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Cowboys vs. Packers 2015, NFL playoffs: Historic playoff matchup in Green Bay set for Sunday

The league's best road team travels to Lambeau Field for a showdown against the Packers, who haven't lost at a game at home this season.

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The irresistible force meets the immovable object on Sunday afternoon when the Dallas Cowboys travel to the frozen tundra for a Divisional round showdown with the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys are the ultimate road warriors, the league's only unbeaten team away from home this season, while the Packers just completed one of the most dominant home seasons in recent memory, outscoring their opponents by nearly 20 points per game en route to an 8-0 record at Lambeau Field.

If this sounds like a matchup for the ages, you are correct. This is the first NFL playoff game with a team that went 8-0 at home hosting a club that went 8-0 on the road. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Packers and Cowboys share a rich postseason history. Dallas has won four of the six playoff meetings, and the Cowboys knocked the Packers out of the postseason in three straight years from 1993-95. This is also the first playoff game between the teams in Green Bay since the Packers beat the Cowboys in the 1967 NFL Championship Game, also known as the "Ice Bowl."

The Cowboys rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat the Detroit Lions last Sunday, showing the mental toughness and resiliency that often was missing from the team in big games over the past decade. Despite the victory, Dallas' playoff demons have not been completely erased. The franchise is still searching for its first road playoff win since the 1992 postseason and is trying to advance past the Divisional round for the first time since its Super Bowl-winning 1995 campaign.

The Packers got a much-needed week of rest after winning their fourth consecutive NFC North crown and earning the conference's No. 2 seed with a 12-4 record. Although Green Bay's high-octane offense and huge homefield advantage gives it the edge on paper against the Cowboys, the team knows that nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs. Just three years ago, the Packers were 15-1 heading into the postseason but were stunned in their first playoff game, losing, 37-20, to the New York Giants at Lambeau Field.


If there is one team that has the formula to win in frigid temperatures at Green Bay -- a run-first mentality and ball-control game plan -- it is the Cowboys. No team has called a higher percentage of rushing plays this season than Dallas, and only the Seattle Seahawks averaged more rushing yards per game than the Cowboys. That is not good news for a Packers defense that ranked 23rd in opponent rush yards and 20th in yards per carry allowed this season. Dallas also led the league in time of possession, and its ability to milk the clock should help keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' prolific offense off the field.

At the very least, the Cowboys will have history on their side on Sunday afternoon. Dallas is the sixth team in NFL history to go 8-0 on the road in the regular season. Each of the previous five teams reached the conference championship game, and four of the five made the Super Bowl.

Although the Packers' high-powered attack gets most of the credit for the team's success this season, Green Bay's midseason transformation on defense is more likely the key reason why the Packers won the division and secured a first-round bye. The Packers' defense was in shambles when they reached their bye in Week 9. They had allowed the most rushing yards per game (153.5), the fifth-highest third-down conversion rate (47.1 percent), and ranked 19th in points allowed (23.9) through eight weeks.

During the bye, however, the coaching staff decided to move Clay Matthews to the inside after he had spent nearly his entire career as an outside linebacker in the Packers' defensive scheme. The switch immediately paid dividends, and in the second half of the season (Weeks 10-17) the Packers ranked seventh in total defense (313.5), fifth in rushing defense (86.4), fifth on third down (33.3 percent) and 10th in points allowed (19.6). The turnaround in run defense was the most dramatic -- each of the Packers' first eight opponents topped 100 yards rushing, but only four teams rushed for 100 or more yards in their final eight games.

Who to Watch

Aaron Rodgers - The big question heading into this game surrounds the health of Rodgers after he re-aggravated a calf injury in Week 17 against the Lions. But Rodgers has proven that he can play through pain and he should be helped by playing at the friendly confines of Lambeau Field. He set an NFL single-season record with a 133.2 passer rating at home, where he had 25 touchdowns without an interception this season. In fact, Rodgers has not thrown an interception in Green Bay since Dec. 2, 2012 -- an NFL-record streak of 477 consecutive passes and 38 touchdown passes in a row at home (including playoffs) without a pick.

Tony Romo - As good as Rodgers has been home, Romo has been just as prolific on the road. He led the league in passer rating (121.8), yards per attempt (8.5) and completion percentage (70.6) on the road during the regular season, where he threw 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions. With his strong play down the stretch and after rallying the Cowboys to a dramatic come-from-behind win over the Lions last Sunday, it appears that Romo may have finally silenced his critics and is primed to lead a deep playoff run for the first time in his career.

The Venue

Home to the Packers since 1957, Lambeau Field is one of the most historic stadiums in all of sports. It is the oldest NFL stadium and the third-oldest -- behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field -- among all major American professional sports venues. Lambeau underwent massive renovations in 2003 to make it more modern and fan-friendly, but it still retained its original seating bowl and "frozen tundra" natural grass playing field.

Packers fans are known as some of the rowdiest in all of pro sports. There might not be a more iconic tradition than the "Lambeau Leap," and there might not be more recognizable fan attire than the foam "cheeseheads" that so many in Packer Nation adorn while cheering on the home team.

How to Watch

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay

When: 1:05 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman

Radio: Packers Radio NetworkCowboys Radio Network

Online Streaming: Verizon NFL Mobile

Preliminary Judgment

The consensus among the experts is that the Packers will roll at home against the Cowboys. Five of our seven experts at SB Nation, along with the OddsShark computer, are taking Green Bay on Sunday. It's a similar story at, where seven of eight panelists are also favoring the Packers to advance to the NFC Championship.


Green Bay opened up as 6.5-point favorites, though the line did move slightly on most books early in the week, shifting to -6 in favor of Green Bay, according to OddsShark.

Further Reading

For more on the Packers, head on over to Acme Packing Company. If you want more on the Cowboys, check out Blogging The Boys.