This is early November, so it’s not going to be Ice Bowl-cold in Green Bay on Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys come to town. It’s not going to be 2014 Divisional Round-cold, either, when Dez Bryant’s frozen fingers either caught, or didn’t catch the ball, a viewpoint that depends exclusively on whether your veins run silver or cheese.
It won’t even be that cold at all, a positively balmy Wisconsinite 37 degrees, the experts say, come game time.
It just feels cold, bitterly cold, stone-cold, empty and gloomy, for the Packers and anyone who cares about them, with maybe just one more chance — right here — to rescue a floundering season.
No franchise names elicit as much feeling as the two that will meet at Lambeau Field at 4:15 p.m. ET on FOX. The merest mention of the Packers or Cowboys brings instant interest, immediate relevance, just as much spice and frisson regardless of whether the current version of the team is flying or flailing.
Yet Sunday’s blockbuster is a role reversal. This isn’t what we’ve been used to as of late. Isn’t it supposed to be the Cowboys, always touted for big things, yet unable to live up to them? Not so this time, that’s for sure. Quite the opposite, Dallas having taken calamity and scoffed in the face of it on the way to a 6-2 record that feels, if anything, like it underplays their potential.
And shouldn’t it be the Packers greeting the midpoint of the NFL season with stability and steadiness, and an eye locked on the playoffs?
Far from it this time, with problems, problems, problems everywhere. Aaron Rodgers has not been shy in talking about the issues, highlighting chemistry and dropped catches and mindset and what people are saying in the locker room on his long list of gripes. Over the past couple of games, Rodgers and his own stuttering play has also looked like one of the biggest red flags. The reigning MVP’s stock has taken an almighty tumble.
“This past offseason there were a dozen teams that would have moved mountains if Aaron Rodgers was available,” FS1’s Nick Wright said on “First Things First.” “If the Packers were to want to move on from him after this year, the list of teams that would even call is three teams long. At $50 million and this level of play and 39 years old, I don’t think he would be a hot commodity if he were available.”
The chance to put a nail in Green Bay’s campaign and send it to 3-7 is a delicious prospect for the Cowboys, currently reveling in life under former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. McCarthy, it should be noted, takes no satisfaction in his old team’s struggles and spoke emotionally ahead of his return.
“You guys are trying to make me cry,” McCarthy told reporters this week, when question after question about his 13-year stint in Green Bay, which included a Super Bowl XLV triumph, flooded in. “What do I miss most? The people. Just the people.”
Is it fair to say the rest of Cowboy Nation holds no similar sympathy, being acutely aware that no one felt sorry for them whenever things were going badly. Buoyed by a malevolent and highly skilled defense, Dallas is only looking upward, aiming to build on the fine platform provided by backup QB Cooper Rush and seeking more now that Dak Prescott has returned from injury.
Make no mistake, this is the Packers’ all-or-nothing shot, a chance to beat a quality team and revive their season. They’re coming off five straight defeats. They can’t survive a sixth if Rodgers is to retain a shred of hope of slinging passes beyond Week 18.
“I’ve been counted out many times in my life, as have many of my teammates, and I hope we just dig deep and find a way,” Rodgers told reporters after last weekend’s defeat to the Detroit Lions. “We will truly be underdogs for many games moving forward. Hopefully, we can embrace that.”
Packers WRs reportedly feel frustrated Aaron Rodgers made them ‘scapegoats’
All eyes are on Aaron Rodgers after the Green Bay Packers dropped to 3-6. An ESPN report indicates that Rodgers created tension in the locker room by painting wide receivers as ‘scapegoats.’ LeSean McCoy lays out why he strongly dislikes how Rodgers is handling everything this season.
These are genuinely unusual times, highlighted by the Packers being a 4.5-point underdog on their own patch of tundra. The past month-and-change has been the most dire stretch of Rodgers’ career — and a worse run than anyone in this football-warped pocket of the Midwest can remember.
With the Green Bay offense stuttering, Dallas smells blood.
“I’ve seen defenses where you don’t let the offense cross the 50,” Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse told the Dallas Morning News. “I’ve seen shutouts. I’ve been a part of shutouts. I think that’s just the next step for us as a dominant defense.”
While Dallas swaggers with barely a care in the world, the Packers are looking for answers; drastic, emergent, transformative ones.
Based off the last few years, it makes the most anticipated game of this week feel like it has emerged from an alternate reality.
A place and time where Dallas hosts beaming smiles instead of recriminating guesses as to where it went wrong. Where the Packers are the ones nursing all the pain and wondering if there is an end to this.
It feels very, very cold in Green Bay — even when by historic standards, it’s not at all.