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Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Cowboys


This week's game against the Dallas Cowboys is a meeting of two teams who have gotten off to slow starts. Both teams were in the playoffs last year and should be playing a lot better than they have so far this season. Something has to give. It will be difficult for the loser of this game to recover and make the playoffs, and the winner will be closer to where they want to be.

If the Packers can pull it out, they will stand at 3-4 and one step closer to getting back to .500 going into the bye week after next weekend's game. The Cowboys would be at .500 with a 3-3 record if they can win Sunday, and they need this game to have any hopes of catching Philadelphia in the NFC East.

Dallas comes in after losing two in a row at home - two games that they probably should have won. First they lost to the Giants, and then last week they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers after having a lead very late in the game.

The Cowboys come into Lambeau Field, where the Packers have had their own set of home struggles, losing three straight to start the season in Green Bay. The Packers must re-establish their home field advantage this week and show that Lambeau is a tough place to come in and play as a visiting team.

The one thing the Cowboys do very well is throw the ball. They are a great passing team and they rank eighth in the NFL in passing yards. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde is doing a great job of getting the ball to his receivers and they run a great play-action game.

You would think it would be difficult for them to run play-action since their running game really hasn't been much of a threat so far this season, but they are still able to run play-action passes with good success.

Terry Glenn, a former Packer, and Keyshawn Johnson are the key members of their receiving corps, especially after they traded Antonio Bryant to Cleveland earlier this week. I'm sure Quincy Morgan - the receiver they got back from the Browns in the trade - will be looking to make a splash in his first game with the Cowboys, but it's hard to predict how much he will be able to contribute after just a few days of practice with his new team.

Johnson, who at 6-foot-4 is one of the bigger receivers in the league, might try to get some match-ups with 5-foot-10 rookie cornerback Ahmad Carroll, especially in the red zone. The coaches have been working hard to get Carroll in the right position if he does end up matched against a taller receiver, as far as how to play him.

How you go about defending against a taller receiver is that you have to utilize your speed and your technique. You have to keep your body in good position, and if it comes to a jump-ball situation, you've got to jump first. You can't wait for the receiver to jump, and you can't afford to not look for the ball.

The Cowboys have done a decent job of pass protection in their offensive line. Watching their game against the Steelers, I saw that Pittsburgh was able to blitz up the middle with some success. The play that forced the game-turning fumble towards the end of the game was made by a Pittsburgh pass rush through the middle of the line.

This is one team that I think the Packers' defense can blitz and get home on. I think Bob Slowik's defense matches up well with the Dallas receivers down the field and with their tight ends and running backs.

Against the Dallas defense, I think this will be an opportunity for the Packers to have a breakout game on offense. The running game, although it looked pretty good last week in Detroit, hasn't really gotten to the level that everyone would like it to be. I think the offensive line will be able to wear down the Cowboys' front seven, which is a little undersized.

Ahman Green should get better as the game goes along and have a big day. Najeh Davenport is starting to get healthy and Tony Fisher is making a solid contribution out of the backfield as well. That three-headed attack was effective last week and should be again this week.

The Cowboys have an All-Pro safety in Roy Williams. He is a player that brings a lot of violence to the field. He loves to hit, but can sometimes be susceptible in coverage. He's not the best man-to-man cover guy, and the Packers will try to get him out in space with any of their three wide receivers. It will be a good match-up to see Bubba Franks score on him in the red zone, or to get a receiver behind him as he cheats up to make a play against the run.

Dallas is a very aggressive defense. They like to blitz four guys from the weak side, or maybe two up the middle, and every now and then, they'll sell the farm and bring everybody. In that situation, the Packers have to go max protection and get Javon Walker, the league-leader in receiving yards, matched up one-on-one against one of their cornerbacks.

The Packer defense has to step up and make plays, much like they did last week. The Dallas offense is very opportunistic and Bill Parcells will have his guys ready to play.

One area that could really affect the outcome of this game will be on special teams. I've been waiting for the Packers to make a really big play on special teams all season. Whether it's a blocked punt, a fake punt, a big return - anything to get the game going.

I like the Packers' chances this week against the Cowboys. They need to take what they were able to do last week and continue that effort, this time on the home field of Lambeau Field. I think you, the home crowd, will play a big role in pushing the Packers on to victory.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

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