Save for the drama between the Cowboys and Lions in Dallas the Wildcard playoffs went pretty much according to the script.
The Ravens, Colts and Panthers joined Dallas in the heading into the Divisional round of the playoffs. What's the script this week though?
Here at givemesport.com we're going to be previewing all the Divisional playoff games and picking some winners starting with the showdown at Lambeau Field between two of the best offenses in the NFL.
Cowboys @ Packers
How they shape up : Cowboys
Tony Romo and the Cowboys just keep proving the doubters, this author included, wrong. Before the season began few, if any, saw them making the playoffs let alone winning the NFC East with a 12-4 record. Then in the playoffs many, this author included, thought that the Lions would prevail.
It took a comeback of epic proportions, a pass interference call/non-call and a missed holding call in a game packed with controversy but the Cowboys eventually saw Detroit off with a 24-20 win.
- Atlanta Falcons move closer to acquiring new head coach
- New Orleans Saints make brave coaching decision they may regret
- Jameis Winston makes huge career decision
Coming out of the Wildcard Round then the Cowboys are full of confidence and mostly healthy. Rolando McClain is a doubt but Anthony Hitchens did well enough when called upon and whilst tackle Doug Free would still probably start if fit you can't really complain about Jeremy Parnell's performances of late.
How they shape up : Packers
Whilst Romo and the Cowboys were scrapping it out with the Lions the Packers were making the use of what could be a crucial bye week to prepare and get fit. The key man in all this is of course Aaron Rodgers.
If Rodgers is playing and anywhere near fit then the Packers will be heavily favored to take care of business. At home Rodgers and Green Bay have destroyed most defenses and you wouldn't expect a not great Dallas defense to hold back the points should Rodgers and the Green Bay offense get going.
Fortunately for Dallas though Rodger's isn't fully fit. The calf injury that he picked up in week 16 and then rehurt in week 17 is at the very least restricting his practice and come game time nobody knows whether the leg will stand up to the rigors of an NFL playoff game.
Rodgers is seemingly pretty nonchalant though, saying "If it happens, it happens. At that point, it's out of my control". No doubt this is right attitude but it is hardly the situation the Green Bay want to be dealing with right now.
How the Packers win
The Packers template to victory is the same template they have been using all season. Use home advantage and a high powered offense to steamroll teams quickly early on. Green Bay averaged 12.00 points in the first quarter of home matches. That is over 25%more than any other team in the league.
Green Bay will look to get off to a fast start. Once they are safely ahead then non-disastrous defense and Eddie Lacey should be enough to control the clock and set up a showdown with either Seattle or Carolina.
Who ever wins the coin flip for first possession should be crucial here. If it's Green Bay this one might not even be close.
How the Cowboys Win
For the Cowboys DeMarco Murray and a successful running game must be key to victory. I said above that whoever gets first possession here could be the deciding factor and this point needs to be reiterated. If the Cowboys can go on a long first quarter drive that keeps Aaron Rodgers off the field then they will have taken a huge step towards the next round of the playoffs.
Although Green Bay's run defense has improved as the season progressed there is no disguising the fact that it isn't great. In fact it is the 23rd best in the NFL. Without B.J. Raji anchoring the line in the middle Green Bay just don't have a great run stuffing defender.
This game then is be perfectly set up for DeMarco Murray. Murray finished the season as the best rusher in the NFL if he is able to exploit Green Bay's weakness then everything should click into place for the Cowboys.
If the run game is moving the chains then Aaron Rodgers and the offense is off the pitch and if the Green Bay offense isn't on the pitch then the Packers aren't going to 20 points ahead and be able to coast.
It's a big if but if Murray has a big performance then everything could come together for Dallas. Does Murray have enough left in the tank though after being leaned on so heavily throughout the season though?
Verdict : COWBOYS WIN
Not every home team is going to survive this round of the playoffs. Since everything seem to be coming together for the Cowboys I'm leaning towards this being the upset of the week. Of course now that I'm predicting good things for the Cowboys it will probably all fall apart.
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