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Thursday, January 8, 2015

NFL Predictions 2015 Divisional Playoffs: Cowboys Vs Packers (update)

Dallas Cowboys Vs. Green Bay Packers: GB -5.5 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Both of these teams are big "public" teams, and so far, there is a lot of respect for the road team in this one. The line opened Packers -6.5, moved to -6, and has now gone down to -5.5 since Rodgers likely won't be 100%. 51% of the tickets are on Green Bay so far.

Bottom Line

I've known all along that I was taking the Packers in this game, but I wanted to wait to see if I could get a better number than the opener. As of now, we're seeing -5.5. If I see indications that it will go back up then I'll lock in at this number. If not, maybe it goes down a bit further. Either way, I'm happy with anything under -7.

This is an interesting game to handicap because I think someone could make a legit case for either side.

For the Cowboys, they went undefeated on the road this year, including 7-1 ATS. The passing game finished best in the league on the road, compared to 10th at home. The defense was 15th on the road, compared to 27th at home. When the offense is on the field, they'll be going up against a defense that ranks average right across the board. This should allow Romo and company to keep a balanced attack, possibly keep Rodgers off the field, and put up points. Naturally, they look like a good bet, right?

Well, that's where I'm going to disagree. The thing about Dallas is that nobody has really exposed their defense yet. It's a credit to the job they've done, but I think it's going to be a whole different story going into Lambeau against Rodgers, who just happens to be unstoppable on home turf. And it's not just Rodgers either. If the Pack want to run the ball, they should be able to do that too, especially since it will likely be a soft box more times than not.

The key thing for this Dallas defense is that they haven't been that good in the categories that matter most.  Coming into this game, they sit 29th in adjusted-sack rate. I'm sorry, but if you can't disrupt Rodgers, it's going to be a long day. They are also below-average on third down, and poor keeping teams out of the end zone once they get inside the 20. Finally, they've been on the fortunate end of turnovers this season, further masking the "improvement" for this unit.

And that's really the bottom line for me. Both offenses have the edge in this game, but it's a much wider margin for Green Bay - even if Rodgers is only 80%. That, along with a week of rest and home field?  I'll go ahead and lay the points.

NFL pick: GB -5.5.

Read more: Divisional picks.
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