Dale Hansen, the outspoken and affable sports director of WFAA/Channel 8 in Dallas, predicts the Dallas Cowboys will move on to the NFC Championship Game with a win at home on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
However, Hansen is not allowing the Cowboys’ 30-16 victory at Green Bay on Oct. 16 to affect his decision. And he’s very cautious about the ability of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to turn the game in Green Bay’s favor with a simple flick of his wrist.
“I still think the Cowboys are better, and I think the Cowboys win the game,” Hansen said Tuesday afternoon. “But if any Cowboys fan thinks 30-16 in Green Bay is indicative of what we’re going to see Sunday, I think they’re going to be sadly mistaken.
“I do think the Cowboys win, I think their offensive line and their ground game will slow Aaron Rodgers down. The typical line we always talk about is the best defense for the Cowboys, I think, is their offense, but the Cowboys, at the same time, are going to have to put some points on the board.”
Since throwing an interception in Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans, Rodgers has thrown 285 passes for 2,391 yards, 22 touchdowns and no interceptions. That includes completing 19-of-26 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns in the latter part of last Sunday’s 38-13 victory over the New York Giants in the wild-card game after starting that contest just 6-of-14 for 54 yards.
“Rodgers is just playing lights-out,” Hansen said. “I’m really intrigued by people who say, ‘I’m glad we’ve got to the Packers, because the Giants have beaten us twice and the Giants are really tough.’
“And I said, ‘So the Giants beat the Cowboys twice, the Packers beat the Giants by 25, and you’re feeling good about getting the Packers?’ In the words of the great Randy Galloway, ‘Were you watching the game?’ ”
The Cowboys finished the regular season with a franchise-tying 13-3 record, while the Packers entered Sunday’s contest riding a seven-game winning streak. Hansen knows this is not the same Packers team that the Cowboys pushed around back on Oct. 16 and that started the season 4-6.
“I think Green Bay is playing at such a high level right now that I can easily make an argument that Green Bay wins the game,” Hansen said. “But I really do think the Cowboys will win, and this unbelievable, remarkable story of (Cowboys rookie quarterback) Dak Prescott continues.
“I just love watching Prescott control the ball and throw it to the open guy.”
Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant missed the earlier game this year against the Packers with a slight hairline fracture to his right knee. But even though Bryant will play Sunday, Hansen isn’t sure how much of a factor he’ll be.
“I’ve heard both — ‘Dez is going to light them up, he’s going to go nuts,’ ” Hansen said. “It’s very possible, but I still think I’m in somewhat of a minority.
“I don’t know how much of a factor Dez is going to be in the game. I’m sure he will be, at least down around the goal line — I think he gives them a great weapon down close to the goal line. But I don’t know that Dez swings the difference one way or another.’’
Hansen, however, did believe Bryant and the Cowboys received a raw deal from the officiating crew during a divisional playoff game against the Packers two years ago. That’s when an apparent catch by Bryant late in the game near the Green Bay goal line — after a review — was stunningly ruled incomplete. Green Bay went on win that playoff game at home, 26-21.
“I’ve never understood why the ground can’t cause a fumble, but it can cause an incomplete pass,” Hansen said. “That makes no sense to me, that makes absolutely no sense.
“I’ve looked at that play a million times and in my world that would have been a catch. But my argument is, and I’m pretty comfortable saying this, by the NFL rules — and I think the rule is pretty stupid — by the NFL rules, no Bryant did not catch that ball.”
In the Cowboys’ victory at Green Bay back in October, rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed 28 times for a career-high 157 yards, and Prescott completed 18-of-27 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Hansen believes a similar production from the Cowboys’ dynamic rookie duo will go a long ways toward getting Jerry Jones’ squad in the NFC Championship Game.
“I think this game is going to be classic,” Hansen said of Sunday’s game. “I think it’s going to be a relatively high-scoring game.
“I don’t care who wins, but I really do hope it’s as good of a game as I think it’s going to be. I think it’s going to be staggering, I think it’s going to be absolutely staggering.”