Sunday NFL Picks

Posted: 01/11/2015 by levcohen in Football

If yesterday was the day of (besides New England) defense-oriented teams, today is the opposite. There’s a reason both games have an over/under above 50 points. Green Bay, Dallas, Indianapolis, and Denver have each built their reputations on offense. They have three of the top four offenses by DVOA along with Indianapolis, which has one of the best quarterbacks in football. Today might be the day of the QB; with Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and Peyton Manning starting, the game will hinge on which defense can slow the opposing quarterback enough. There’s also the fact that both quarterbacks playing at home today –Rodgers and Manning– have some injury concerns. Rodgers has a “slight” tear in his calf, while Manning had a lot of injury troubles at the end of the season. If those guys are at their best, I don’t see either team losing, but the injuries could make a difference.

Dallas Cowboys (13-4, 10-7) at Green Bay Packers (12-4, 9-6-1):
Spread: Packers favored by 5.5
Over/under: 51
My prediction: If the Cowboys want to win this game, they are going to have to either rely on Aaron Rodgers’s injury being a little worse than we thought or get huge games from both Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray. The gameplan will rightfully center around Murray, but the Cowboys won’t be able to ground-and-pound to victory. The Packers had their struggles against the run, but I have a feeling that they’ll be able to stuff Murray just enough to put the game in Romo’s hands. Luckily for the Cowboys, though, that isn’t as scary as it has been in the past. Romo has been really really good this year, probably the best non-Rodgers QB in football this year. He didn’t play well against the Lions, and these won’t be the easiest conditions (it might be colder than New England was yesterday). But 24 points probably won’t be enough today, so Romo needs to play better.

The Packers have been absolutely unstoppable at home this season. They are 8-0 at home this season, with a few massive blowouts. And Rodgers had a 93 QBR at home, with 25 touchdowns and zero interceptions. If he’s that Aaron Rodgers, the Cowboys don’t have a shot at stopping Green Bay’s offense. The Packers have the best offense in the NFL, and I don’t think it’s that close. You know how the Cowboys got a lot of positive press about their great offensive second half of the season? Yeah, the Packers have been much better. They have wide receivers that get open at will, a running back in Eddie Lacy who’s a massive weapon in both the run and pass game, and the best QB in the NFL. That’s why this game comes down to Rodgers and his calf. I think it’s safe to say that Rodgers won’t be as mobile as he normally is, which is a big deal because he usually likes running around a little bit. But Rodgers should be just fine as a pocket passer, especially since Dallas doesn’t often get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

I don’t think either defense is better than mediocre, but the Packers have a better chance at stopping the Cowboys than vice versa. The Packers are actually pretty good against the pass, and have a defense that has generally stepped up in big moments while giving up a lot of yards in blowout wins. Given that the Lions were able to move the ball easily against the Cowboys, I think the Packers will be too. I just trust Rodgers and Green Bay’s defense more than I trust Romo and Dallas’s defense. I like the Packers in this game 35-28, but all bets are off if Rodgers is more hurt than we think.
Packers cover

Indianapolis Colts (12-5, 11-5-1) at Denver Broncos (12-4, 8-8):
Spread: Broncos favored by 7.5
Over/under: 53.5
My prediction: Even before the Ravens and Panthers lost yesterday, I think the Colts were the worst playoff team left. Now, it’s not even a question. They have no real run game, a defense that wilted down the stretch, and a passing game that relies heavily on T.Y. Hilton’s big plays. The Colts do have a recipe for winning, and it’s pretty simple. They need Andrew Luck to have the best game of his career. It’s certainly possible, given how well Luck played against the Bengals last week and how good he is.

The Broncos have the #3 offense and the #4 defense in football, and they really relied more on the defense than the offense late in the season. This is a very well-rounded team, both offensively and overall. The real question is: did the Broncos become run heavy late in the season because of a Manning injury, or did they just want to keep things under wraps until the playoffs? I think it’s a little bit of both, but the Broncos have had two weeks off, giving Manning ample time to get at least a little closer to full strength. I expect to see a little more pass-heavy gameplan from the Broncos, although C.J. Anderson will probably have room to run against a shaky Colts run defense.

Unless Luck outplays Manning by a lot, I think the Broncos will win fairly easily. They are the much better all-around team, and I have the feeling they’ll be a lot better this week than they were at the end of the regular season. The Colts will score some points, but they’ll have to hold the Broncos to field goals if they want to stay in the game. Broncos win 30-17.
Broncos cover


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