The teams: The Green Bay Packers (6-6-1) vs. the Dallas Cowboys (7-6).
The time: 3:25 p.m. CST Sunday.
The place: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
The TV coverage: FOX – WITI (Ch. 6 in Milwaukee), WMSN (Ch. 47 in Madison) and WLUK (Ch. 11 in Green Bay).
The announcers: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth and Pam Oliver reporting from the sideline.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 86-48-1 (including 6-4 in the postseason) in his eighth season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. Dallas’ Jason Garrett is 28-25 in his third season as coach of the Cowboys and as an NFL head coach.
The series: The all-time regular-season series is tied, 12-12, although the Cowboys hold a 12-5 advantage in Dallas. The Packers have not beaten the Cowboys in Big D since 1989.
The rankings: The Packers’ fifth-ranked offense is No. 10 in rushing and No. 9 in passing. Their 21st-ranked defense is No. 25 against the run and No. 21 against the pass. The Cowboys’ 22nd-ranked offense is No. 24 in rushing and No. 15 in passing. Their 32nd-ranked defense is No. 28 against the run and No. 32 against the pass.
The line: The Cowboys are favored by 7 1/2 points.
The injury report:Packers – Out: DE C.J. Wilson (ankle), QB Aaron Rodgers (collarbone). Probable: ILB Brad Jones (ankle), RB Eddie Lacy (ankle), ILB Jamari Lattimore (knee), OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), C Evan Dietrich-Smith (ankle/knee). OLB Nick Perry (foot).
Cowboys – Out: LB Bruce Carter (hamstring), WR Dwayne Harris (Hamstring), LB Sean Lee (neck). Questionable: CB Morris Claiborne (hamstring). Probable: LB Justin Durant (hamstring), DT Jason Hatcher (neck), LB DeVonte Holloman (neck), LB Orie Lemon (not injury related).
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
No head games: Some coaches might’ve kept the decision to sit Rodgers quiet until 90 minutes before kickoff, when teams’ inactive lists are due. Not McCarthy. After Rodgers said on Thursday that it wouldn’t be fair to backup quarterback Matt Flynn to hold off until game day, McCarthy could have made the decision on Friday but kept it under his hat and instructed Flynn and the players to do so, too. After all, Garrett himself said that Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and the 32nd-ranked defense were prepping for both Rodgers and Flynn.
Instead, McCarthy just made the announcement that Flynn was in.
“I’m not very good at that, frankly. I never felt being on the other side of that that it really accomplished anything,” McCarthy said of gamesmanship. “I thought the Minnesota Vikings last year, prior to the (NFC Wild Card) playoff game with (injured quarterback) Christian Ponder not playing in the game, that was about as well-kept decision that I’ve ever seen, and I don’t think it really factored in the outcome of the game. Now, we had talked about it, did a little research on (backup quarterback) Joe Webb earlier, but we had time to make our guys were ready for that.”
Now, the Cowboys will be ready for Flynn, who completed 24 of 32 passes for 258 yards with a touchdown and an interception in last week’s victory over Atlanta. While he did have to share first-team reps with Rodgers on Wednesday and Thursday while the coaching and medical staffs determined if Rodgers was ready to play, Flynn got plenty of work and should be good to go.
“That’s not going to make that much of a difference. I feel very prepared with the game plan and what we’re trying to get accomplished. I feel good about it,” said Flynn, who’ll make his third straight start after Seneca Wallace (one) and Scott Tolzien (two) also started in Rodgers’ place. “[I’m] a lot more comfortable. Simple as that. Getting more reps, getting more time, and every week I feel better.
Flynn, who sounded hoarse on Friday but expected his voice to be fine by kickoff, said he was unfazed by Rodgers’ participation in practice.
“My mind-set all week’s been that I’m going to start. That’s been my mind-set, so it doesn’t really change anything,” Flynn said of the announcement that he’d start. “Just keep preparing, make sure – our physical work’s kind of in the bag – so just mentally, I’m going over the game plan, understanding it a little bit more. Just making sure I’m 100 percent on everything that we’re trying to accomplish.”
Flynn, who is a Texas native and will have 11 family members and friends at the game, admitted after the Thanksgiving loss at Detroit that he wasn’t “cutting loose” in that game on throws. He still needs to work through his progressions more quickly – he’s been sacked 12 times in his two starts – and should be better in that department. While at least two of the sacks last week, including the blind-side hit that resulted in a fumble, were by unblocked free runners, Flynn also held onto the ball on others.
“One thing that we talk about is we don’t want any premeditated decisions or any blind throws. There are times when you maybe would rather like to throw the ball away, but a sack is definitely better than a turnover in that regard there,” quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo said. “Not that we push sacks on anybody, but we definitely want to do a good job taking care of the ball. He’s done a nice job coming in here in a short period of time getting ready to play for us.
“The more reps he gets, the faster he’ll play.”
Whoa, Nellie: Rodgers, Wallace, Tolzien, Flynn – it hasn’t mattered to wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who enters the game with 67 receptions for 1,046 yards and seven touchdowns. He also comes in with 15 receptions of 25 yards or more this season – tied for the most in the NFL – and needs only two receptions to set a career single-season best. He caught 68 passes in 2011.
Of Nelson’s receptions, 27 catches for 370 yards have from the Packers’ three replacement quarterbacks. He caught four passes for 85 yards against Atlanta.