Green Bay Packers (11-6 SU,10-6-1 ATS) vs. Dallas Cowboys (13-3 SU, 10-6 ATS)
NFL Football Divisional Playoffs
Date/Time: Sunday, January 15 at 4:40pm ET
Where: AT&T Stadium
by Evergreen, Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB +4.5/DAL -4.5
Over/Under Total: 52
Momentum is one of the most important things to have as teams head deeper into the playoffs. Home field advantage is also high on the list of items that lead to postseason success. Having top playmakers at their position is also nice. If all those things are true, then we are set for a fantastic NFC Divisional Round game when the Green Bay Packers head to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. Green Bay is a hot as a team can get with Aaron Rodgers playing at a hall of fame level. Dallas has the home field and is coming off a bye after securing the top-seed. Both teams are stocked with some of the best offensive playmakers and both also appear unapologetic when imposing their will on the opponent. Seattle or Atlanta will have something to say about things before it is done but it is starting to feel like the winner of this game has a date in Houston.
This is sure to be one of the most heavily betted games in recent playoff history and the online betting sites have Dallas as 4.5 point favorites. Nearly 70% of the public money has come in on the Green Bay side in early action, which is not all that surprising given the way they have looked in winning seven straight. The Packers are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven road playoff games and 6-1 ATS in the last seven overall. The Cowboys are on the other side of that coin with a 1-5 ATS mark in their last six games and an equal 1-5 ATS record in the last six when facing an NFC foe. The Sagarin computers like Dallas a little closer to a six point favorite so Green Bay is just a bit overvalued according to the metrics. Again, that is not surprising given how well they have played lately and the large amount of money that comes in on them no matter who they play.
This will be the second time these teams have gone at it this season. Dallas got the better of a week six matchup, dropping Green Bay by a 30-16 score. The Cowboys racked up 191 rushing yards in that one and Dak Prescott threw three touchdown passes on the way to a pretty convincing win. Aaron Rodgers threw for 294 yards and one touchdown on 42 attempts but the Packers were held to less than 80 yards rushing and didnít hit double digits on the scoreboard until late in the third quarter. Ty Montgomery caught ten passes for 98 yards in the game as Green Bay utilized the short passing game when the run failed. Montgomery is listed as probable for Sunday and his presence will help keep Dallas honest on defense. That loss started a four-game skid for the Packers where they allowed at least 30 points in each defeat. The defense has played much better as the season turned around but they are still dealing with multiple injuries in the secondary. Jordy Nelson looks doubtful after suffering cracked ribs last week but he has not been officially ruled out at this point with his availability to practice Saturday the determining factor. Dallas is mostly healthy and reports no new injuries since the final week of the season.
Iím not sure what to say about Aaron Rodgers at this point. His play is reminiscent of the Packers SuperBowl run and subsequent 15-1 season. It doesnít appear to matter what play is being called because Rodgers simply buys time and eventually finds wide open receivers. The New York Giant defense did a tremendous job in getting to Rodgers early last week but they couldnít get their hands on him in the second half and that was their ultimate undoing. The Giants receivers didnít play up to expectations but there was no way to hang with the Packers once A-Rod got the offense going. Randall Cobb burst back onto the scene with three touchdown grabs and he will need to play another top-end game if Nelson is out. Jared Cook and Davante Adams are big-bodied and tough to matchup against. The 26th ranked pass defense in Dallas will have their hands full against Rodgers and his receivers. The Packers finished the regular season ranked 7th in passing yards and 4th in points per game at 27 per contest.
The Cowboys will counter-punch with the run game. Dallas averages nearly 150 rush yards per game behind Ezekial Elliott and the best run-blocking offense line in the league. Zeke averages 5.1 yards per carry and notched 15 rushing touchdowns in his rookie campaign. He is also a factor in the passing game, adding 363 yards out of the backfield, bringing his scrimmage total to just short of 2,000 yards. As impressive as those rookie numbers are, Dak Prescottís might be more impressive. Dak finished the season hitting on nearly 68% of his passes and turned in a 23-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He ran for 282 yards and six scores on the ground to round out one of the more complete rookie QB campaigns this side of Cam Newton. Prescott was eased in a bit during the early going but he appears more and more confident with all of his throws and the playbook is opening up as well. Dez Bryant was out for much of the early season but has come back to lead the team with eight touchdown receptions and remains a tough coverage assignment. Dez has a bit of a score to settle with Green Bay after dropping a would-have-been game winner in the 2014 playoffs. Cole Beasley leads the team with 75 receptions and runs the kind of routes from the slot that Green Bay struggles to cover. Jason Witten has remained the same kind of security blanket he was with Tony Romo so watch for him on those key third-and-short scenarios. Dallas wound up 5th in both total yards per game and points per, scoring 26.3 on average.
The way these teams go about their offense couldnít be more different but the end results are very similar. Both possess the ball a little over 31 minutes per game and that helps their defense stay fresh if nothing else. Green Bay actually has the edge in yards per carry at 4.3 to Dallasí 3.9 but the Boys stick with it much more. Dallas picks up third downs 39.1% of the time with Green Bay at 41.2%. The defenses are similar as well with Green Bay logging just four more sacks than Dallas and both teams allow over 4.5 yards per rush. Neither team holds the opposing QB to less than a 100 rating and all of a sudden I am thinking the over is the best play this week. Anything that seems positive from a defensive standpoint for either team probably comes as a result of their opponent playing from behind and becoming one dimensional. Dallas did lead the league with just over 80 rushing yards allowed per game but I sincerely doubt Green Bay is going into this weekend with a run-first mindset. Both defenses have scary matchups ahead of them.
Remember last year when the Packers stunk without Jordy Nelson? They didnít seem to miss him in the second half against the Giants but Dallas is better than what New York showed on offense and it will absolutely hurt Green Bayís chances if the offense sputters. Both teams are methodical to the point of being slow so possessions are at a premium and missed opportunities will be more damaging than normal. You have to expect 20+ carries for Elliott and he should get to 100 yards but it will be up to the rest of the Dallas offense to get those touchdowns on the board and not settle for field goals. Iím calling for 300+ yards from Rodgers but there are limitations to the offense without Nelson and that puts the Packers in danger of being the team that is playing from behind. Green Bay is so hot and they are getting so much from Rodgers than I have to take them and the 4.5 points. This game feels like a coin-flip but even if Dallas is on top of things and gets the win, I think it comes by a 30-28 kind of score.
Evergreenís Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Green Bay
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