question is can he do it?
A big determining factor in that will be the play of the Green Bay defense. Late in the year, following Clay Matthews move to inside linebacker, the defense was much improved. The run defense went from one of the worst at over 150 rushing yards allowed per game to one of the best, allowing less than 90 since Clay’s move to the middle.
The Packers are also among the best in the league at forcing turnovers, particularly interceptions. But, in order to get those, it’s imperative for them to make the Dallas offense one dimensional, which starts with stopping the run.
If Green Bay can contain Murray and force Romo to win the game with his arm, I feel confident that Dom Capers and his array of pressure packages can force the 2014 Pro Bowler into a mistake or two, which could turn the tide in Green Bay’s favor.
Playoff games come down to big plays and mistakes. Throughout his career, Rodgers has been great at creating big plays, while limiting mistakes. If he can duplicate that again today and the defense can make one or two impact plays, then the Packers will move onto Seattle.
If not, it will be another long off season for the Green and Gold.