NFL expert Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) runs the rule over Sunday night’s play-off divisional matches.
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys | Sunday 21:40 | Sky Sports 2
The game of the weekend must be at Jerry’s place down in Arlington, Texas – the mega home of America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys who see action in January for the first time since 2014 and this time without their talisman at quarterback, Tony Romo.
Back in August, I wrote a piece about the upcoming season and suggested that if rookie Dak Prescott started the season under centre for Dallas, something more than just a little unlikely, then Romo could be done in Dallas.
Well, Dak did indeed start the season and Romo will be looking for a new team next year. Prescott didn’t just replace the franchise record, he broke just about every rookie quarterback record there is.
Season to remember for Dallas
That alone makes this a season to remember for Cowboys fans, but along with the emergence of perhaps the best rookie running back of all time, this 13-3 season is turning into one of the greatest this storied franchise has ever had.
Zeke’s 1631 rushing yards were a league-best and when these teams met in Week 6 at Lambeau Field, Elliott tore the Packers to shreds.
A 30-16 victory only really tells half the story as Elliott gashed Green Bay for 157 yards on 28 carries whilst Prescott threw for three touchdowns including a 97-yard five-play drive just before the half that took all of 33 seconds – that was the game when the viewing public first started to take these Cowboys and these two rookies in particular, seriously.
Cracking content in store
I can’t wait for this match-up. I love great quarterbacks and as highly as I think of Prescott, I have personally never seen a better passer than Aaron Rodgers.
His promise back in late October to ‘run the table’ was fulfilled in astonishing style as the Pack won their last seven straight with Rodgers imperious throwing 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions. In fact, Rodgers has now gone 285 passes since he last threw a pick.
He should be able to exploit a Dallas defence that is still the weakest part of this team. Rod Marinelli’s unit is allowing passers a quarterback rating of 94.1 which ranks 24th in the NFL.
The absence of Jordy Nelson will hurt Green Bay but they destroyed a solid Giants defence after the crushing blow to Nelson’s ribs last season. Not that Green Bay is lacking in receivers – Randall Cobb is excellent in the slot when fit and his three touchdowns last weekend tend to suggest he is.
like for Dallas After much thought, I like Dallas in this game with -4.5 on the spread (99/100 Marathon). Remember that 14-point victory in Week 6 was achieved without Dez Bryant who most of you will realise is still not over what happened to him on his last play-off appearance.
If he gets one-on-one match-ups whilst the Packers defence is looking for Zeke, he will destroy the Packers. The lack of a rushing game does not afford Rodgers the same opportunities that will come Dak’s way.
Green Bay has scored 30 points in five straight games – the last time they managed six was in 1996 when Brett Favre took them all the way.
As someone who backed them at fancy odds when the season was not going so well, I do hope they put another 30 on the board although at the rate the Cowboys can put points on the board, even that may not be enough.
I take Dallas to win in a points fest where Over 55 points is a very backable 6/4 (Betway) and those of you have followed me this season may want to take a second look at Dak’s rushing line of just 19.5 with Paddy Power. The kid is an athlete.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs | Monday 01:20 | Sky Sports 2
The common theme through this week’s four games is quarterbacks. Wilson versus Ryan, Tom Brady, Rodgers versus Prescott and we finish the weekend with Big Ben Roethlisberger. Oh and Alex Smith.
The final game of the weekend – moved back seven hours due to storms forecast at the original game time – is the classic match-up of a great offence against a potentially great but not as great as you think, defence. More about the Steelers offence shortly but that Kansas D demands a closer look.
Vulnerable Chiefs defence
Kansas does not have a great defence. There. I said it. Christ, that could come back to bite me.
After all, this unit has Marcus Peters, Eric Berry, Justin Houston, Tamber Hali, Dee Ford. I’m scaring myself here. They score a ton of points and turn the ball over with alarming regularity (leading the league with 33 takeaways) but look closer and the figures don’t always add up.
Twenty-fourth overall, 18th against the pass and just 26th against the run. Yes that’s 26 of 32 teams and this weekend they face one of the great running backs the game has ever seen.
In certain respects, LeVeon Bell IS the greatest I have seen in the position. For those of you who are casual watchers, it’s easy to be impressed by his figures. When the Steelers beat the Chiefs 43-14 in Week 4, Bell went for 144 yards.
Since Week 11, Bell is averaging 180 yards from scrimmage including a monster performance in Buffalo (in similar weather conditions) when he went for a frankly ridiculous 236 yards and three touchdowns.
What makes Bell different from virtually every other back I have ever seen on is his ability to stop and wait for rushing lanes to appear. I have just never seen anyone like him and yards after contact are simply off the chart.
Surprisingly, it is also good news for the Steelers on defence and the notorious offensive line. Unbeaten since early November, the Pittsburgh O Line has allowed the second fewest sacks in the NFL.
That has been almost unthinkable in recent years. This has allowed Mike Tomlin’s team to rack up nine successive games scoring at least 24 points.
The defence has improved every bit as much as the O Line. In particular the secondary where rookies Artie Burns at cornerback and safety Sean Davis (not the ex Spurs and Portsmouth midfielder) have helped reduced the amount of points conceded in the first half of the season to the second, from an average 22.9 to 16.6
The betting angle
Kansas will rely heavily on big play some from rookie sensation Tyreek Hill, but against a top-five defence the most worrying stat for Andy Reid will be a pathetic conversion rate of just 45.5% when in the Red Zone. Only two teams this season have a worse record.
In Big Ben, Bell and the almost unstoppable Antonio Brown, the Steelers will have the three best players on the field and they will hopefully power them to the win (11/10 Betfair). I fail to see how Kansas can cover The Three Bees enough to outscore them.
Although the underdog and playing a team coming off a bye, I like this as the only road win of the weekend and also I’m very happy to have LeVeon Bell on my side this week with 10/11 (BetVictor) available on over 108.5 rushing yards.
If Kansas stop Bell early, Brown will torch them in the air and Pittsburgh will look to Bell to destroy the clock late in the game. Either way I think he goes well over 100 yards yet again.
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys – Over 55 points (6/4 Betway)
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys – Dallas Cowboys -4.5 (99/100 Marathon)
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs – Pittsburgh Steelers to win (11/10 Betfair)
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs – LeVeon Bell over 108.5 rushing yards (10/11 Bet Victor)