Expert NFL Picks: Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Odds and Betting Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/12/2017
Monday night's National Championship Game between Clemson and Alabama was the most-wagered college football game ever at pretty much every major sportsbook you could find. And the books took a major bath, but that's another story. I mention this because Sunday's Green Bay at Dallas game almost surely will be the most-wagered and highest-rated NFL game so far this season. The Cowboys always draw eyeballs and bettors, and the Packers aren't far behind in either. Frankly, the only matchup in these playoffs that would excite the sportsbooks and TV executives more would be a Patriots-Cowboys Super Bowl.
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Sunday will be the eighth postseason meeting all-time between the Packers and Cowboys, which will tie it for the most common postseason matchup in NFL history. The home team has won the last six in this postseason series. If this game is as good as their last playoff meeting, we all win. That was in the divisional round at Lambeau Field on Jan. 11, 2015. The Packers won 26-21, but only because what looked like a spectacular Dez Bryant bobbling 31-yard catch at the Packers 1 on a fourth-and-two was overturned on a challenge by Packers coach Mike McCarthy. I shouldn't say the Cowboys win that game for sure, but they most likely would have gone up 28-26 with about four minutes left. Actually they probably go for two after the TD.
It sure looked like a catch to most of the world as the ball never hit the ground. So the NFL being the NFL overreacted to the firestorm and clarified its catch rule the following offseason. Basically, it became more unclear: "A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete."
Whatever that means. Under the old rule, a player had to make a "football move" before the referees would rule that something close to a catch was actually a catch and not incomplete. The NFL is overthinking this.
This is the first playoff trip since for the Cowboys (13-3), who will not leave the state of Texas the rest of this season no matter how far they go as the No. 1 seed in the NFC and with the Super Bowl in Houston. The Packers (11-6) are in the divisional round for the third straight year. They have lost the past two, on the road -- Arizona and Seattle -- in overtime and on the game's final play.
Packers at Cowboys Betting Story Lines
It's the old rest vs. rust argument for Dallas as it hasn't had anything to play for since Week 15. Dallas did play all its healthy starters the full way in Week 16 in blowing out Detroit. But the regular-season finale at Philadelphia, a 27-13 loss, saw most starters play little if at all. Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL rushing champion, didn't play after a super-heavy regular-season workload. Tony Romo got into that Eagles game and looked sharp in his one TD drive. I only mention that if Dak Prescott were to get hurt here. Prescott didn't play much vs. Philly.
Injury-wise, Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith sprained his MCL against the Lions and didn't play Week 17 but should be good to go here. Smith was named a first-team All-Pro along with fellow linemen Zack Martin (right guard) and Travis Frederick (center) as well as Elliott. Cornerback Morris Claiborne is practicing and should go. Claiborne injured his groin and hasn't played since Week 8. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence also should go after missing the past three games with a back injury that will require offseason surgery. One guy the Cowboys won't have is defensive end Randy Gregory. He returned for the final two games from suspension but then was suspended again at least one full year. It's a shame the former Nebraska star can't stay away from the weed because he's a good player.
Green Bay was in a dogfight last week with the Giants -- a team I'm sure the Cowboys are glad they aren't playing after going 0-2 vs. Big Blue in the regular season -- until Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb on a 42-yard Hail Mary at the end of the first half to give the Packers are 14-6 lead. That seemed to change momentum -- even though the Giants did cut it to 14-13 in the third quarter -- and the Pack rolled to a 38-13 win. Rodgers had been struggling a bit before the Cobb pass but finished 25-for-40 for 362 yards and four TDs. That's now 19 TD passes and no picks in Green Bay's seven-game winning streak. Not sure Rodgers has ever looked better.
The news was not all good last week, however, as No. 1 receiver Jordy Nelson left early with reported broken ribs. The Packers are holding out hope that Nelson can practice by Saturday and play, but that's pretty tough to see. Nelson led the NFL with 14 regular-season TDs to go with 97 catches for 1,257 yards. Nelson lives on the outside as no receiver in the NFL caught more passes outside the painted numbers on the field than Nelson. A total of 59 of his catches were on the outside. Rodgers has completed 80.4 percent of passes thrown to Nelson during the Packers' winning streak. The Packers obviously will need Cobb, who had three TD catches vs. New York, and Davante Adams to really step up. Rookie Geronimo Allison also will see an increased role. Meanwhile, Packers running back James Starks and cornerback Quinten Rollins are still in league's concussion protocol.
Packers at Steelers Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Dallas is a 4.5-point favorite (-110) with a total of 52. On the moneyline, the Cowboys are -215 and Packers +178. On the alternate lines, Dallas is -4 (-118), -3.5 (-125), -3 (-151) and -2.5 (-173). Green Bay is 10-6-1 against the spread (4-4 on road) and 11-6 "over/under" (6-2 on road). Dallas is 10-6 ATS (5-3 at home) and 6-10 O/U (4-4 at home).
The Packers are 4-0 ATS in their past four vs. teams with a winning record. They are 6-1 ATS in their past seven playoff road games. The Cowboys are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 playoff games. They are 1-5 ATS in their past six games overall. The over is 5-0 in Green Bay's past five. It's 5-1 in the Pack's past six vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-1 in the Cowboys' past five games. The home team is 10-4 ATS in the past 14 meetings. The under is 5-2 in the previous seven.
Packers at Steelers Betting Prediction
Like the other three divisional games, this one is a regular-season rematch. In Week 6, Dallas went to Lambeau and won 30-16. Prescott was the best QB on the field in throwing for three touchdowns (two to Cole Beasley). Elliott gashed the Packers for 157 yards rushing. Bryant was out injured then. Rodgers threw for 292 yards with a TD and a pick. Eddie Lacy was still the healthy Green Bay running back then and rushed for 65 yards on 17 carries. The Pack turned it over four times.
People have doubted Prescott all season, and other than a two-game stretch he has been fantastic. Elliott has been great all season behind the NFL's best offensive line by far. Yet I simply can't go against Rodgers the way he's playing, even without Nelson. The Packer defense will sell out to stop Elliott, and I'm not sure Prescott will make Green Bay pay. Take the 4.5 points and go over the total.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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