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The Cowboys Are In Trouble Today Against Green Bay

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Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

Prior to the Dallas Cowboys getting thrashed in Chicago on Monday Night Football, the status of Aaron Rodgers — their slated opponent for Week 15 — was a big deal.

Now, after Bears backup QB Josh McCown racked up 342 yards and five touchdowns, becoming the latest in a long line of quarterbacks to torch the ‘Boys secondary, Rodgers and his broken collarbone (non-throwing arm), can’t be considered the decisive X-factor. His absence, should it continue, isn’t a game-changing advantage against America’s Team.

In other words, the Dallas pass defense is so porous, vanilla and directionless, that it no longer matters who’s under center for the opposition.

From an odds-makers standpoint, in a game where one player’s injury should have made them sizable favorites, the Cowboys are compromised by their pass defense. Save Peyton Manning and the 2011 Colts, no contender in recent NFL history has felt the loss of its quarterback so saliently as Green Bay in 2013. The drop-offs in basic accuracy, speed of reading and quickness of delivery — not to mention the overall offensive rhythm — between Rodgers and any Packer backup, are huge.

According to the team’s Twitter account, Rodgers’ next evaluation is Friday. Should be not be cleared medically, the offensive reins fall to journeyman Matt Flynn. Flynn starting would make this game more of a toss-up. But to be sure, a healthy Flynn bodes better for Dallas than a banged-up Rodgers. Facing a healthy Rodgers would, in effect, signify the end of the Cowboys’ season. Mobile, precise and smart with the football, No. 12 would likely shred the Cowboy secondary, score early, and force Dallas to play catch-up — the ‘Boys would probably lose. The Eagles play Minnesota (3-9-1) this week; with that loss they’d likely move two games ahead in the division.

Green Bay’s offense will get its yards one way or another. The swing passes, bubble screens, quick slants and shallow crossing routes that consistently eat the Cowboys alive — any quarterback can execute those. With Rodgers, you get tremendous accuracy on 15- to 25-yard throws and exceptional play-making on the run. Flynn’s passing numbers, should he start, ought to hinge on his receivers netting yards after the catch.

This year has been a struggle for Flynn, who was re-acquired from Oakland and relieved Scott Tolzien in Week 12. But he appeared to rebound last week against Atlanta, going 24-for-32 for 258 yards and ending the Packers’ six-game winless streak. The Falcons’ pass defense is nothing to scream about, but it’s considerably better than the Cowboys’.

Prior to that game, Flynn had a terrible Turkey Day outing against Detroit, going 10-for-20 with an interception and seven sacks. Pressure is obviously the biggest key. But while the Cowboys have been generating it — 19 pressures over their last two games — they have only one sack to show for it. The winnable matchup involves the veteran maneuvering of DE DeMarcus Ware, who’s had his quietest season to date, against Green Bay LT David Bakhtiari, a rookie.

In addition to rattling the quarterback, the Cowboys have to improve their third-down numbers from last week — Chicago converted 8-of-11 against them. Between those two metrics lie the Cowboys’ chances of winning; without them, they’re sunk.

Regardless of what quarterbacks they face between now and January, the Cowboys’ pass defense has them one bad outing away from an early end to 2013. Rodgers just increases the odds of it being this week.