The Green Bay Packers went from two straight disastrous offseasons -- losing star quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams -- to making the playoffs in year one of the Jordan Love era. All the criticism directed at head coach Matt LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst seems to have analysts and fans alike eating crow, as the Packers prepare for a road trip to Dallas to take on the Cowboys.
The Cowboys, by the way, who have been a team in recent years infamous for early playoff exits.
Although the Packers have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, and although most of these guys have no playoff experience, they have a chance to go into Dallas and beat an old friend in Mike McCarthy.
Along with that opportunity comes greater expectations for Green Bay, and it means a number of players and personnel will be on thin ice going into the game.
1. Matt LaFleur, head coach
I think head coach Matt LaFleur is obviously "Exhibit A" when it comes to players or coaches on thin ice heading into this game against Dallas. LaFleur entered this season with one of the best overall winning percentages of any active head coach, but throwing Jordan Love to the wolves was arguably his biggest test yet.
So far, so good on that one. Jordan Love had a great season, and the Packers endured through the ups and downs that come with having a young team to make the postseason.
But the pressure is now on LaFleur to prove what kind of a difference he can make in a playoff atmosphere with the roster he and Gutekunst have been curating over the last handful of years. Can you go into Dallas, against one of the best teams in the NFC, and beat a veteran-laden coaching staff along with one of the most complete rosters in the league?
How do you approach this chess match if you're Matt LaFleur? Does he pull all of the right game management strings and look like his team belongs in this spot?
LaFleur isn't on thin ice in that, if he loses this game he's getting fired. I think Packers fans are sick of missing the playoffs or early playoff exits. Now that they've tasted what it's like for this new roster to make the postseason, they want to see the team make some noise. I think a playoff win -- or loss -- will go a long way in determining how LaFleur is viewed going into next season.