Packers vs. Cowboys 2013 game preview: Playoff hopes hanging in the balance

The Packers and Cowboys are both facing must-win games. Which team will come out on top? Our complete game preview.

The Dallas Cowboys find themselves in must-win mode when they host the Green Bay Packers in Week 15. After getting destroyed by the Chicago Bears on Monday night, the Cowboys drop to 7-6 and second place in the NFC East.

The Packers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 22-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons. They sit at 6-6-1, just half a game behind the Bears and Lions, but the status of Aaron Rodgers is still up in the air.

Meet the Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones gave defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin the dreaded vote of confidence, but that's little consolation after Dallas' latest defensive meltdown. The Cowboys were shredded by the Bears for 490 total yards and five touchdowns.

Injuries didn't help matters. Sean Lee left the game with a neck stinger. He doesn't have any structural damage but in another blow for the Cowboys' defensive unit, he's expected to sit out against the Packers this week.

Meet the Green Bay Packers

Matt Flynn had a much more respectable performance after the Thanksgiving disaster, but the Packers would love to have Rodgers back soon. Problem is, Rodgers admitted that he was still in pain last week during practice and it sounds like he'll be sitting out at least one more week. The good news is, it might not matter against the Cowboys' defense.

Another concern is the health of Eddie Lacy. Lacy tweaked his ankle in the win over Atlanta and won't be getting much practice time. If active, he'll be less than 100 percent, but again, that might not matter given how poorly Dallas' defense has been playing.

Local Takes: Dallas Cowboys

Tom Ryle from Blogging The Boys examines the Cowboys' lack of talent on defense and thinks firing Monte Kiffin might be jumping the gun a bit:

This is why firing Kiffin would likely do little to fix things and probably would just back the team up another year. The first step is going to be getting better pieces. Get some of what you already have healthy, develop some of the younger players with potential, and be smart with the draft. It almost has to be a defense-heavy draft this year, because the cupboard is just too damn bare for the Cowboys.

And there are going to have to be some decisions made on some of those underperforming players. That may well include DeMarcus Ware, if he does not recover his old form the last three games.

But that is for the future. Right now, the team has to try and find a way to win those games. The players may not be what the team wants. But that's what they have to go with.

Local Takes: Green Bay Packers

Josh VanDyke of Acme Packing Company praises the Packers' defense for shutting out the Falcons in the second half:

Johnny Jolly might have had the best performance of his career on Sunday. Jolly was consistently blowing up plays, and finished with a season-high five tackles and a fumble recovery. Ryan Pickett added two tackles, while B.J. Raji added one tackle and was able to create a consistent pass rush for the first time in over a month.

What the hell has gotten into Jarrett Bush? Bush made two of the biggest defensive plays of the season when he knocked the ball away from future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez on forth down, and followed that play up with the game-clinching interception. Bush did a great job pulling off his man, though if he hadn't picked that ball off, Sam Shields would likely have come up with it.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Blogging The Boys and Acme Packing Company, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@BloggingTheBoys
@acmepackingco

Prediction

Four out of six experts on SB Nation's panel are picking the Cowboys to win.

Odds

The Cowboys opened as an 8-point favorite, according to OddsShark.

Next Week

Dallas at Washington, Dec. 22, 1 p.m. ET
Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh, Dec. 22, 4:25 p.m. ET

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