Perhaps the most anticipated playoff game of the 2015 NFL Playoffs kicks off on Sunday, when the Green Bay Packers host the Dallas Cowboys. Most NFL’s experts are picking the Packers to outlast the Cowboys for their first playoff victory in two years, but there are also a strong contingent who think the Cowboys can pull off an upset.
Compiling a select number of picks from ESPN, CBS, FOX, NFL Network, NBA and IB Times, 12 out of 21 experts and sportswriters picked the Packers to win Sunday’s NFC Divisional matchup at Lambeau Field.
However, some experts might be regretting their initial prediction after it was revealed Thursday that Green Bay’s first-team All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a tear in his left calf, according to ESPN.
Missing practice Wednesday but a limited participant Thursday, Rodgers will play against Dallas but he reportedly won’t be 100 percent, a significant hindrance to a Packers offense that relies so much on the 31-year-old’s orchestration. Rodgers tossed 38 touchdowns to five interceptions for a 112.2 passer rating, the second-highest in the NFL during the regular season.
ESPN’s report specified that Rodgers ability to move within and outside the pocket could be limited, a revelation that evens the scales with a Cowboys pass defense ranked No. 26 in the league and lacking a star defensive back.
Dallas did however prove capable of forcing opposing quarterbacks into mistakes totaling 18 interceptions, tied for seventh in the NFL.
Protecting Rodgers could also be a concern. Starting left guard Josh Sitton (toe)was limited in practice Thursday and he played a key role, alongside rookie center Cody Linsley, for a Packers offensive line that let up only 30 sacks all season.
If Sitton sits, first-year guard Garth Gerhart may move up or veteran J.C. Tretter, who sat out eight games but returned in Week 10, could play a critical role.
The Cowboys have injury concerns of their own, specifically at linebacker. Both Anthony Hitchens (ankle) and Rolando McClain (knee/concussion) have missed practice all week, but according to the team’s official site Hitchens seems most likley to play against the Packers. McClain, along with defensive tackle Jeremy Mincey, sustained head injuries and must pass the NFL’s concussion protocol before returning to the field.
Mike Ditka, ESPN: Cowboys
Merril Hoge, ESPN: Packers
Tom Jackson, ESPN: Packers
Ron Jaworski, ESPN: Packers
Chris Mortensen, ESPN: Cowboys
Adam Schefter, ESPN: Cowboys
Jason La Canfora, CBS Sports: Packers
Jamey Eisenberg, CBS Sports: Cowboys
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Cowboys
Dave Richard, CBS Sports: Packers
Mike Garafolo, Fox Sports 1: Packers
Alex Marvez, Fox Sports 1: Packers
Peter Schrager, Fox Sports 1: Packers
Rich Eisen, NFL Network: Packers
Michael Irvin, NFL Network: Cowboys
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL Network: Packers
Mike Florio, NBC Sports: Cowboys
Bobby Ilich, IB Times: Packers
Greg Price, IB Times: Cowboys
Anthony Riccobono, IB Times: Packers