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NFL Divisional Play Jan 11

Cowboys (13-4) at Packers (12-4)
LINE: GREEN BAY by 5½

Dallas' 8-0 road record is quite an accomplishment and, for whatever reason, the team seems to play better when traveling than when hosting. We're highly skeptical that the same holds true on this day. Green Bay has been unstoppable here at Lambeau Field. The Packers possess their own 8-0 mark as hosts and they've averaged 40 points per game while doing so. Visitors have scored less than 20 points on average during their unsuccessful stops here. QB Aaron Rodgers has been as near perfect as a quarterback can be with 25 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in front of the home crowd. Dallas has had an impressive season, but we don't feel that they are in Green Bay's class quite yet.

The Cowboys had to overcome a 14-0 deficit to the Lions last week, aided by some controversial refereeing. Green Bay has the ability to pile on points a lot more than Detroit could and it won't come as a surprise if the Packers get their fair share against a Dallas defence that has overachieved based on the talent of the players on the field. The Cowboys' strong offense has been able to mask the defense, but the unit hasn't seen an arsenal with Green Bay's capabilities. Dallas is most effective when utilizing RB DeMarco Murray, but as we saw last week, when Murray is contained (75 yards rushing on 19 carries), Dallas struggles to score points. Green Bay's unheralded run defense has allowed just two runners in the past seven weeks to exceed 60 yards on the ground, with none of them reaching 90 yards. That poses a major challenge for the Cowpokes. While Dallas' offense is a dangerous group, we believe Green Bay's stoppers to be a more seasoned and bona-fide group, led by such veterans as Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Dallas' offensive line is one of its strengths, but Green Bay also employs a strong offensive line that protects its prized passer. With weapons such as Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy, Rodgers can exploit the best of defenses, let alone this Texas bunch.

Dallas is a popular team and that has certainly affected this line, but if Denver and New England are a full touchdown at home against comparable visitors, shouldn't Green Bay be the same with its dominant home play this year? Unless Rogers departs the game early, I just can't see the Boys keeping this one within the number.

The play: PACKERS -5½ -105

Colts (12-5) at Broncos (12-4)
LINE: DENVER by 7

In the recent past, we've questioned Indianapolis' credibility based on its propensity for beating up on weaker teams and not faring well against leading clubs. While those sentiments cannot be easily dismissed, we're not so sure how good the current Broncos really are. While a bye week had to help matters, Denver was a battered crew heading into its rest week. The Broncos had 22 players listed on their injury report before their season-ending game versus Oakland, and that has to be disconcerting. Some of Peyton Manning's numbers down the stretch may confirm, as the final five weeks of the season saw Manning and his offense rank 30th of 32 teams in red-zone completions. The wonky ankle of TE Julius Thomas could be largely responsible for the drop in production, as Thomas had tallied 12 touchdowns in the first nine weeks of the year, but did not score a major since Week 11 when the injury occurred. It all can't fall on Thomas, as there are other talented players on the Denver offense, but something just doesn't seem right with the Broncos these days.

I can point at games against the Bengals as a small barometer. Denver was handily beaten 38-27 by Cincinnati in a Week 15 contest that the Broncos needed to secure their division. By comparison, in two games against the Bengals, the Colts went 2-0 by a combined 53-10. Perhaps it is an aging Manning as the veteran QB seems to be counting on his smarts more than his physical abilities these days. That, too, is a concern. Even in his prime years, Manning hasn't performed particularly well in the playoffs, currently sporting an 11-12 overall record in the post-season. And it's not like he's facing a stiff. In fact, when you look at Indy QB Andrew Luck's stats as compared to Manning's, you will find that the two pivots were nearly identical, as Luck threw for 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns while Peyton had 4,727 yards and 39 touchdowns. Luck also led the top passing offense in the NFL this season, averaging a whopping 406 yards per game. Even in the season opener, when these two met on this field, Luck threw for an impressive 370 yards in a 7-point loss. The Colts are an ascending group that should be up for the challenge this time around. I wish Luck had more weapons, but at his point he is soundly better than Peyton and even though the Broncos have more talent...injuries have equaled the playing field. Give me Luck plus the points!

The play: COLTS +7 +105

Lines courtesy 5dimes.eu at 8am est

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