NFL Divisional Playoff Preview: Sunday Games

Dallas Cowboys vs Green Bay Packers by Omar Salam

What a journey the Cowboys have had this season. Leading the league in rushing yards, knocking their Philadelphia rivals out of the playoffs, and coming up with that big (though quite controversial) win last week. As we all know, December isn’t typically the best month for the Cowboys but it was definitely fantastic this season. Dez Bryant lit up the field and broke a franchise record or two and Romo led the entire league in TDs (12) and had a great 4:1 TD-INT ratio in the last 5 weeks of the season. On the other side, Rodgers hasn’t thrown a pick at home all season long.

aaron rodgers

This matchup is highly anticipated by many and is easily the most interesting of the NFC matchups this week. These teams are both great offensively. Both quarterbacks are incredibly smart and great leaders that make the right calls. Their stats strongly support that argument—Rodgers has nearly 4,400 yards with 38 passing TDs (2 rushing) and only 5 interceptions which is less than any other QB that has started more than a few games (Cardinal QBs have 3, 5, and 4 INTs, respectively) and less than any QB that has over 1,700 passing yards. Romo has about 40 less attempts for 3,705 passing yards with 34 passing TDs and none rushing. It makes sense that Romo has less passing attempts, though, with Demarco Murray behind such a fantastic offensive line I would sure as hell make sure my offense attempts more rushes than passes too. Rodgers seems like the better QB in the end, but Romo has been on fire lately and Rodgers has a slight tear in his calf. Rodgers has been playing with an injured calf and he seems to re-aggravate it in every game he plays. Hopefully he is fully recovered before the game and stays healthy.

While the Cowboys have Murray and the O-line, the Packers have Eddie Lacy who is nothing short of phenomenal. They both have a similar YPC and the same amount of TDs (13). Though Lacy, along with most of the other Packs, started off very slow, he turned out strong as hell and even had a few consecutive weeks where he had 1 rushing and 1 receiving TD in each game. Both teams have been allowing 80 or less rushing yards in their last 3 games, so they might both rely more on their passing game if they both continue playing well on that end. Dallas has allowed 281 pass yards in their last 3 games while Green Bay has allowed a mere 145 yards, so Green Bay easily has the edge on that end, but Dez and Romo probably are not fazed. Overall, the Packers have a better defense going into this game, even more so when you keep in mind that Julius Peppers is one of the top sack-masters in the NFL right now, with Clay Matthews and the bunch doing fantastic compared to all the burns on that Dallas secondary. They did play well enough last week though, and they can be an issue for the Packers offense but surely it’s nothing that two top 7 WRs in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb can’t handle.

Now come some smaller but still very important stats. Dallas has gotten 2.7 sacks in the last 3 games but that’s not enough to meet the 4 per game that Green Bay has gotten (over 2014, GB is 11th while DAL is 28th). On the offensive front, Green Bay has allowed only 1 sack in the last 3 games and Dallas allowed 2.3. Green Bay has thrown an average of .4 picks on the season (.7 last 3 games) and Dallas .6 (.3 last 3 games). It seems relatively equal overall, with Green Bay having a slight edge. They are similar when it comes to penalties as well. Green Bay has an average of 6.3 in the last 3 and Dallas averages 6.7 in the same period. Though if Dallas continues to play the way they did last week they will have well over 7 penalties, barring the presence of refs that lack common sense, of course.

Again, these teams are very similar and they both have great upside and explosiveness, but Green Bay has the slight edge on almost everything. As this image shows us, Green Bay is better at most offensive categories and at EVERY defensive category.

Stats DAL GB

Green Bay gets a pick 6 or a pick and a quick TD to give them momentum in Lambeau to grab the W, 34-24.

Indianapolis Colts vs Denver Broncos by Frank Ross

The final game of the NFL divisional round playoffs is the Colts vs. Bengals.  One thing that I find interesting about this matchup is that it is Peyton vs. his old team and Luck vs the guy who he replaced.  However, moving on from that, Denver has a total DVOA (the higher the DVOA % the better the team) of 29.5% while the Colts have a total DVOA of 4.7%.  The Colts on average score 28.6 points per game and allow 23.1 points per game.  Meanwhile, Denver scores 30.1 points per game and allows 22.1 points per game.  Statistically, this game favors the Broncos.  They score 1.5 points per game more than the Colts and allow 1 point per game less than the Colts.  However, there are many other aspects to consider than just the overall stats.

Both these teams have terrific quarterbacks and lethal passing attacks.  Andrew Luck finished the year with a passer rating of 96.5 and 40 TDs leading the Colts to have the 1st ranked passing offense in terms of TDs scored while Peyton Manning finished the year with a rating of 101.5 and 39 TDs leading the Broncos to have the 2nd ranked passing offense in terms of TDs.  Both teams did however suffer one abysmal passing night.  When the Colts faced the Cowboys they scored only 7 points, partly because the time of possession was not in their favor and partly because the Dallas pass rush got to Luck and managed two sacks.  When the Broncos faced the Rams, they too only scored 7 points mainly due to untimely turnovers, Rams defensive backs hitting hard and Peyton getting sacked more than once.  In order to slow the Colts offense, a respectable pass rush is needed to make Andrew Luck gamble and thus make poor decisions.  Good thing for the Broncos is they have two ten sack pass rushers in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.  In order to slow the Broncos offense, a good pass rush is also needed as well as a physical secondary.  The pass rush lacks ten sack rushers, but they have a quality secondary starring Vontae Davis and Greg Toler that could cause the disruption needed.  So both teams passing games are fairly even, with a slight edge to the Broncos.  However, we can’t ignore the rushing game of each team.

Both the rushing offense and the rushing defense of the Colts are in the bottom half of the league.  Meanwhile, the Denver rushing offense is in the top half of the league and they have the second best rushing defense in the league in yardage, allowing less than 1300 yards the whole year.  The advantage in this aspect of the game goes to the Broncos.

Lastly, the Broncos played the Colts in Mile h=High earlier this season, where the Broncos beat the Colts 31 to 24.  Part of the reason was because the leading rusher of the Colts got a total of 20 yards on the ground, and another part of the reason is that the defense of the Colts only sacked Peyton once.

peyton and cj

I feel this game will be more of the same, with a mediocre rushing game by the Colts and the Broncos getting pressure on Luck.  However, the Colts pass rush isn’t too bad and the Broncos OL is somewhat banged up.  If they play like they’re banged up, then the pass rush for the Colts may lead Manning to turn it over whether it be rushed decisions or fumbles. However, the Broncos have breakout running back CJ Anderson who could be amongst the many RBs who shredded the Colts as of late. He will be the difference in this matchup. Final Prediction: Broncos 30 – Colts 27

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