Early NFC division leaders clash in AT&T Stadium
The Green Bay Packers will travel to AT&T Stadium to take on the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. While both teams are sitting with solid 3-1 records on the season, they’re also both coming off losses.
After averaging 32.3 points per game through the first three weeks of the season, the Cowboys were barely able to break double digits in a 12-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday.
The Packers, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. They had only given up 11.6 points per game through the first three weeks, but against the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday, the defense allowed a whopping 34 points en route to the team's first loss of the season.
Green Bay at Dallas
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 6 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Dallas -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can the Dallas offense bounce back?
The Cowboys offense has been one of the league’s best through the first quarter of the season. Even after a game in which they posted 257 total yards — only 45 rushing — against the Saints, they’re still the No. 3 offense in total yardage per game (425.2).
The concern is that the Saints field one of the worst defenses in the league when it comes to yardage allowed per game (391.2), while the Packers have a top-10 unit (330.2). Does that mean that Dallas’ struggles could continue?
Maybe, maybe not. The hope is that coming back home will help right the ship. A lot of that could depend on the health of two starting offensive linemen for the Cowboys.
Starting left tackle Tyron Smith is expected to miss action on Sunday due to an ankle injury he suffered against the Saints, while La’el Collins is still questionable from a nagging back injury. Combine that with wide receiver Michael Gallup’s questionable tag, and it could be a recipe for more struggles.
That idea could especially hold true considering the Packers will be bringing the league’s No. 3 pass defense to Jerry World.
2. The health of Davante Adams
It is not just the Cowboys who are dealing with injuries to star players, however. The Packers will likely be without their top weapon in the passing game, as Davante Adams is expected to miss the game due to a toe injury.
That development would push the trio of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison and Jake Kumerow up one spot the depth chart. It’s an underrated group, to some degree, but it’s certainly not going to concern a Cowboys defense that ranks in the top 10 in passing yards allowed per game (221.8).
Aaron Rodgers seemed off through the first three weeks of the season, averaging only 215.7 yards and 1.3 touchdowns through the air while completing only 61.3 percent of his passes. Last week, however, he carved up the Eagles defense for 422 yards and two touchdowns.
Packers fans will hope that success continues, even without his top option in Adams.
3. The reemergence of Jimmy Graham
With the Packers' shortcomings at receiver, the importance of a guy like tight end Jimmy Graham could be critical. During the team’s Week 4 loss to the Eagles, the longtime Saint was targeted nine times, which he turned into six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.
That is certainly an impressive stat line, but it came after two consecutive games without a catch.
The inconsistent usage probably won’t be an issue for Graham due to the Adams injury, but it’s something worth monitoring. The Cowboys, led by the duo of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch at linebacker, have the potential to be a bad matchup for tight ends.
Predicting the outcome of this game is a difficult task as you take the major injuries for both teams into account. Green Bay’s trio of receivers that would be tasked with filling Adams' shoes leaves a lot to be desired, but Dallas will be without even more than that.
The over/under in this game is 47 points, which seems like a bit much. That’s probably the safest bet someone could make this weekend regarding this matchup, but it’s still possible that Ezekiel Elliott could be the x-factor.
The Packers' run defense (No. 26, allowing 142.2 yards per game) is exploitable, which ultimately makes the biggest difference in this game.
Prediction: Cowboys 24, Packers 17
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.