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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Game Preview: Cowboys @ Packers

by Thomas Pyc
PackerChatters Staff

The Dallas Cowboys enter this Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers looking to end a three game losing streak while the Packers would like to put two wins together for the first time this season. Both teams made the playoffs last year and have subsequently disappointed their fans with their play up to this point. The last time the Packers met up with a Bill Parcells’ team he was coach of the New England Patriots and the game was the Super Bowl XXXI.

The Packers’ Offense vs. the Cowboys’ Defense

The most important element to this match up could very well be the injury report. The Cowboys defense is 15th in yards allowed, 23rd in points allowed and 31st in takeaways. The scheme is based off of speed more than size and could be susceptible to a team that likes to utilize a power running scheme. Sound good, Packer fans? This unit’s strength is free safety Roy Williams who has been a stellar performer, a solid hitter and he is only getting better. The Cowboys’ weakest link could also be in secondary and is a former Packer. Right cornerback Tyrone Williams has been criticized for losing a step and requires help over the top from a safety.

The Packers’ offense (3rd overall) is coming off of a stellar performance against Detroit, racking up 38 points against the Detroit Lions. Unfortunately, the Packers might not be able to exploit the size of the Cowboys’ small defense due to some lingering injuries. Both Ahman Green (Achilles’ – probable) and Najeh Davenport (hamstring) are nursing injuries although only Green is listed on the team’s injury report. Two of the Packers’ better run blockers outside of the offensive line, WR Robert Ferguson (calf/ankle – questionable) and FB William Henderson (back – probable), are also nursing injuries. Fortunately for the Packers they are very deep with offensive threats and both WR Donald Driver and WR Javon Walker could explode for big games if the running game is shut down.

The Cowboys’ Offense vs. the Packers’ Defense

Vinny Testeverde is 40 years of age but you would not know that just by watching him throw. The Cowboys’ offense (11th overall) has not looked like Parcells’ traditional power running scheme. Instead, Vinny’s arm is connecting with wide receivers Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson. Wide receiver Antonio Bryant offered the most potential for this group but was traded to Cleveland for wide receiver Quincy Morgan. It’s tough to say whether or not he’ll be ready for Sunday’s game and that could limit the offensive game plan. Both Glenn and Johnson have intriguing qualities in a receiver but both also have exposable weaknesses. Glenn is a precise route runner with excellent hands but is not that strong and can be pushed around. Johnson might be more famous for his mouth than his ability but he is good for a possession receiver and blocking but does not stretch the field. The Cowboys’ ground game has a lot to be desired and the biggest threat in that area is might be veteran Richie Anderson and Parcells’ likes to get the ball to him anyway possible.

The defense of the Packers (21st overall) is coming off their best performance of the year. And with the potential of getting either nose tackle, Grady Jackson or James Lee, can only provide more optimism for that side of the ball. Last weekend the Packers’ defense allowed only 125 yards (fewest in the past 19 seasons), allowed only 5 first downs (fewest in 19 seasons), allowed only 40 plays (fewest in 22 seasons). But Packer fans know that does not necessarily guarantee another solid performance this week. Darren Sharper definitely earned his money last week and rookie cornerback Ahmad Carroll also lived up to his first round status in his first start. Cletidus Hunt and the rest of the Packers’ line will face a decent offensive line unit (depending on which side of the center you look at) and they will need to get to Testeverde and help cut down the amount of time he has to expose the young Carroll.

Key Matchups

Vinny Testeverde vs. The Packers’ secondary – With the Cowboys’ ground game struggling, Vinny and company will need to continue to air it out against the inconsistent Packers’ defense.

WRs Javon Walker and Donald Driver vs. CBs Terrance Newman and Tyrone Williams – With uncertainty surrounding the availability of Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport the Packers’ receivers will have to win their share of the battles.

The Packers’ vs. Lambeau Field – If the Packers want to turn this season around they will have to learn to play well at home and keep the boo-birds at bay.

The Bottom Line

Both of these teams need to win to keep up hope for a postseason birth. Parcells and Sherman will have their teams fired up and that should produce a hard-hitting game that will be very close. Close enough that turnovers will make a difference and the team that drops the ball last will lose.

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