The Green Bay Packers return to the playoffs on Sunday when they travel to Texas to fact the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card round. The Packers finished the season with a 9-8 record and are the seventh seed in the playoffs while the Cowboys are the second seed after finishing 12-5. The Packers are coming off a 37-9 win over the Chicago Bears while the Cowboys crushed the Washington Commanders 38-10. Here are six key matchups that will determine who will win Sunday’s Packers-Cowboys game.

The Packers lead the all-time series between these two teams 17-13-0 in the regular season. The series dates back to 1960 when the Cowboys first entered the league. The Packers have won the last three regular season meetings between the teams and the last two playoff matchups. Overall, each team has won four playoff matchups which have included some of the most dramatic and famous games in NFL history like the 1967 Ice Bowl.

Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s game in Dallas:

Packers Key Matchups: Number One, Contain CeeDee Lamb

CeeDee Lamb led the NFL with 135 catches for 1,749 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. In the last two games alone, he had 26 receptions for 325 yards and three touchdowns.

Lamb has size at 6’2” and speed and is tough to cover. He has a catch percentage of 74.6 percent and has great chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott.

Joe Barry cannot give Lamb a big cushion and play 7-10 yards off from him or he and Prescott will gladly take 5-10 yard throws that Lamb is capable of turning into bigger gains.

Will Barry have Jaire Alexander, his best cover corner, matched up on Lamb or will he give whoever lines up opposite Lamb safety help? The likely answer is a mixture of both. Alexander missed practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. His availability for the game will be important for the Green Bay defense. If Alexander can’t go, more responsibility will fall on Corey Ballentine and Carrington Valentine.

If they double Lamb, that could set up more opportunities for Brandin Cooks or tight end Jake Ferguson.

The Cowboys have the third best passing offense in the NFL and they’re capable of running up a lot of points.

The Packers have to figure out the best way to contain Lamb and prevent him from having a big day overall. It is also important to stop him from making key receptions on third and fourth downs.


Key Matchups: Number Two, Keep Giving Aaron Jones Touches

Aaron Jones spent most of the season fighting off injuries and was limited throughout the campaign. But the former UTEP star found his groove in the last three games and gained 358 yards rushing in those contests. It’s no surprise the Packers won all three contests.

Jones is the catalyst that makes the Packers offense go. His speed and cutting ability force defenses to account for him on every play and free up opportunities for other players in the passing game.

The fact that Jones missed so much time may be a benefit now because he isn’t as worn down as most running backs are after a full 17-game workload.

The Dallas defense ranks 16th in the league and allows 112.4-yards per game on the ground. Their pass defense is stronger than their run defense.

The Packers need to run the ball often enough to stay ahead of the chains and to open things up for the passing game. Jones is the key to doing that.

Packers Key Matchups: Number Three, Don’t Let Micah Parsons Dominate

Protecting Jordan Love is important. Love has done a better job of reading blitzes and pressures and finding outlet receivers for short gains rather than taking sacks. Tight end Tucker Kraft has been a valuable target on these short passes.

The Cowboys best pass rusher is Micah Parsons. Parsons recorded 14 sacks this season, nearly double the next highest player on the Cowboys, Dorance Armstrong.

The big matchup will be between Parson and Packers offensive tackle Zach Tom. Both are undersized but extremely skilled players. This is a matchup of strength on strength.

If Love reads the pressures well and has check down receivers to throw to, that can help minimize Parsons’ impact. So could a steady running game. Tom will need to play well to contain Parsons, who is capable of taking over a game when he’s at his best.

Key Matchups: Number Four, Get Pressure on Dak Prescott

The Packers pass rush remains the most effective aspect of their defense. Getting pressure on Prescott will be important in this game.

Prescott usually handles pressure better than most quarterbacks, but the Pack still needs to try to get him off his game and rushing the passer is the best way to do that.

Rashan Gary continues to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks although he hasn’t had a sack in the last five games. He doesn’t need to get sacks against Dallas but forcing Prescott to throw sooner than he’d like would be nearly as effective.

Preston Smith has been effective and consistent on the other side. Kingsley Enagbare, Kenny Clark, Lukas Van Ness, and Karl Brooks also help pressure quarterbacks and Quay Walker has been used more frequently on blitzes in recent weeks as well.

Prescott completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 4,516 yards, 6 touchdowns and nine interceptions. That gives him a quarterback rating of 105.9.

If the Packers can’t put pressure on him, he could have a big day on Sunday.

Packers Key Matchups: Number Five, Win the Field Position Battle

Special teams often play a big role in playoff games, and this will be no exception. The Packers have a dangerous return man in Keisean Nixon while Dallas has KaVontae Turpin. Turpin averaged 29.2 yards per kick return this season. The Packers special teams units cannot allow Turpin to give the Cowboys a short field.

The accuracy of kicker Anders Carlson will also be critical. If he misses a field goal, the Cowboys could again get the ball with a short field. Carlson can’t afford to miss any extra points either, something that has plagued him throughout the season.

Packers punter Daniel Whelan averaged 46.2-yards per punt and placed 18 kicks inside the 20 against five touchbacks. Again, pinning the Cowboys deep and forcing them to go 75 or more yards to score could give the Packers an edge.

If Nixon could give the Packers a big return, it would give the team an emotional lift, confidence, and a short field (or even quick points).

Winning the special teams battle won’t be easy. Rich Bisaccia must have his team ready for the occasion.

Packers Key Matchups: Number Six, Get Off to a Fast Start and Play Loose

Few people expected the Packers to reach the playoffs this season. The team is essentially playing with house money. While the Packers don’t have many players with playoff experience, they should be excited and play like they have nothing to lose.

The pressure is squarely on the Cowboys and former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. For Dallas, it’s Super Bowl or bust. They have been expected to be an elite team all season and if they lose this game, there could be some big changes in Big D.

Getting off to a fast start could help the Packers gain confidence. That would also quiet the crowd and make the Cowboys start thinking “here we go again,” in a game against the Packers.


The Cowboys are 7.5-point favorites and deservedly so. This young Packers squad is capable of beating Dallas, but a lot will have to go right. Joe Barry will have to figure out a way to slow down a Dallas offense that scored 30 or more points in seven of their eight home games. They also went 8-0 at home this season.

Love will have to play well and be accurate. The Packers cannot afford to make any big mistakes either and cannot afford to turn the ball over more than once.

The Packers will keep it close, but in the end, the Cowboys will likely win. Still, a strong performance will create a lot of optimism in Green Bay heading into 2024.



Cowboys 33, Packers 27



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