Romilly Evans previews this NFC Divisional Round tie where he expects Lambeau Field to prove a bridge too far, even for the white-hot Cowboys...
"Rodgers has won 76% (19 of 25) of his career starts when contesting games in sub-40 temperatures"
Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers
Kick-off: Sunday, 18:00
Live on Sky Sports 1
Another week, another key injury variable. And they don't come much more pertinent than Aaron Rodgers, MVP apparent, and bulwark of the Green Bay Packers. Still, unlike Le'Veon Bell for Pittsburgh last week, Rodgers calf tear is labeled as "slight" and he is slated to start under center for Green Bay as they bid to extend their undefeated record (8-0) at fabled Lambeau Field this weekend.
Homefield advantage, always helpful in the play-offs, is exaggerated in this frigid corner of Wisconsin. Much has been made of the Dallas Cowboys' perfect away day record this regular season, but they are now entering a house of horrors for any visitor. A unique turf which recommends familiarization; a frigid atmosphere which requires acclimatization; and an intimidating stadium, whose recent tweaks (more seats and cacophony-inducing acoustics) magnify the task for any defense.
Defense, of course, is not what these 'Boys do well. And that was before Dallas encountered concussion problems with pass rusher Jeremy Mincey and linebacker Rolando McClain. Throw in Anthony Hitchens and Terrell McClain's ankle doubts and, whether these playmakers make it to the scrimmage line or not, this remains a substandard D ill-equipped to deal with the oncoming juggernaut more commonly referred to as the Packers' elite offense.
The epithet "up-tempo" hardly does Rodgers' recruits on offense justice. They zoom up and down the field as quickly as Peyton Manning on a going day or Andrew Luck on a deep day. The only imponderable is Rodgers, a player so pivotal that his team rises and falls on his wellbeing.
However, seeing as Dallas are simply not furnished to cope with his in-form wide-outs (receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson) and pass protection, Rodgers can still win this game at half-cock. Running man Eddie Lacy will fill the void and bear the burden with bruising gains that always move the chains and also offer break-out potential. Not only does he wear down rival Ds, but Lacy's menacing presence also affords Rodgers more time in the pocket and adds a stealth additional receiver.
Dallas' defense can cite 15 turnovers in their last five victories but that smacks of late-season luck rather than postseason longevity. Instead, Tony Romo and league-leading rusher DeMarco Murray need to try and keep pace with the Pack. As already mentioned, though, they aren't ready for this inimitable arena and its accompanying elements. Murray may be a hardy perennial, but Green Bay's improving defense know he's coming and whence he'll come. Romo, for his part, freezes in the play-offs and even more so in cold conditions (his passer rating drops to a low of 86.3 - 11.3 points below his career average).
Rodgers, on the other hand, has won 76% (19 of 25) of his career starts when contesting games in sub-40 temperatures. Arguably the most overwhelming homefield advantage in the NFL can get the Pack over the line here. And, to my mind, with some room to spare on a few handicaps. Rodgers is still the hero, but Lacy could prove the saviour.
Back Green Bay Packers (-6) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 2.0621/20 or better
Back Green Bay Packers (-3) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 1.855/6 or better
Back Green Bay Packers to win on the Match Moneyline @ 1.444/9 or better
Back E. Lacy to be First / Anytime Touchdown Scorer @ 8.07/1 or better