A look at the matchups for Sunday's Cowboys-Packers game at Lambeau Field:
Cowboys right tackle Marc Colombo vs. Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews: The Packers are one of the top teams in the NFL when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback and converting that pressure into the sacks. The Packers can get a tremendous push from its front of Cullen Jenkins, B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, but the player that seals the deal is linebacker Clay Matthews.
Matthews is leading the NFL in sacks with 9.5 and truly is one of the best young players in the league. He is relentless with his effort, but more impressive is his technique and how he works to the quarterback.
Matthews has various pass-rush moves and the interesting thing is that he is able to do this while on the move. Matthews doesn’t slow his rush down to work his craft. I have seen him dip, rip, slap and grab a tackle in the effort to get to the quarterback for the sack. He shows a nice burst of quickness and plays with some power as well.
Colombo has been limited at practice with a back problem, but he is tough and fully understands the task ahead. Colombo can get in trouble when his base gets too wide and he becomes overextended. When he plays over the tops of his feet, he struggles to move. If Colombo can get a good punch on Matthews, throw his timing off and make him reset set his rush, he has a chance in the battle.
The health of Colombo has to be a concern because even healthy this was going to be difficult. The Cowboys cannot allow Matthews to control this game if they want to be successful.
Ratliff is a Pro Bowl nose that has seen his share of double-teams all season, so his production has not been at the typical level that for him. I am going to be real honest, Wells is not athletic or skilled enough to block Ratliff throughout the game. He will need help.
Ratliff and Josh Brent need to control the front of this pocket. Aaron Rodgers loves to move around in the pocket and buy time and chances. If Rodgers has no place to step up and deliver the football, the Cowboys could create opportunities for stops.
Look for Ratliff to use his quickness and strength to give Wells problems. Ratliff can get push on Wells but he can also create problems in the blocking scheme. The more that the Packers have to commit to handling Ratliff, the more others can benefit.
If the front of the pocket is clean for the Packers, they will have success moving the football. But if Ratliff causes problems, the necessary stops can be made.
Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin vs. Packers cornerback Charles Woodson: In my views of the Packers secondary, Charles Woodson is their best defensive player. On base, he plays on the outside, but he will usually play in the slot in the nickel.
In 2009, Woodson covered tight end Jason Witten during certain packages. I have a feeling that defensive coordinator Dom Capers will not allow Witten to beat him in this game, especially with Kitna at quarterback, but he will also try to match Woodson on Austin as well.
One of the best routes that Austin runs is the slant. Woodson is an aggressive corner that is physical on receivers. He doesn’t allow much separation and he does a solid job of reading the quarterback and receiver and driving on the football.
Austin knows what Woodson’s game entails, so he will be ready for some seriously tight coverage. Austin is a physical player in his own right, so he will be up to the challenge.
Will be interested to see if the Cowboys put Austin in the slot or try to work him on the outside in some other matchups. If the Cowboys do this, will the Packers counter by moving Woodson with Austin? Regardless, Woodson will most likely see coverage on the two best weapons on the Cowboys offense.