Shawn (11-5, 8-7-1 ATS): With the scumbag Seattle Seahawks losing in the first game on Saturday, there are only three teams left in the NFC. All three of those teams are potent on offense, and all three hope to just get enough out of their defense. That means the Green Bay Packers have about as good of a chance as anyone.
The Dallas Cowboys handled the Packers pretty easily in week 6. However, the Packers fumbled three times in that game, including on the Cowboys’ 1-yard line. Also, Jared Cook did not play, and the Packers’ passing attack was still in its 2015 malaise.
The Packers are clearly a better team now, but the Cowboys are too. For one, they have Dez Bryant back, who did not play at all in that game. Secondly, all their defensive line and their pass rushers are healthy. That includes late season call up David Irving, who has come out of nowhere to provide the one thing the Dallas defense has lacked — a pass rush specialist.
Though the Cowboys have the kind of offense to win them games, the defense has not allowed the Cowboys to get into too many shootouts this season. The closest they probably came to that was a 35-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger put up 408 yards passing in that game. That has to give the Packers some hope, but like I said, I think the Cowboys are better on defense now.
The only games the Cowboys lost this season happened when a defense managed to stop the run and shut them down. It seems highly unlikely that the Packers’ defense can pull that off. The Packers have been mediocre against the run during the second half of the season. Their eighth place finish in that category says their run defense is not a mirage, but stopping Dallas is an entirely different animal than stopping about every other rushing offense in the league.
People have expressed their doubts about the Cowboys because they have two rookies leading them, including Dak Prescott at quarterback. However, the Dallas offensive linemen are not rookies, and if they continue to open up big holes in the run game and give Prescott plenty of time to throw the football, I don’t see either rookie struggling in this game.
The Packers’ best chance to win is to take the opening kickoff and drive down and score. If they can keep the pressure on the Dallas offense, which they are not used to, it is possible they can get that young offense to crack. Obviously, the Packers will need another big game from Aaron Rodgers to make all that happen.
Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of confidence in the Packers’ ability to control this game with their offense. Like I said, the Dallas defense is healthy and better than they are being perceived. If the Packers even start slow, they could lose the game in the first half.
The Packers typically have a bend-but-don’t-break defense. That does not match up well with a team that excels in the red zone like the Cowboys. I don’t see the Packers having enough on defense to keep the Cowboys from scoring 30 points.
Meanwhile, as great as Aaron Rodgers has been, I think losing Jordy Nelson could be just enough to slow the Packers’ offense down a little. It will only be a little, but that will be enough.
In contrast to the Packers, when I look at the Dallas Cowboys, I see an extremely healthy team with nearly every week 1 starter playing. The Packers cannot say the same.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense give this team a puncher’s chance against anyone, but I just can’t see them pulling this off. I can see Dallas covering and covering in a big way if Rodgers struggles at all.
Cowboys 34, Packers 27
As Shawn said, the Packers have a puncher’s chance with the way Aaron Rodgers is playing. This is a different team than the one that got worked by the Cowboys during the regular season, so we’re just going to throw that game out.
The problem for me is defense. I just don’t have any confidence in the Packers’ defense.
I can see the Packers’ offense coming out with an innovative game plan that keeps the Cowboys on their heels. I can see the offense putting up points. I can see this being a competitive game.
I am also positive that the Packers’ defense won’t stop the Cowboys in any way, shape or form. And that’s the story we’ve become accustomed to in the playoffs, isn’t it?
Not only are too many of the players on that side of the ball not up to snuff, but Dom Capers isn’t fooling anyone with anything anymore. He runs the same defense he’s run since the early 1990s. There certainly aren’t going to be any surprises there at this point.
And so, I believe the Packers are doomed to once again repeat the scenario we have seen so many times since 2010 — win a playoff game, lose the next one.
US sportsbooks have the the line on this game at 5.5 after it opened at 4. I do not really love anything about that current spread. However, I do like the Cowboys to win this game.
There are plenty of reasons they are the No. 1 seed.
If you’re looking for hope, then there is one thing. Not a single upset has taken place in these playoffs yet. Thus far, the higher seed has won every game.
Odds are, that simply can’t hold.
Still, I have to take the Cowboys in this one.
Cowboys 35, Packers 28