Though the Green Bay Packers publicly hold out hope that Jordy Nelson can return to practice Saturday and suit up the following day, it appears a virtual lock that the offense must make do without him against the Dallas Cowboys. While the Pro Bowl wideout's yearlong absence hurt the team in 2015, Aaron Rodgers and company might avoid the same fate this time around.
In 2015, the absence of Nelson played a significant role in the downturn of the Packers' offensive efficiency, which ranked in the bottom half of the league in traditional metrics like total offense and scoring while finishing middle of the pack in terms of DVOA. While Green Bay has returned to the top 10 in each category this season, it may not need Nelson to maintain that level of play against the Cowboys, who have a middling pass defense. Keep in mind that this past weekend the Packers took it to the New York Giants, owners of the No. 1 ranked defense in the conference by DVOA.
Still not convinced that the Packers can knock off the Cowboys without Nelson? The Washington Post's Jeff Dooley makes a pretty convincing case.
Aaron Rodgers understandably receives the lion's share of the credit for all the Hail Mary success over the past 14 months, but the rest of the offense and the coaching staff have to manufacture the right setup to make it all possible.
Rodgers understandably puts a fright into opponents, and the Cowboys know they can't expect to shut him down as they did back in Week 6. Still, the defenders believe they can hold him to "four or five" big plays and leave the rest to their powerhouse offense.
Wes Hodkiewicz points out that while Nelson's absence places more pressure on Rodgers and the rest of the receivers, the improvement of Davante Adams, as well as the addition of players like Jared Cook and Geronimo Allison, keep the aerial attack potent.