1) Which player listed on the injury report as questionable is most important to his team?
You could make an argument for Bryan Bulaga, David Bakhtiari or Mike Daniels, but no player – excluding quarterbacks – means more to his team than Sean Lee. The Cowboys aren’t close to the same defense without the star inside linebacker from Penn State, who’s questionable with a hamstring injury. Life will be a lot easier for the Green Bay’s running backs and tight ends if the instinctive and athletic Lee isn’t patrolling the middle of the field.
2) How good is Green Bay’s seventh-ranked defense?
We’ll learn a lot more in a few hours. After seeing Andy Dalton (Bengals) and Mike Glennon (Bears) the past two games, the next four QBs on the schedule are Dak Prescott (Cowboys), Sam Bradford (Vikings), Drew Brees (Saints) and Matt Stafford (Lions). If the defense is still ranked in the top 10 a month from now, perhaps it’ll be time to take this group seriously. But as of now, it looks like a typical Dom Capers unit that will perform pretty well against mediocre offenses and crap its pants when the competition gets better.
3) Which Cowboys’ offensive player could cause the most problems?
The easy answer is either Ezekiel Elliott or Dez Bryant, but it would be a mistake to sleep on Cole Beasley. The undersized but extremely quick slot receiver could cause all kinds of matchup problems for the defense – especially with inside linebacker Joe Thomas out with an ankle injury. Damarious Randall might have the best chance of slowing Beasley down, but who knows what his role will be this week. The former No. 1 pick was benched against Chicago and then banished to the locker room before the game ended.
4) How important will the rookies be today?
They’ll be extremely important. Kevin King figures to see a lot of Bryant. Josh Jones will be tasked with helping to slow down Elliott and tight end Jason Witten. Aaron Jones is expected to get a lot of touches with Ty Montgomery out. And Justin Vogel will look to force the dangerous Dallas offense to play on long fields as often as possible. Good work from these young players could be the difference between winning and losing.
The pick – This was always going to be a tough game, and it became even tougher after the Cowboys lost at home to the Rams last week. Good teams – and Dallas is a good team – don’t often lose at home in consecutive weeks. The Packers are going to face a highly motivated opponent.
But that’s not why I thought long and hard about picking the Cowboys. I thought long and hard about picking the Cowboys because the Packers haven’t shown the ability to beat good teams on the road during the regular season. Not counting the Bears, Lions, and Vikings, the last time Green Bay won on the road against a team that went on to have a winning record was in Houston on October 14, 2012. That means the Packers are 1-13 in such games during the past five seasons.
So why did I finally decide to pick the Packers? Call it a hunch, and heck, they’re due. But to be honest, the only thing I’m sure of about today’s game is that it’ll be very exciting. GREEN BAY 31-27 (Season record: 2-2)