Game of the Week
When the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys met in a much-hyped prime-time matchup last season, Aaron Rodgers wasn't expected to play, but he turned in a strong performance in defeat after an injured Brett Favre left the game.
Following Favre's departure from the Packers, Rodgers has been even better.
The first-year starter will look to build on his best game as a pro when the Cowboys and Packers try to continue their unbeaten starts Sunday night, with Dallas seeking its first win at Lambeau Field.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Cowboys -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on Cowboys -3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Both teams were 10-1 when they met at Texas Stadium on Nov. 29, and the Cowboys seized control in the race for home-field advantage in the playoffs with a 37-27 win.
That Thursday night game, though, was also memorable for the performance of Rodgers, who entered with the Packers trailing 27-10 after Favre suffered an injury to his throwing elbow. Rodgers went 18-of-26 for 201 yards and a touchdown without an interception as he helped keep Green Bay close.
Rodgers' poise in that high-pressure game may have made it easier for the Packers (2-0) to stick with him as the starter this summer when Favre announced plans to end a brief retirement. Green Bay traded the future Hall of Famer to the New York Jets, and Rodgers has made the decision look like the right one.
After an efficient performance against Minnesota in the Packers' opener, he threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-25 win at Detroit on Sunday.
He's completed 70 percent of his throws and doesn't have an interception, connecting with receiver Greg Jennings for 258 of his passing yards.
"I think the summer only made our character stronger," Rodgers said.
Rodgers' performance last week helped Green Bay overcome an ineffective game by top running back Ryan Grant, who had 20 yards on 15 carries as he struggled with a hamstring injury.
"He's making good decisions and he's being accurate with the football," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. "He hasn't taken many chances, and that's all part of good quarterback play. He needs to continue to do that."
The Packers actually trailed the Lions 25-24 in the fourth quarter, but they took the lead on a field goal and scored three touchdowns in the final four minutes, including two interception returns for scores. Green Bay totaled five sacks, including two by linebacker A.J. Hawk and 1 1/2 by defensive end Aaron Kampman.
Cornerback Charles Woodson had two interceptions, including one of the returns for a TD, despite playing with a broken toe that has been hampering the four-time Pro Bowler.
A different toe injury kept Woodson out of last year's game against the Cowboys, when Dallas' Tony Romo threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns, but McCarthy said he expects Woodson to be active - and important - Sunday.
"The way we defend on our defense, he's a big part of our game plan," the coach said. "... Having him this year will definitely be to our advantage because of the experience that he brings and the ability to make big plays."
Green Bay will likely need its defense at full strength against the Cowboys (2-0), as Romo has thrown for 632 yards and four scores in two games. Dallas earned a 28-10 victory at Cleveland in Week 1 and won a shootout with Philadelphia 41-37 on Monday night.
Romo lost a fumble in the end zone and threw an interception, and Dallas trailed 37-34 midway through the fourth quarter against the Eagles. He recovered to throw a 32-yard pass to Jason Witten that set up Marion Barber's go-ahead touchdown run with under five minutes to play.
"We know that no game is going to be perfect," said receiver Terrell Owens, whose two touchdown catches moved him into second place all-time behind Jerry Rice in that category.
"There's going to be interceptions, fumbles, missed assignments by everyone," Owens said. "But as a team, we came to play tonight. Offensively, defensively, I think everyone stepped up when they needed to."
Sunday's game may have extra meaning for Romo, who grew up in Burlington, Wis., and will make his first start in his home state. It remains to be seen, though, how much meaning the contest will have down the line.
Last year's late-season showdown gave Dallas a clear path to the NFC's top seed, as both teams finished 13-3 and earned first-round byes in the playoffs. Both clubs also lost at home to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the postseason.
Now, Dallas and Green Bay will be looking for an early edge in this year's race, and the Cowboys will have to win for the first time at Lambeau to get it.
The Cowboys have beaten the Packers three times in Milwaukee, but they're 0-5 in Green Bay. They lost 41-20 at Lambeau in 2004 in the most recent meeting there, and each of the five losses have come by at least 18 points - except for the 21-17 defeat in the "Ice Bowl" NFL championship game in 1967.
Green Bay has won 10 of its last 11 at home in the regular season, while the Cowboys have lost just one of their last 12 road contests.
The Cowboys will be without a starting member of their secondary Sunday, as safety Roy Williams is expected to miss at least three games due to a fractured right forearm.
Did you like this article? Subscribe to our NFL news feed for the fastest updates delivered right to you - Click here to Subscribe