Cowboys, Packers in very different positions going into Sunday’s game

It’s early November, so it won’t be freezing in Green Bay on Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys come to town. It’s not going to get cold at the 2014 Divisional Round either, with Dez Bryant’s frozen fingers either catching or not catching the ball, a view that depends solely on whether your veins run silver or cheese.

It won’t be all that cold, a positively mild Wisconsinite 37 degrees, the experts say, when game time comes.

It just feels cold, bitterly cold, freezing, empty and grim, for the Packers and everyone who cares for them, with maybe just one more chance – right here – to salvage a faltering season.

No franchise name evokes as much emotion as the two meeting at 4:15 p.m. ET on FOX at Lambeau Field. The mere mention of the Packers or Cowboys brings instant interest, instant relevance, just as much spice and excitement whether the current version of the team flies or flails.

But Sunday’s blockbuster is a role reversal. We’re not used to that lately. Shouldn’t it be the Cowboys who are always touted for great things but fail to live up to them? Not this time, that’s for sure. Quite the contrary, Dallas took bad luck and poked fun at it en route to a 6-2 record that feels more like it’s underestimating its potential.

And shouldn’t it be the Packers welcoming the halfway point of the NFL season with stability and consistency, and eyeing the playoffs?

Far from it this time, with problems, problems, problems everywhere. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t shy about speaking out about the troubles, highlighting the chemistry and the lost catches and the mindset and what people in the locker room are saying on his long list of complaints. In the last few games, Rodgers and his own stuttering game also looked like one of the biggest red flags. The reigning MVP’s stock has taken a huge hit.

“This past off-season, there were a dozen teams that would have moved mountains had Aaron Rodgers been available,” FS1’s Nick Wright said in First Things First. “If the Packers wanted to walk away from him after this year, the list of teams that would even call would be three teams long. At $50 million and at this level of play and 39 years old, I don’t think he would be a hot commodity if he were available.”

The chance to nail a nail in Green Bay’s campaign and send them 3-7 is a delicious prospect for the Cowboys, who are currently enjoying life under former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. It should be noted that McCarthy is not happy with his old team’s struggles and expressed his emotions ahead of his return.

“You guys are trying to make me cry,” McCarthy told reporters this week as question after question poured in about his 13-year stint in Green Bay, which included a Super Bowl XLV triumph. “What do I miss the most? People. Just the people.”

Is it fair to say that the rest of Cowboy Nation doesn’t feel similar sympathy, knowing full well that when things went bad, no one felt sorry for them? Buoyed by a malicious and highly skilled defense, Dallas is only looking up to build on the fine platform provided by backup QB Cooper Rush and is aiming for more after Dak Prescott returned from injury.

Make no mistake, this is the Packers’ all-or-nothing shot, a chance to beat a top-flight team and reignite their season. They come from five defeats in a row. They can’t survive a sixth if Rodgers is to retain any hope of hurling passes beyond Week 18.

“I’ve been counted out many times in my life, as have many of my teammates, and I hope we just dig deep and find a way,” Rodgers told reporters after last weekend’s loss to the Detroit Lions. “We’re going to be really underdogs in a lot of games. Hopefully we can accept that.”

Packers WRs are reportedly feeling frustrated after Aaron Rodgers made them “scapegoats.”

Packers WRs are reportedly feeling frustrated after Aaron Rodgers made them

All eyes are on Aaron Rodgers after the Green Bay Packers fell to 3-6. An ESPN report points out that Rodgers created tension in the locker room by painting wide receivers as “scapegoats.” LeSean McCoy opens up about why he doesn’t like the way Rodgers is handling everything this season.

These are truly unusual times, highlighted by the Packers being a 4.5-point underdog on their own patch of Tundra. The final month and transition was the worst stretch of Rodgers’ career — and a worse run than anyone in this football-warped corner of the Midwest can remember.

As Green Bay’s offense sputters, Dallas smells blood.

“I’ve seen defenses where you wouldn’t let the offense go past 50,” Cowboys safety man Jayron Kearse told the Dallas Morning News. “I’ve seen shutdowns. I was part of shutdowns. I think that’s just the next step for us as a dominant defense.”

As Dallas happily struts around, the Packers search for answers; drastic, aspiring, transformative.

Based on the past few years, this week’s most anticipated game feels like it’s spawned from an alternate reality.

A place and time when Dallas offers bright smiles instead of guessing where it went wrong. Where the packers are the ones who nurture all the pain and wonder if this is going to end.

It feels very, very cold in Green Bay — even if by historical standards it’s not at all.

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletterright


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