Sunday Divisional playoff preview
On Saturday, I picked a winner with the New England–Baltimore game. I wrote that New England would win but they wouldn’t cover. The Seattle-Carolina game didn't play out the way I thought, with a late pick-6 helping Seattle run away with it.
Dallas at Green Bay (-6)
This game isn’t going to be a repeat of the famous “Ice Bowl” game between Dallas and Green Bay in 1967, if only because the weather will be much milder. In 1967, the temperature on the field was -15 with a wind chill of close to -48! The forecast for game time calls for cloudy skies with temperature in the low 20’s and a very light wind. That’s ideal for January in Green Bay.
The key to this game will be the health of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers aggravated a calf pull in the regular season finale versus Detroit and has only had limited practice all week. Regardless of how he feels, Rodgers will have a limited amount of mobility and if he re-aggravates the injury, he could miss the rest of the game. In the buildup for the game, I’m sure Green Bay made it sound worse than it really is and I expect Rodgers to be at around 75% mobility. If the Green Bay offensive line can protect Rodgers and not make him have to move around, Dallas will be in trouble.
Anytime a southern dome team has to travel up north to play in the “elements”, it can be troublesome. Still, when you get to playoff time, players have a way of overcoming those “elements”. Dallas got some breaks from the officials last week at home when they held on to beat Detroit, but we can’t expect that to happen again. While Rodgers health will obviously be an issue, I have to assume that he will get through the game. That said, I’m taking the Pack and giving the points.
Indianapolis (+7) at Denver
Just like in the Dallas-Green Bay game, the key to this game could well be the health of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning has not looked his usual self in the final month of the season. He has lost some arm strength and many of his throws “float”. The week off has to help, but it is a concern.
Weather should not be a factor with the forecast calling for temperatures in the low 40’s and negligible wind.
The Colts played very well last week in beating Cincinnati 26-10. Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck is on the verge of becoming the next true “franchise” quarterback. In my opinion, that is an often overused term, and right now, there are only four real “franchise” quarterbacks in the league (P. Manning, Brady, Brees, Rodgers). Luck has the talent to ascend to that level but needs to win some important games first. Last week, he was 31 of 44 for 376 yards and a TD. If he has another strong performance today and gets the win, he may be allowed to join that elite group.
Denver is almost impossible to beat at home. They finished 8-0 this year, and the average margin of victory was 14.5 points. This will be the best offense that Denver faces at home, and being that it is a playoff game, I’ll take the points.
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