The Green Bay Packers (12-4) went undefeated at home in the 2014 season, while the Dallas Cowboys (12-4) didn’t lose a single road game. One of those streaks is guaranteed to come to an end on Sunday when the two teams face off at Lambeau Field in their NFC Divisional Playoff game.
It’s just the third time in NFL history that an unbeaten road team visits an undefeated home team in the postseason. The road team and home team each got a victory in the previous two meetings.
The Denver Broncos also went 8-0 at home in the regular season, but Green Bay was easily the most dominant home team in football. The Packers beat three playoff teams in Green Bay, getting wins over the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers, as well as a win over the 10-6 Philadelphia Eagles. Perhaps most impressive was their margin of victory, as the Packers won four homes games by at least 21 points. They averaged 39.8 points per game in front of their home crowd.
Despite their recent home dominance, the Packers have been far from perfect in recent playoff games at Lambeau Field. Last year, the San Francisco 49ers marched into Green Bay on Wild Card Weekend and left with a 23-20 victory. In the 2011 season, the Packers’ only regular season loss came on the road, but they lost their only home postseason game to the New York Giants.
Dallas had one of the most impressive wins of the entire season, winning at Seattle in Week 6. They also beat the Eagles in Philadelphia in Week 15, all but ending their rivals’ playoff hopes. Five of the Cowboys’ road wins came by at least 11 points, though only two of their eight road victories came against teams with a winning record.
The Cowboys survived their first-round home playoff game against the Lions, but they needed a late-game comeback to do so. Dallas recovered from a 20-7 third quarter deficit to get their first postseason win in five years.
Sunday’s contest features multiple MVP candidates and, arguably, the two best quarterbacks of the 2014 season. Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers finished the regular season ranked No.1 and No.2, respectively, in passer rating.
Rodgers might be the favorite to win the award given to the league’s best player. He threw for 4,381 yards, 38 touchdowns and five interceptions. Like the rest of his team, Rodgers was much better at home, where he failed to throw an interception and posted a passer rating of 133.2. The quarterback averaged 291.8 passing yards and just over 3 touchdown passes in each home game.
With the league’s leading rusher in DeMarco Murray in the Dallas backfield, Romo wasn’t asked to do as much as other quarterbacks in the regular season, ranking 23rd in pass attempts and 14th in passing yards. Still, no quarterback was more efficient than the 34-year-old, who completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 34 scores and nine interceptions. Romo threw 20 touchdowns and two picks for a 121.8 passer rating on the road.
Romo has been criticized throughout his career for not playing well in big games, but he put up impressive numbers in the Cowboys’ first-round playoff win. He threw for 293 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against Detroit, who entered the contest with the NFL’s No.2 scoring defense. Rodgers has been very good in the postseason, throwing 19 scores and five interceptions.
The Packers sport the league’s top offense and the Cowboys average just 1.2 fewer points per game, but Green Bay’s defense has performed much better of late. After Week 8, only one team scored more than 21 points against the Packers. The Cowboys' defense was one of the biggest surprises in the first half of the season, but the unit surrendered at least 27 points in five of their final eight games of 2014.
Green Bay is favored by six points at Las Vegas casinos, and the over/under is 53 points. The winner will play in the 2015 NFC Championship Game against the winner of Saturday’s contest between the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers.
Prediction: Green Bay over Dallas, 34-24