Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys
Live on Sky Sports 2
There's something rather sad about this fixture. Like watching two washed-up boxers slug-it-out, in the vain hope they might recapture some of their former glories.
This might sound a bit harsh, but the reality is that neither Dallas nor Green Bay are good enough to win the Superbowl, and are unlikely to even make the play-offs. Yet like a couple of post-season junkies, they are doing everything they can in a bid to try get one more play-off fix, even if it means compromising the health of their players.
Both teams entered the season full of hope, but are now desperately doing anything they can to just to keep alive their slim hopes of getting a play-off spot. For Green Bay, however, that doesn't stretch as far as Aaron Rodgers suiting up for this game and that's a big part of why they will lose. But it's not for the lack of trying, with the Packers having focused all their energy in recent weeks on getting Rodgers back onto the field. But anybody who's ever suffered a fractured collarbone (yes, I have) could have told them two months ago - to forget it! It's not going to happen! And the idea of him not just playing a sport, but throwing a ball? And getting jumped on by 200 pound men? Never going to happen! And if you actually allow it to happen, then there must something wrong with you.
Luckily, for those of us who don't like watching fellow humans suffer, Rodgers is out. Unluckily for the Packers though, they can kiss their season goodbye. In Matt Flynn, they have nothing more than a back-up quarterback, who's not half the player Rodgers is, and who has struggled since temporarily stepping into the great man's shoes. In fact, Green Bay's dramatic dip in form under Flynn, and before him - Scott Tolzien - is testament to just how much Rodgers has been carrying this largely ordinary football team.
And speaking of ordinary...how about those Cowboys? Now there's a team that likes to think of itself as America's football team, and as being a club with a lot of history. Which is true. But Dallas' achievements are just that...history. And the truth is, it's been a long time since the Cowboys were packing anything more dangerous than blanks in that pistol of theirs.
Yes, in Tony Romo they have a quarterback who can mix-it at the highest level. And in Des Bryant, they have a wide receiver who is an elite performer. If only he could stay fit though. Oh, and keep his mouth shut come to think of it. For the only thing that's bigger than Bryant's talent, is his high opinion of himself.
Nevertheless, Romo and Bryant are capable of ripping Grand Canyon-sized holes in the Green Bay secondary, which ranks in the bottom half of the league when it comes to stopping the pass. And Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray should find life equally as easy, against Green Bay's 21st ranked run-defense.
The harsh truth though, is that the Dallas offense, as a whole, is no great shakes. Put double coverage on Bryant, and there's not a whole lot left to worry about, with Miles Austin as likely to pull-up with an injury as he is to catch the ball, and with the more-talented Terrance Williams becoming a forgotten receiver in the shadow of Austin.
But Dallas are a lot like Detroit, in that they are very good at putting-up big scores, at home, against mediocre teams, which distracts fans from the many defeats they suffer against good sides. Luckily for the Cowboys, a wounded Green Bay just limped into town, asking to be put out of their misery. Expect Dallas to oblige.
The Dallas defense stinks, and is nowhere near good enough to stop any of the league's better offences. But with Flynn at the helm for Green Bay, the Dallas backs should be looking forward to going to work for once. Flynn will crumble under the pressure of knowing his team's entire season rests on him. Eddie Lacy would normally expect to have a field-day against Dallas' porous defensive line, that ranks next-to-last in the league. And he will make yards with ease. But will he be able to make them quickly enough? Once Green Bay fall behind, they might well be forced to go to their passing game in a bid to get quick scores, and that is where Flynn could literally throw the game away.
Back the Cowboys to earn one of their show-off-in-style wins, and dance all over the Packers while they're face down in the astroturf. It's what they do. And expect Eddie Lacy to miss out on what should be monster yardage, when the Packers misguidedly look to Flynn to save them in the second half.
Dallas (-6.5) to beat Green Bay @ 1.981/1
Back Dallas points to be over 28.5 @ 1.9110/11
Eddie Lacy rushing yards to be under 75.5 @ 1.9110/11 or better