Free Expert NFL Picks: Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/8/2015
I realize the Dallas Cowboys have only three playoff wins since their last Super Bowl (1995 season) and they have missed out on the postseason much more than making it since then. But how is it possible that the Cowboys haven't played a playoff game at Lambeau Field since the 1967 NFL championship game, otherwise known as the epic Ice Bowl? Indeed, all those Cowboys-Packers playoff showdowns in the early-mid 1990s between Troy Aikman and Brett Favre were in Dallas. The Cowboys and Packers' last playoff matchup was in the NFC title game on Jan. 14, 1996, a 38-27 Dallas win. That was the last time the Cowboys reached the conference championship game. They would beat Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XXX.
I don't believe for a minute that the fix was in for the NFL to get Dallas into this game, which is the early start Sunday. Yes, the Cowboys drive ratings -- and action at sportsbooks -- more than any other team. It's been that way for years and probably always will be. America's Team and all. But the Detroit Lions sure seem like they got hosed on two fourth-quarter calls in last week's 24-20 loss. The first was on a Dallas defensive pass interference flag -- called on rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens against Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew -- that was then picked up almost immediately. I've never seen that happen before. Maybe it wasn't technically interference and instead face-guarding (legal in the NFL, not NCAA), but Hitchens definitely held Pettigrew as well -- the NFL admitted as much. That happened midway through the fourth quarter and would have given the Lions a first down in field-goal range. Instead Detroit ended up punting.
On the Cowboys' next series, which began with 8:10 left in the fourth and the Loins still leading 20-17, the officials missed an obvious offensive holding call on Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Tony Romo hit on a crucial fourth-and-6 pass to Jason Witten on the play, which eventually led to the game-winning touchdown. If holding is called there, and the NFL also admitted it should have been, at the Detroit 42 with around six minutes left, the Cowboys no doubt punt on fourth-and-16 still down three points. Maybe Dallas still wins, but it's obviously harder. Even President Obama said this week he would be "pretty aggravated" if he were a Lions fan.
At Bovada , the Packers are +550 to win the Super Bowl and +250 for the NFC title. Dallas is +750 and +450, respectively. The Pack are -900 to bet against winning the Super Bowl while the Cowboys are -1400.
Cowboys at Packers Betting Story Lines
You can't ask for a better matchup as this is the first time an 8-0 home team has hosted an 8-0 road team in NFL playoff history (an unbeaten home team had hosted an unbeaten road team a couple of previous times but before the 16-game schedule).
Let's get to the injuries first. Obviously the big one is to Packers star QB Aaron Rodgers, who re-aggravated a calf injury in the Week 17 win over Detroit to earn Green Bay the No. 2 seed in the NFC. There's clearly no question Rodgers will play, but he hasn't practiced since then. He is going to try Thursday. After hurting the groin against the Lions, Rodgers never left the pocket again. Clearly that's going to be an issue. And clearly, the Cowboys know this and are going to perhaps blitz more because Rodgers' ability to escape may be nil. Might he throw his first home interception since Dec. 2, 2012? Bovada lists Rodgers with "over/under" 290.5 passing yards (both -115) and .5 interceptions (under -175 favorite).
For Dallas, linebackers Hitchens and Terrell McClain are battling high-ankle sprains, but I'm sure they will play. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain, who has been a revelation this season, suffered a concussion against the Lions. He's the main worry. Right tackle Doug Free has missed three straight games and is unlikely to play.
With Rodgers less than 100 percent, I believe this game comes down to how well the Cowboys run the ball with DeMarco Murray. The Packers ranked 23rd overall in allowing 119.9 yards per game on the ground, 20th in yards per carry and 14th in rushing touchdowns allowed. In Green Bay's Week 1 loss in Seattle, the Seahawks had 207 yards rushing. In a Week 3 loss at Detroit, the Lions had 115. In a Week 8 loss at New Orleans, the Saints had 193. In the Week 15 defeat in Buffalo, the Bills had 113. Bovada lists Murray at "over/under" 99.5 yards, with over a -125 favorite. He is the +200 favorite to lead all running backs in yards this weekend.
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers NFL Divisional-Round Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Green Bay is a 7-point favorite (+120) with alternate lines of 6.5 (-102), 6 (-110) and 5.5 (-118). The Pack are -260 on the moneyline and Cowboys +220. The total is 53. Dallas is 10-7 against the spread this season (7-1 on road) and 9-7-1 O/U (7-1 on road). Green Bay is 9-6-1 ATS (6-1-1 at home) and 11-5 O/U (7-1 at home).
The Cowboys are 1-5 ATS in their past six road playoff games. Green Bay is 4-0 ATS in its past four at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The Pack are 6-2 ATS in their past eight playoff games. The over is 6-0 in Dallas' past six road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The over is 8-1 in Green Bay's past nine following an ATS win. The over is 4-0 in the Packers' past four divisional-round games.
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers Expert Picks and Betting Predictions
The teams last met in December 2013, and Green Bay won 37-36 in Dallas without an injured Rodgers. The Cowboys were up 26-3 at the half and 29-10 late in the third quarter when Matt Flynn started tearing that wretched Dallas defense apart. Flynn threw for 299 yards and four scores overall, while Romo threw for 358 and two TDs but also two picks -- both in the final three minutes of the game. The first, picked off by Sam Shields, led to Eddie Lacy's go-ahead 1-yard go-ahead TD run. The second was when Dallas got the ball with 1:31 left and still a good chance to drive for a winning field goal.
I would obviously feel much better about the Packers' chances if Rodgers was fully healthy. Maybe they are exaggerating the injury to make Dallas feel more confident? If I could find a line of 7.5 points, I would take the points. As of this writing, that's not an option at 5Dimes. So I will give 6.5 points and go under on a cold day at Lambeau (lucky this isn't a night game) -- but nowhere near Ice Bowl cold. Go under on Murray's rushing yards but over on both of Rodgers' props. Yes, I think he might throw a pick with the stiff calf; maybe it happens on a Hail Mary at halftime or something.
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