A Great NFL Playoff Debate: Packers or Cowboys?

The Dallas Cowboys host the Green Bay Packers this Sunday in the NFC divisional round. Kid Reporters Jake Aron, who lives in Dallas, and Wilson von Bohlen, who lives in Wisconsin, tackled the tough question: Who will win?

Jake: Over the course of the season, the Packers have given up the third-most passing touchdowns and yards in the league and have the NFL’s second-worst pass defense. Also, when the Cowboys beat the Packers in October, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott tore through the Green Bay defense. He rushed for 157 yards, which was his second best game. And, although it doesn't mean much, Elliott's last postseason game at AT&T Stadium was the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship. In that game, playing for Ohio State, he had 246 yards and four touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 42–20 win against Oregon.

Wilson: True, but Dallas QB Dak Prescott is 24th in passing yards this year. The Packers held Prescott to just 247 passing yards, and that was in a Packers’ loss. Green Bay also has the eighth-best rush defense this year.

The Packers are just so versatile. They have had many key players out for multiple games or with season-ending injuries, but someone else just keeps stepping up. In Week 6, when the Packers faced the Cowboys, Ty Montgomery was a wide receiver. He is now Green Bay’s leading rusher, a move made because running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks had season-ending injuries. Tight end Jared Cook did not play against the Cowboys but has 104 receiving yards in the past two games.

Jake: The Packers may have experience, but the Cowboys are the healthiest of all the playoff teams. With the Texans missing superstar J.J. Watt, the Seahawks missing All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, and the Falcons missing corner Desmond Trufant, the Cowboys are in great shape for the playoffs if they make it past the Packers. Dallas is expected to get back corner Morris Claiborne and defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, both of whom are coming off of injuries and have fresh legs. The Packers will almost certainly be without star receiver Jordy Nelson, who took a helmet to the ribs against the Giants last week.

Jake: If the game is on the line, leave it to Prescott and the Cowboys to get the job done. Prescott is fourth in game-winning drives and fifth in comebacks. And if that doesn't speak “clutch” to you, then I am very interested to know what does.

Wilson: Prescott sounds like a clutch player. The Packers team is 6–3 in games decided by eight or less. Not to mention the Hail Marys by one of the Packers’ clutch players!

Green Bay’s experience in the playoffs will also be an advantage. Forty of the Packers’ 58 players have been in a postseason game before this year, including many key position players. In a high-intensity game, experience makes a difference, and this is why no rookie quarterback has ever led his team to the Super Bowl.

Jake: In most Cowboys fans’ eyes, the team’s two best players this season have been Prescott and Elliott, both of whom are rookies. They have already been in high-pressure situations and have proven they can rise above the challenge. In addition to that, they are surrounded by star receivers Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, along with kicker Dan Bailey, who has the second-highest field goal percentage of all time. The Cowboys also have offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, who have all made it to the Pro Bowl for three straight years.

Jake: Even though the Packers have won the last seven games, I think that the Cowboys have the momentum coming into this game against Green Bay. The last time the Cowboys played a divisional game at home was when they lost to the Giants in 2007. So I would say that Cowboys fans are ready for a pounding of the Packers.

Wilson: Talking about that momentum, the Packers had just one turnover in those seven straight wins. The Cowboys had eight turnovers in their last six games and then had a bye last week. Remember, the Cowboys also have just two playoff wins in the last 20 years.

And don’t forget about Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has thrown 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the last seven games. He also has a 100.3 total quarterback rating in the playoffs. I think Rodgers will be a huge factor in this game and will lead the Packers to victory.

Jake: One way the Cowboys can stop Rodgers is by keeping him off the field. And one way to do that, is to keep feeding the beast. You see, Elliot is first in rushing yards, second in rushing touchdowns, and third in rushing and receiving touchdowns this season. So the more Dallas gives him ball, the longer Rodgers has to wait to get in the game. Another way the Cowboys can stop Rodgers is by stopping him when he is actually on the field. In the game against the Cowboys, Dallas held Rodgers to just one touchdown, sacked him once, and caused him to throw an interception. And with all of that said, I think the Cowboys will come out on top versus the Packers this weekend.

Photographs by Dylan Buell/Getty Images (2)

 

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