Dallas Cowboys (13-4 SU, 10-7 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS)
NFL Playoffs Divisonal Round
Date and Time: January 11 1:05pm
Where: Lambeau Field
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: DAL +6.5/GB -6.5
Over/Under Total: 53
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The ultimate goal for NFL teams is just off in the distance as the Divisional round of the playoffs is here. The Dallas Cowboys, fresh off a controversial win against Detroit, head to Green Bay to take on the Packers. These teams are about as polarizing as it gets and chances are that you have a rooting interest even if you reside outside of Texas or Wisconsin. There have been many classic matchups between these squads throughout history and the 2015 version stands to add itself to that list.
It didnt take long for the online betting sites to fire this game up and Green Bay was installed as a 6.5 point favorite shortly after Dallas emerged victorious from their Wild Card game. Some books have the Cowboys at +7 so look carefully if you want to avoid or take advantage of that hook. Dallas finished the regular season a perfect 8-0 on the road and went 7-1 against the spread in those contests. They are just 1-5 ATS in their last six road playoff games and 1-4 in their last five at Lambeau. Green Bay is 6-2 ATS in their last eight playoff appearances and the home team in 9-2 against the spread in the last eleven games between these teams.
These teams did meet last season with Green Bay grabbing a 37-36 victory in Dallas. Aaron Rodgers hadnt made his return from injury at that point but Matt Flynn threw four touchdowns and Eddie Lacy ran for 124 yards as the Pack won in a shootout. Tony Romo threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns but also threw two interceptions in the loss. There werent many stars that failed to show that day as DeMarco Murray had 134 yards and a score while Dez Bryant had 153 yards on 11 receptions, including one touchdown. That type of scoring isnt predicted for this weekend but the fact remains that both offenses are very good and clearly better than the opposing defensive units.
Nearly lost in the dubious nature of last weeks officiating is the fact that Dallas battled to win a game that they would have likely lost in recent years. Romo didnt turn the ball over and Murray ground out an effective performance against a superior defense. The canceled pass interference will remain the story coming out of that game but the Cowboys have still won five straight games and eight of their last nine. They seem tougher and more resilient behind an efficient Romo and their suspect defense has been covered up by the ball control that comes with the second best ranked run offense. Want some metrics on how Dallas wins? They played the Eagles twice in three weeks at the end of the season. In Week 13, the Eagles hit their average offensive snap total of 73 and won pretty easily with Dallas snapping it just 61 times. Just two weeks later, Dallas controlled the ball masterfully, and came out with a win on an 82 to 55 snap advantage. The Cowboys held Seattle to an absurd 49 snaps earlier in the year, so it might just be that simple. Green Bay is just 23rd against the run on defense so it doesnt appear that Dallas will have an overly difficult time keeping Rodgers off the field. The Packers are about average at 61 offensive snaps per game, will A-Rod and Co. have the ball enough to be successful?
Even if Dallas has the correct recipe to win in Lambeau, we cant overlook that the Packers were undefeated there during the regular season. Rodgers didnt have a single interception at home this season and he gets to throw against the 26th ranked pass defense. Rodgers is dealing with a very troublesome calf strain however and while he will play, the mobility aspect of his game has to be limited to a large degree. He didnt practice at all last week and wont formally take part in practice until Thursday of this week. He doesnt need the reps but it does go to show that this isnt just an annoying injury and the prospect of him missing time during the game is real if he experiences a setback. The extended forecast is calling for a high temperature in the mid-teens for Sunday, not exactly the best weather to keep muscles loose.
I cant imagine this game playing out any other way than Dallas trying to ram Murray down Green Bays throat. That is the weakness of the Packer defense and the weather suggests that ground game is likely the better way to go. Romo has completed nearly 70% of his passes on the year so look for safe throws when Dallas does go to the air, especially to Dez and Jason Witten. Green Bay will be run heavy as well, not only to protect Rodgers, but also because Lacy has been running like a man possessed lately. One is never enough to bring him down and two or three have been struggling to down him recently. The Cowboys arent stout on defense and they will have to rally to stop the run while also covering Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Rodgers two favorite receivers both finished the regular season with at least 90 catches and 12 touchdowns each.
The anniversary of the Ice Bowl just passed and while the weather wont be anywhere near that frigid, the style of play might be reminiscent of that historic game. Unless someone gets out to a big lead, there will be a lot of running by both squads. The pass will be there as there isnt any precipitation expected but anything more than 30 throws out of either quarterback will signal that team is in trouble. Given the apparent limitations to Rodgers, it is a bit hard for me to think they are a full touchdown better than a good offense, even at home. I do think the Packers win but it feels much more like a 24-21 or 27-23 game as Dallas will likely succeed at playing keep-away for at least a while. Turnovers will be even more important with limited possession and Romos efficiency in that department this year is good news. Murray could see 35 carries if things are going well and Dallas gets enough on the board to win with the points. Rodgers will do enough and the Cobb/Nelson duo will eventually burn the Boys but the bet is Dallas.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: DALLAS