Dallas play host to Green Bay in Sunday's late game, in a tussle between two teams loaded with talent but short on consistency. Who will prevail? Neil Harvey takes a closer look...
"it's Jordy Nelson who has been Green Bay's go-to man in the end zone, snaffling five of his team's 10 passing touchdowns to date. The Packers have scored all but three of their TDs through the air. And Dallas are weak against the pass. So forgive me for putting two and two together and getting four, but I'm going to have to suggest backing Nelson to strike again here."
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys
Sunday October 8th, 21:25 BST
TV - Live on Sky Sports Main Event
If momentum is important, then Green Bay have the edge here, with three wins from their opening four games compared to the Cowboys' two. The Packers also have the upper hand historically, having won at home to Dallas five times out of seven this century. And just to confirm their superiority, they've even won two of the three meetings in Texas.
To the naked eye too, it's Green Bay who've been looking the better. Defeat away to Atlanta was totally forgivable. That loss aside, they've won all three of their home games. Dallas though have seemed slightly schizophrenic. They surprised me with their solid win in Arizona two weeks ago, only to then lose at home to the Rams - throwing away a big lead in the process. That defeat is a big cause for concern, almost as much so as their previous 42-17 loss in Denver.
Passing game the key
The Dallas defense is looking softer than ever. And it's been especially vulnerable to the pass, with eight of the nine touchdowns conceded so far coming through the air. That doesn't bode well as they prepare to go up against Aaron Rodgers. Although I was shocked to find that Rodgers currently ranks third from last in the NFL for length of completed passes. It seems Green Bay's gunslinger has been firing a lot of short range throws this season. That can surely be only tactical.
Ty Montgomery has been the recipient of a lot of those short passes. But injury's likely to keep him out here. And back-ups Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones lack the skill set to fill the void. So I think tight end Martellus Bennett could be the man to benefit. Bennett's been averaging 35 yards a game so far, but could see a big uptick in targets if Montgomery is absent. And Randall Cobb could be another beneficiary. Cobb leads the Packers in terms of receptions, despite playing a game less than most of his teammates.
Nelson to lead the way
But it's Jordy Nelson who has been Green Bay's go-to man in the end zone, snaffling five of his team's 10 passing touchdowns to date. The Packers have scored all but three of their TDs through the air. And Dallas are weak against the pass. So forgive me for putting two and two together and getting four, but I'm going to have to suggest backing Nelson to strike again here. Quite frankly, the odds on him getting the first score of the game are just too big to ignore, given all the things going in his favour.
Rodgers on the run
All that said. Dallas should cause some problems for the Packers. They're one of the league's best at pressuring the quarterback. And Aaron Rodgers has been sacked more times than any QB this year bar two. It's true - Rodgers is exposed. And he will get hit. And that's where the Cowboys will need to come up with turnovers.
Because on the plays where they don't get their hands on Rodgers - he's going to make them pay. All the same, a Dallas defensive score looks a possibility. They've had one already this season. And given the number of sacks they could land here, the price on the Cowboys getting another looks generous.
Big names to be big let-downs
It will take several turnovers though to keep the Cowboys in this game. As I detailed a couple of weeks back, Dez Bryant is a fading force. He just doesn't get the separation anymore. So I'll be looking to oppose him throughout the season, including here.
Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott has been looking a shadow of the man who lit up the NFL last year. He's averaging a full yard and a half per carry less than last season. And so perhaps those legal issues, and his delayed suspension are taking their toll.
Yes Dallas are at home. And on paper at least they have the talent to match Green Bay. So in theory it should be close, as the 2.5 point handicap suggests. For me though, there's only one side I'd want to be with and that's the Packers. The Rams won in Texas last week, and the Packers are better than them on both sides of the ball. And the 4/1 Sportsbook price on Green Bay winning by more than a touchdown looks great value.
5pts Green Bay (+2.5) to beat Dallas @ 2.001/1
2pts Green Bay (-7.5) to beat Dallas @ 4/1 (Sportsbook)
1pt Jordy Nelson to score 1st Touchdown @ 9/1 (Sportsbook)