In a rematch of last season’s NFC Divisional Playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys visit the Green Bay Packers in Week 14 of the 2015 NFL season. While Sunday’s game won’t necessarily decide either team’s season, the result will go a long way in determining their postseason chances.
Dallas had hopes of repeating their 12-win 2014 campaign, but that went by the wayside when Tony Romo broke his collarbone in Week 2. The team remained optimistic with Romo set to return a week before Thanksgiving, but the Cowboys sit at 4-8 after the quarterback re-injured his collarbone, ending his season. Green Bay has struggled after a 6-0 start, but they appear to be headed to the postseason at 8-4.
Las Vegas casinos have the Packers as a seven-point favorite, according to vegasinsider.com, though the betting line was 7.5 points on Tuesday morning. The over/under is 43.5 points.
Gunning For a Division Title
With so much mediocrity in the NFL, most teams still have a shot to make the playoffs. While Green Bay is not surprisingly in first place in the NFC North, the last-place Cowboys are very much in the NFC East Race.
Dallas’ win over the Washington Redskins on “Monday Night Football” has them just one game out of first place. The New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Redskins are all tied atop the division at 5-7, giving the Cowboys a chance to win the division. Dallas doesn’t control their own destiny, though, since they’ve already split their two meetings with both Philadelphia and New York. If the Eagles and Giants continue to struggle, it’s conceivable that the Cowboys’ Week 17 matchup with the Redskins could determine the NFC East winner.
Green Bay’s miraculous win over the Detroit Lions last week put them in a tie for first place with the Minnesota Vikings, and the Packers won the tiebreaker with a head-to-head victory. The Packers are the betting favorites to win the NFC North, and they have a crucial game with the Vikings scheduled in Week 17.
It’s not surprising that Dallas has trouble scoring the ball, but Green Bay’s offensive struggles were not expected. The loss of Jordy Nelson in the preseason has clearly affected the team, and the Packers no longer boast a top offensive unit.
Green Bay ranks 22nd in the NFL in total offense, having finished in the top six in each of the last two seasons. The Packers rank 12th in scoring after totaling more points than any team last season, and they’ve averaged less than 21 points per game in their current six-game stretch that’s seen them suffer four losses. During that span, Aaron Rodgers hasn’t even posted one passer rating of 97.0 or higher, which is something that he did five times in the first six games. Without an explosive offense, the Packers haven’t played like the Super Bowl contender that most experts thought they would be.
Matt Cassel continues to be mediocre, even in victory, posting an 80.0 passer rating and no touchdowns on Monday. The Cowboys have scored more than 20 points in just one of Cassel’s six starts, and Dez Bryant is averaging just 49 yards per game since returning from injury on Nov. 1.
Dallas’ Defense Keeping Them Competitive
Even though Dallas’ offense has them at four games under .500, their defense gives them a chance to win most weeks. The Cowboys rank fifth in total defense, and the unit could keep the game close on Sunday.
In their last seven games, Dallas’ 19-point loss to the Carolina Panthers was the only time they were defeated by more than one score. The Cowboys allowed just one offensive touchdown in a 27-20 loss to the Giants, and they were beaten by the Seattle Seahawks when they surrendered 12 points. Giving up just 10 points was almost enough to help them beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and opposing teams have scored 30 total points against the Cowboys in Dallas’ last two victories.
It won’t be easy for the Cowboys to stop Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns against Dallas in their last meeting. The Cowboys have faced three of the NFL’s top-five passing leaders, going 0-3 in those contests and giving up an average of 31.7 points per game. The opposing quarterbacks didn’t throw one interception, and they all posted passer ratings of 109.1 or better.
The Packers are fortunate they haven’t lost five of their last six games, and they’ve had a hard time putting away opponents early. Dallas’ defense will keep them in the game most of the way, but they simply don’t have enough offensive firepower to win in Green Bay.
Green Bay over Dallas, 23-17