As I sit here and watch the Patriots well on their way to covering a 16-point spread, I think: Sweet baby Jesus, are we going to have a close game ever this playoff season? All 6 playoff games thus far have been double-digit victories by the home team. Where’s the parity? [stands up on soapbox] Where’s the “any given Sunday” bullshit? [speaking aloud now]. The NFL can blame the presidential election all they want, but, if you ask me, ratings are down because the meaningful games aren’t close. There’s no drama. No intrigue. The biggest story this week was the Chargers moving to L.A., and no one really gives a shit about that. L.A. fans are already booing. Ouch, that’s cold.
But fool me once, shame on me. Fool me 6 times, and shame on me still. Because, like a dog in heat, I know there’s some good action right around the corner. I just got to keep at it. And speaking of good action, let’s break down the Cowboys and Packers.
Green Bay at Dallas (-5.5), 4:40 p.m.
God dammit. The Cowboys are the Number 1 seed [commence head getting ready to explode]. I can’t take hearing Jerry Jones scream, “How ‘bout them Cowboys!” As if that a-hole had anything to do with it. Yes, the Cowboys have drafted brilliantly over the past couple years…solidifying their o-line with picks like Travis Frederick, Zach Martin, and Tyron Smith. And obviously, they hit a couple of homers this past draft with Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott Anyway, the only thing Jerrah did right was shutting up (to the extent that’s possible). Remember when he wanted to draft Johnny Football? He’s at least smart enough to learn to stay out of the way…but not humble enough to give the credit to others. Anywho, let’s get to the game.
While everyone thought that Ezekiel Elliot had the potential to hit the ground running (pun intended) no one thought the same of Dak. In fact, nothing was expected of Dak, who was drafted in the 4th round, 135th overall, and the 7th qb taken. He wasn’t even expected to play, let alone succeed. And succeed he did, tying for the most wins by a rookie QB. But here’s the worst part about Dak: we like him (note: we will deny this in public). He doesn’t make mistakes. Doesn’t get rattled, even under pressure. He progresses through his reads like a veteran. And he seems like a good guy, someone you would probably root for if he were on any other team. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that Tony Romo is now a has been. He’ll look great in Buffalo!
While Dak was a pleasant surprise, everyone had high expectations of Elliott, who was drafted #4 overall. Zeke lived up to those high expectations and then some…leading the league in rushing with 1,631 yards, over 300 yards more than the next running back. He made defenses look foolish.
How can a rookie running back and quarterback win 13 games and be the number 1 seed? What happened to the NFL learning curve? It certainly helps to have a championship caliber line to open up monster running lanes. Offensively, the Cowboys don’t have great balance. They are only 23rd in the league in passing at 226 yards per game, but they are second in rushing at 149 yards per game. Having a dominant running game will always (yes, always) trump the passing game. It keeps your offense on the field, controlling the clock and managing drives. The fewer chances the other team has with the ball the fewer opportunities they have to score. So can this rookie duo propel Jerrah back to the Super Bowl? Enter Green Bay.
The Packers are the hottest team in the playoffs right now. Aaron Rodgers and company put on a show last week against the Giants. They bend but don’t break. They were down early, hung around, and then did this at the end of the first half:
After that, the party was on. Green Bay poured it on in the second half, outscoring the Giants 24-7, and winning by 25 points. And the Discount Doublecheck was in full effect. Rodgers threw for 362 yards, 4 tds, and 0 ints. Sure, they only ran the ball for 75 yards, but when you’re hot, you’re hot, and Green Bay can and will ride Aaron Rodgers.
Yes, the loss of Jordy Nelson in this game is huge. He leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. But Randall Cobb and burgeoning superstar Davonte Adams still provide sufficient firepower.
Basically, what this game comes down to is who do you trust more? Aaron Rodgers or Dak Prescott? Dak has had a solid season, but he’s never played in a playoff game before. The stage is that much brighter. The pressure that much greater. Sorry, but I’m a prove it to me type of guy, and I don’t believe it until I see it.
Aaron Rodgers is playoff battle tested. Green Bay’s been in the playoffs 8 years in a row. They know how to handle themselves. For his career, Rodgers has thrown 31 playoff tds (and only 8 ints). I’ll take that body of work over the rookie.
And on defense, Green Bay will load up the box and dare Dak to beat them deep. Look for Clay Matthews to shadow Elliott. Zeke better have his head on a swivel if Dak throws a check down pass, because this will be coming at him full steam.
Bottom line: It is unreasonable to expect a rookie quarterback (and running back) to have this much success. While the regular season learning curve may be going away, there’s still a playoff learning curve, right? The Machine thinks so, and thinks that Green Bay will walk out of Cowboys stadium winners.
Final score: Green Bay 31, Dallas 24