As the Green Bay Packers prepare for their Wild Card playoff game with the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday, one thing is clear: the pressure is all on Dallas. This young Packers team has nothing to lose as they prepare for the postseason.

The Cowboys Have High Expectations

The Cowboys are facing a lot of pressure on Sunday. They are the second seed in the NFC playoffs. They finished the season 8-0 at home. Dallas led the league in points scored and their offense was fourth in total yards gained per game.

Defensively, the Cowboys were fifth in both points and yards allowed.

This is the third consecutive season the Cowboys went 12-5 under former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. They lost in the first round of the 2021 playoffs to the San Francisco 49ers. Last season, they lost again to San Francisco after beating Tampa Bay in the wild card round.

For McCarthy, Dak Prescott, and the rest of this veteran team, it’s Super Bowl or bust. If the Cowboys don’t at least reach the NFC Championship Game, there may be changes coming to the organization.

The Packers Have Nothing to Lose

While the Cowboys have a lot of pressure on them, the Packers face almost no pressure at all. The Packers have the youngest roster in the NFL and made the playoffs anyway. Before the season started, few people expected the Packers would finish with a winning record, let alone qualify for the postseason.

The Packers entered the season with a quarterback in Jordan Love who had made just one career NFL start before the 2023 campaign got under way.

Matt LaFleur also faced the challenge of coaching a team with three rookie tight ends and no wide receiver with more than one year of pro experience on their roster.

The Packers got off to a slow start and the season appeared over. They endured a four-game losing streak and fell to 2-5 at the trade deadline. GM Brian Gutekunst thought the team had little to no chance to make the playoffs and dealt starting cornerback Rasul Douglas to the Bills at the NFL Trade Deadline.

The Packers Rally in the Second Half of the Season

In the second half of the season, the Packers play improved dramatically, especially on offense. Love started to read defenses better and became better with his decision making as a result. His accuracy also improved, especially on deep passes.

The young receiving corps also started to click. They started to run their patterns accurately. When plays broke down and the offense had to improvise, Love and players like Dontayvion Wicks, Jayden Reed, Malik Heath, Romeo Doubs, Tucker Kraft, and Christian Watson started to make big plays.

The Packers overcame injuries to Aaron Jones, Watson, David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, De’Vondre Campbell, and many others to finish 9-8 and earn the final wild card spot.

The Packers Will Be Loose with Nothing to Lose

This will be a learning experience for this young Packers team. They are essentially playing with house money. Win or lose, they will get valuable postseason experience.

“I think it’s going to be just a great experience for our guys to go through this,” LaFleur told reporters this week. “And we’re looking forward to the challenge. We got a great opponent at their home stadium and they’re playing some really good football right now.”

The Packers have nothing to lose in this game. The Cowboys are at least a touchdown favorite. If the Cowboys win, it was expected. If the Packers win, they’ll shock the world.

The key for the Packers will be to play well. To get a solid performance from these young players in a pressure situation. To learn what it takes to win in the playoffs, which is yet another level higher than the regular season. They did that in the last three games of the year. They won must-win games with no margin for error.

The Packers could win Sunday’s game in Dallas. It will take a near perfect performance but it’s not impossible if the team plays to their potential. But the impact of this game on the future of this organization will be significant.

Aaron Rodgers’ first playoff game was after the 2009 season. The Packers were on the road in Arizona and lost in overtime 51-45 on a fumble by Rodgers that was returned for a touchdown. But the second-year starter threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns in that game and led a fourth quarter comeback that forced overtime.

That set the stage for a much better postseason run by the Packers a year later that culminated with a Super Bowl win.

Love and this young team can learn a lot from this game, win or lose. Packers fans hope it’s the start of a new series of playoff appearances for this franchise.



Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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