By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys have a lot to prove this Sunday when they welcome the Green Bay Packers to AT&T Stadium for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The last time that the Cowboys and Packers faced one another in the playoffs, it was a close game that was partially decided by a controversial call. That call nullified a Dez Bryant reception that would have put Dallas in scoring position. The Packers won that game and the Cowboys went home.
This season, the Cowboys have the best record in the NFC and have already beaten the Packers once, thanks to a rookie running back in Ezekiel Elliott and a rookie quarterback in Dak Prescott. Now, the question remains: Can Dallas beat the Packers again and make it to the NFC Championship game?
Here is a look at the Dallas Cowboys’ team headlines heading into this huge playoff game with the Green Bay Packers.
Dallas Cowboys Completely Healthy
When the Dallas Cowboys’ season started, Tony Romo was injured, Darren McFadden went on the IR and Dez Bryant went down shortly after that. Throughout the season, injuries have taken out names like Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, Tyron Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence and more. Now, while preparing for the big playoff game with the Packers, the Cowboys have every player from their active roster on the practice field for 11-on-11 drills for the first time all season. Tyron Smith was the last player to return and the Cowboys look like they will head into the Packers game with all hands on deck.
“We’re healthier than we’ve been for most of the year,” head coach Jason Garrett told ESPN. “That’s going to help our football team.”
Sean Lee Ready To Contribute
In 2014 when the Cowboys lost to the Packers in the playoffs, all that superstar linebacker Sean Lee could do was watch from the sidelines. He tore his ACL in the spring and missed the entire season, sitting out while his teammates finally made it back to the playoffs. As he watched Aaron Rodgers lead the Packers to that victory, Lee said it was one of the biggest regrets of his career.
“That’s a game you want to be a part of,” Lee told ESPN. “And that’s probably, looking back, of the games I missed, it’s one of the biggest games I regret not playing in.”
Since his return, Lee has reminded everyone why he is one of the best linebackers in the entire NFL. Entering the season, not many people gave the Cowboys defense much of a chance, yet they have exceeded all expectations. As a team, the Cowboys rank 14th in total defense and an impressive first against the rush. Sean Lee ranked fourth in the NFL with 145 tackles, and that’s with him sitting out the final game of the season.
Prescott Goes Head-to-Head With Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers did not become the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback until his fourth season. In that year, he threw for 4,038 yards with 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Dak Prescott started at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys in his rookie season thanks to an injury to Tony Romo. In his rookie year, Prescott threw for 3,667 yards with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Now, with a 10-year age difference between the two quarterbacks, Prescott and Rodgers are set to face off in the playoffs. In the regular season, Prescott ranked third in QB rating (104.9) and Rodgers was fourth (104.2). Prescott was fourth in completion percentage (67.8) and Rodgers was ninth (65.7). Prescott threw 23 touchdowns and four interceptions while Rodgers threw 40 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Last time Dallas and Green Bay played, Rodgers threw for 294 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Prescott threw for 247 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. On the sidelines, the Dallas Cowboys’ career passing leader, Tony Romo, sits as the backup—it’s time for Prescott to step up and prove this is his team now.