Something’s got to give.
The Green Bay Packers were 8-0 at home this season, averaging a league-best 39.8 points in those games.
Dallas was 8-0 on the road, averaging 34.4 points away from home, also tops in the NFL.
Sunday’s divisional matchup marks the first time in postseason history that a team with an unblemished home record plays host to a team that hasn’t lost on the road.
The game also pits Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, both of whom have had phenomenal seasons.
Romo, who grew up in Burlington, Wis., had 20 touchdowns and two interceptions in road games this season, with a spectacular passer rating of 121.8.
“I think people appreciate Tony as having the skills that he has,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in the wake of his team’s come-from-behind victory over Detroit in a wild-card game.
“I hope [critics] see that he’s made some pretty impressive plays and had big games. The only thing that will ever get them off his back totally would be to get that Super Bowl win.”
Rodgers, who’s nursing a calf injury aggravated in the regular-season finale against Detroit, threw for 38 touchdowns with five interceptions this season. At Lambeau, he was unbelievable: 27 touchdowns, no interceptions, throwing six touchdowns in two of those, three touchdowns in five, and two touchdowns in one.
The game comes a little more than 47 years after the legendary “Ice Bowl,” the 1967 NFL championship game between Dallas and Green Bay, when kickoff temperatures were minus-13 and a minus-46 wind chill. The Packers won, 21-17, to claim the league title on Dec. 31, 1967.
“Guys like football and guys understand the history and tradition of the NFL and the Cowboys and Packers,” said Dallas Coach Jason Garrett, who was almost 2 when the Ice Bowl took place. “It’s an exciting game to be part of.”
Sunday’s game doesn’t figure to be as frigid. Temperatures are expected to be in the low-20s at Lambeau Field.
Ground and pound
The Cowboys have relied on running back DeMarco Murray to not only run away from the opposition, but to keep Rodgers — and the sometimes shaky Dallas defense — off the field. Against the Packers at AT&T Stadium last season, Murray ran for 134 yards in 18 carries. The Cowboys lost, 37-36, with a late interception by Romo playing a big role. Green Bay came back from a 23-point deficit in the second half of that game.
Murray led the league in rushing this season with 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Packers allowed an average of 153.5 yards rushing in the first eight games, then made a change that helped their defense tremendously. They moved outside linebacker Clay Matthews inside, and that paid off. Green Bay gave up an average of 86.4 yards rushing in the second half of the season, winning seven of eight games.
By the numbers
DAL | GB
Points scored: 29.2 (5) | 30.4 (1)
Points allowed: 22 (15) | 21.8 (13)
Pass offense: 236.5 (16) | 266.3 (8)
Rush offense: 147.1 (2) | 119.8 (11)
Pass defense: 251.9 (26) | 226.4 (10)
Rush defense: 103.1 (8) | 119.9 (23)
Sacks: 28 (28) | 41 (9)
Penalty yards: 53.8 (14) | 59.0 (25)
Turnovers: +6 (9) | +14 (1)
This game hinges on how healthy Rodgers is and how much his injured calf has truly recovered. Dallas should be able to run the ball fairly efficiently on the Packers defense and put some points on the board, although moving Matthews inside has helped Green Bay. If the Packers can get traction with their running game and keep the Cowboys offense off the field, Rodgers will have time to pick apart that defense.
PACKERS 28, COWBOYS 17