GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 16: Linebacker Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears is blocked by guard Jason Spitz #72 of the Green Bay Packers allowing running back Ryan Grant #25 of the Green Bay Packers to rush four yards for a second quarter touchdown against the Chicago Bears during NFL action at Lambeau Field on November 16, 2008 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Bears 37-3. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Every week during the season, we’ll scout out the Cowboys next opponent. This weekend, that opponent is the Grenn Bay Packers.
The Opponent: The Green Bay Packers, aka the Pack, aka the Favre Exes
Record: 4-4, tied for 2nd in the NFC North.
The Line: Cowboys by 3. Oof, the dreaded road favorite tag.
Last Game: A humiliating 38-28 loss to Tampa Bay, the league’s last winless team. The Packers blew a 28-17 lead over the Bucs in the fourth quarter, surrendering three straight touchdowns to the Bucs thereafter. They allowed rookie QB Josh Freeman to throw three TD passes, tying a rookie record. Freeman is the only rookie QB in NFL history to throw three TD passes and win in his first career start.
The Coach: Mike McCarthy. After taking Green Bay to the NFC title game two years ago, it’s fair to ask whether or not McCarthy is all that skilled as a head coach. He’s had two relatively talented Packer teams the past two years, and they’ve underachieved, to say the very least. McCarthy is the kind of coach who will happily let the other team off the hook by calling a running play on 3rd and 6.
The Offense: This might be the worst offensive line the Cowboys have faced all season long. The Packers have allowed 37 sacks so far, which easily leads the league. The next worst pass protecting team is Kansas City, which has given up a full ten sacks less. Compounding the poor pass protection is the fact that QB Aaron Rodgers holds onto the ball forever. Call it Bledsoe Disease. Rodgers threw three picks against the Bucs and appears to be regressing. And I’ve said it before, but all I’ll say it again: The dude totally looks like BJ Novak. Star wideout Greg Jennings has been noticeably quiet all year long, but running back Ryan Grant has regained some of his early career form.
The Defense: I will NEVER understand why the Packers took Aaron Kampman, who was a productive and downright feared defensive end, and converted him to a standup linebacker. It’s the dumbest thing in the history of dumb things, and the Packers defense is suffering because of it. Kampman had 9.5 sacks last year. He has 2.5 sacks thus far. He’s just as liable to drop into coverage on passing downs as he is to go after the QB. Why? Why would anyone do this to a bloodthirsty pass rushing machine? It’s idiotic. New defensive coordinator Dom Capers was brought in to install a 3-4 defense, but moving Kampman just to accommodate the scheme strikes me as a massive demonstration of coaching overthought. You can see the discomfort in Kampman’s eyes when he has to stand on the end and drop back. The Packers’ defense ranks 4th in yardage but 17th in points allowed. Talented players abound here, but something is missing.
Key Matchup: Anthony Spencer and Marcus Spears vs. RT Allen Barbre. Mere words can’t describe how awful Barbre is at pass protection. He’s like marathon finish line tape. It would be tempting to flip DeMarcus Ware over to Barbre’s side just to get to Rodgers. But I suspect Spears and Spencer will be able to capitalize on the mismatch nicely.