Tony Romo added another comeback victory to his résumé last week against Detroit. Now he’s facing a stiff test going to Lambeau and trying to earn his first trip to the NFC Championship Game. At least he grew up in Wisconsin and understands how to play in frigid temperatures. On the road Romo is completing 70.6 percent of his passes with a 20-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 121.8 passer rating.
Aaron Rodgers is the heavy favorite to win the NFL MVP award, and rightfully so. He passed for more than 4,300 yards, completing 65.6 of his passes with 38 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Rodgers owns one of the most impressive home streaks, as he hasn’t thrown an interception at Lambeau since 2012 (to Minnesota safety Harrison Smith).
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DeMarco Murray is the NFL’s top rusher this season and gained 75 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown against the Lions’ top-ranked run defense last week. The Packers boast the worst run defense of the playoff teams. Backup Joseph Randle has played well in his limited time, and Lance Dunbar gives them more speed.
Eddie Lacy had a 1,000-yard season for the second consecutive year, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He also is a threat to catch it out of the backfield. James Starks is a big, physical backup, and John Kuhn continues to be one of the top fullbacks in the league. The run game will be vital if Rodgers’ injured calf limits him
Dez Bryant remains one of the biggest threats in the NFL, although he had a relatively quiet wild-card game. Terrance Williams took advantage of that by catching two touchdown passes, and Cole Beasley also had a productive day. This is a versatile group with several different weapons.
Jordy Nelson has developed into a full-fledged star in the league. He had 98 catches, 1,519 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns as the No. 1 playmaker for the Packers. Randall Cobb isn’t far behind in production with a 1,200-yard, 12-touchdown season. However, all eyes will be on the elusive Nelson.
Jason Witten remains one of the best tight ends in football, and he contributes equally in the passing and running game. He came through with a key fourth-down catch against the Lions and is one of the most reliable receivers on the team. Backup Gavin Escobar is a red-zone threat and James Hanna is a solid blocker.
Andrew Quarless is a serviceable tight end, someone who can block and pass. He finished the regular season with 29 catches for 323 yards along with three touchdowns. But he’s certainly not considered a difference-making player. Richard Rodgers is a solid No. 2 tight end but not much more.
The Cowboys have built one of the top lines in the league through the draft. Tyron Smith is establishing himself as an elite left tackle, center Travis Frederick made the Pro Bowl in his second season, and guard Zack Martin is going to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. They gave up six sacks in the wild-card round, but no one seems alarmed.
The Packers have the sixth-best offense in football, which speaks to how well the line has played. They’ve given up only 28 sacks. It’s a mostly veteran group, too, outside of second-year left tackle David Bakhtiari. Guard Josh Sitton is a Pro Bowler, while fellow guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Bryan Bulaga are established vets.
For the Cowboys, getting to the quarterback has been a challenge all season, as the absences of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher have been felt. But it’s been better of late with Anthony Spencer playing like his former self, rookie DeMarcus Lawrence coming into his own and Jeremy Mincey proving to be a savvy veteran.
The Packers suffered a big blow before the season started by placing nose tackle B.J. Raji on injured reserve. Letroy Guion has been a pleasant surprise, being a force in the middle for a better-than-expected line. Mike Daniels has 5 1/2 sacks, while Datone Jones has yet to live up to his potential as a first-round pick.
Rolando McClain has been a pleasant surprise when he’s been on the field, and rookie Anthony Hitchens has stepped in nicely and is now playing through a high ankle sprain. Bruce Carter sees his playing time fluctuate on a regular basis but has become known for his knack for making big plays at critical times.
Clay Matthews has a team-high 11 sacks, along with nine passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Julius Peppers has also played well in his first season with the Packers, registering seven sacks, four forced fumbles and returning two interceptions for scores. A.J. Hawk has the third-most tackles on the team.
The Cowboys’ secondary isn’t touted, and it has been prone to mistakes. Brandon Carr is playing arguably his best since joining the Cowboys, and Orlando Scandrick is one of the more underrated corners in the game. J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church are still growing at safety but have been reliable for the most part.
The Packers ranked 23rd in total passing yards allowed in the regular season. Safety Morgan Burnett led the team in tackles, which isn’t necessarily a good thing if they are on the second level. But their corners — Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward — have shown flashes, as has rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
For the Cowboys, there are not many kickers in the league who are better or more accurate than Dan Bailey, who has made 25 of 29 field-goal attempts but had a surprising miss in the wild-card game. Chris Jones is a serviceable punter, and long snapper L.P. Ladouceur is completely reliable. Returner Dwayne Harris can be a difference-maker.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby connected on 81.8 percent of his field-goal attempts with a long of 55. Punter Tim Masthay is solid. Micah Hyde has two punt returns for scores this season. Randall Cobb has three career returns (two on punt returns) for scores. The Packers have had seven kicks (PATs, field goals, punts) blocked this season.
Jason Garrett is coming into his own in his fourth full season on with the Cowboys, going 12-4 and winning his first NFC East title afther three 8-8 seasons. He won his first career playoff game with clutch gambles, but that’s the only postseason experience under his belt.
Mike McCarthy has had only one losing season in his nine years at Green Bay, which is why he’s considered one of the top coaches in the game. He also has a Super Bowl ring after leading the 2010 Packers to a title. But he has gone 1-3 in playoff games since that championship run.