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The Cowboys have to stop Jordy Nelson to stop the Packers

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Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson have burned opposing defenses all season with big plays. If the Cowboys are going to take down the Packers in the Divisional round on Sunday, they'll have to keep Nelson in check, says retired NFL defensive end Stephen White.

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You can call Jordy Nelson "deceptively fast" or "sneaky athletic" or whatever other euphemism you want to use to describe a white receiver who is also a legitimate deep threat. At the end of the day it doesn't matter. If the fools he plays against still don't understand by now that Nelson can fly with the best of them, they will soon find out because pretty much every week he's going to hit the opposing team for at least one 20-yard reception, or longer.

Not only is Nelson consistently disrespectful in this manner, his ability or inability to hit the opposition for a big play tends to track well with whether the Packers win that game or not. Get this: in the four games the Packers lost this season, Nelson had receptions of 20 yards or fewer in each of those games. The Packers only won a single game in which Nelson didn't have a reception of 22 yards or longer, a 24-21 victory over the Vikings in Week 12.

What appears to be true is this: give up a big play to Nelson and the chances of beating the Packers go almost all the way down to nil. However, if an opponent can keep him in check, that team should have a legitimate shot to win the game late in the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys defense ranked 26th against the pass during the regular season, giving up an average of almost 252 yards through the air. Look a little deeper into the numbers, though. The Cowboys were seventh in the league in limiting passing plays of 20 or more yards, giving up just 45 such passes all year. That's pretty damn good considering the lack of a vicious pass rush in Big D.

I'm writing this early in the week before its known whether Rolando McClain, Cowboys middle linebacker and my personal Comeback Player Of The Year, will even play on Sunday after experiencing concussion-like symptoms against the Lions last week in their Wild Card matchup. This projection is assuming that he will play and the Cowboys won't have a major hole in their run defense. If McClain is out, then the Cowboys' ability to stop Eddie Lacy on the ground will take on much more significance. For now, the key to this one is whether the Cowboys can keep Nelson from "Mossing" them for the whole game.

It can't just be the coverage that keeps Nelson from going off, either. The whole defense will have to be on point if they are going to have any hope of keeping him under wraps. The front four will have to rush Aaron Rodgers in such a way that keeps him from escaping to his right side. Many of Nelson's big plays come from his run-after-catch ability, so the whole Cowboys defense will also have to swarm to the ball all game as well.

It doesn't sound easy to keep Rodgers and Nelson from hooking up on at least one big play because history has shown us it isn't! But it's what the Cowboys defense will have to do to win this game. If Jordy Nelson makes a play of 21 yards or more this weekend, then the Cowboys are going to have a long, joyless plane ride home from Green Bay. But if the Cowboys can find a way to force Rodgers and Nelson to respect their authoritah and keep him from making a big play, their improbable playoff run will continue on into the NFC Championship.

It's really that simple.