Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Keyshawn Johnson, Adam Shefter, Chris Mortensen, K.C. Joyner, and Eric Allen are seven of the 13 panelists on ESPN's Pick 'Em Panel who picked the Cowboys, making the Cowboys 7-6 favorites over the Packers.
Even if you might scoff at these "experts," at least they are going against the grain, because picking the Cowboys against the 6-point favorite Green Bay Packers is not exactly the flavor of the day.
But it's not like the Packers are the overwhelming favorites either. Just like the ESPN panel, our 10-man panel of pigskin pundits below is split straight down the middle, with five panelists picking the Cowboys and the other five picking the Packers. Here's what each of those pundits think about the Cowboys' chances on Sunday.
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk (12-5)
||28-24||For the first time ever, a team that was 8-0 on the road faces a team that was 8-0 at home. But the biggest question is whether Aaron Rodgers’ torn calf muscle will hold up. Even if it does, the Cowboys have a healthy Romo — and an oversized, orange-sweatered mojo. It all adds up to Dallas punching a ticket to a return to Seattle, the scene of one of the best games of the regular season . . . and the site of the snap-bungling gaffe that gave Tony Romo the label of late-game choker.|
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports (12-5)
||33-28||This has all the makings of a shootout. You have two dynamic offenses and two so-so defenses. The Cowboys will pound DeMarco Murray behind his good offensive line against a Green Bay defense that was 23rd against the run. That can also help keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. Look for Romo then to take shots off the play-action to Dez Bryant and his receivers. For Green Bay, it's all about Rodgers. He has 25 touchdown passes and no interceptions at home this season. That's unreal. The Cowboys aren't great on defense, and they were 29th in the league in sacks per pass play. That's not a good thing against Rodgers. Look for the Packers to put up a nice number on offense, while the Cowboys will try and keep up. In the end, I just don't think they will. It will be close. It will be fun. But it will be Green Bay moving on.|
Greg Cote, Miami Herald (12-5)
||31-24||Let it be this one if the TV gods would only allow me only one game this weekend. This is first time since the 1978 advent of the 16-game schedule that an 8-0 road team has faced an 8-0 home team in the playoffs. So something’s gotta give! Also, Tony Romo vs. Aaron Rodgers portends a shootout that could get a little bit spectacular. Dallas needed some help from the officiating to get by Detroit 24-20 last week but five straight victories have the ’Boys here on merit. I give Dallas the best upset shot of these four games, but still wouldn’t bet on it. Pack averages 39.8 points at home, and the Gees Bees will present to DeMarco Murray a run defense much, much improved since midseason.|
Peter Schrager, Foxsports (11-5)
||31-23||I think this Dallas team is built to compete in games just like this one. The Cowboys may have some flash to them, but they’re a line-of-scrimmage team. The problem for Dallas is, this season, Green Bay is, too. Though the Packers' blockers are far less decorated, I’ve been as impressed with the interior offensive line play of Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley, and T.J. Lang as I have been with the Ron Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin trio in Dallas. Aaron Rodgers is a gamer, he’ll go despite his calf injury — and he’ll extend an absurd streak of 38 touchdown passes and zero interceptions over the last two years at home.|
Vinny Iyer, Sporting News (10-7)
||31-30||What you have developing is the expected shootout between the game’s two most efficient quarterbacks this season. The Cowboys’ bend but don’t break team defense will help so the Packers can't just put this game out of reach early, like with most Lambeau foes this season. Rodgers’ injured calf doesn’t need to be a big factor, but just enough for the suddenly more healthier Romo to be closer to even ground with him. There’s just something about these Cowboys, and they will continue to defy odds in a hard-fought thriller.|
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com (8-9)
||29-24||How much push is that Dallas offensive line going to get on Green Bay? Any way you look at it, the Packers' front seven will be overmatched in this game. And, while we're at it, so will their secondary. Of course, Dallas' defensive backs aren't exactly punching a collective ticket to Canton, either. There isn't a player in that secondary that I like vs. Jordy Nelson -- not with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Now, Brandon Carr did a fine job on Calvin Johnson last Sunday, though it felt like Matthew Stafford left some plays on the field. And this just in: Rodgers > Stafford. So the story of this game might be time of possession. Sure, it can be an overrated stat. In a matchup this tight, though, limiting Green Bay's possessions with a steady running game not only makes sense, but quite possibly could end up being the deciding factor. The difference between Dallas and so many other teams is that the Cowboys pay off long drives with points, not just clock burn.|
Michael Smith, Pro Football Talk (8-9)
||38-30||Tony Romo was outstanding on Sunday against the Lions, despite a furious Detroit pass rush beating him up all day. Green Bay’s pass rush isn’t as good as Detroit’s, and Romo should be even better on Sunday at Lambeau Field. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Aaron Rodgers will be better still against Dallas’s defense. In a high-scoring game, the Packers will come out on top.|
Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report (- -)
||31-28||Of all this week's road dogs, the Cowboys have the clearest path to victory.
Their great offensive line can force the Packers to be too creative on defense. Their risk-averse defense takes away what Green Bay does best on offense. The Cowboys are capable of beating the Packers by playing their usual brand of football, and their 8-0 road record this season proves that they are more resilient than they have been in years past.
|Don Banks, SI.com (--)||- -||Here come the red-hot, mojo-laden Cowboys, who are the NFL’s only undefeated road team this year, which Green Bay must face with a less-than-100-percent Rodgers dealing with the limitations of a slightly torn calf muscle. It should all make for a dramatic Sunday afternoon in the nation’s dairy land, but I foresee the Packers surviving Ice Bowl II to reach that rematch with Seattle that has seemed destined for much of the season’s second half. Dallas was pretty sloppy at times last week at home against Detroit, and got away with it. That won’t cut it this week against a more experienced and disciplined Green Bay team, and the road fun will finally end for Jason Garrett’s over-achieving Cowboys in frosty Green Bay.|
Chris Schulz, TSN (- -)
||- -||There are two things the Dallas Cowboys do exceptionally well. First is winning time of possession. On average this year it's almost 34 minutes per game and if they can keep Aaron Rogers off the field a series or two, they can beat Green Bay. The others aspect is defensive takeaways. Thirty-one times last year they took the ball away from an opponent -- three against Detroit. It is a skill, not luck. But Green Bay does not give the ball away. Only 13 times this year have they expressed football generosity; the lowest in the NFL. The Cowboys' offensive line did not have a good game against Detroit's run blocking or pass blocking in stunts, fronts blitzes or recognition. I can't see it two games in a row. Dallas.|
Our selection of pick 'em panels is much less ambiguous and strongly favors of the Packers:
|USA Today||1||6||.680 (83-39)|
|Dallas Morning News||5||4||.614 (89-56)|
|NFL Around The League||1||4||.600 (51-34)|
|SB Nation||2||5||.567 (68-52)|
|Pro Football Focus||1||7||.522 (72-66)|
The Cowboys are far from a perfect team, but the excitement building around the team is palpable, and to have these pundits picking them to win on the road, in Green Bay no less, is a testament to how far the team has come this season. Even the sportsbooks are seeing strong action on the Cowboys (again), as Las Vegas Sun writes:
It’s the 1990s all over again in sports books. Everyone is betting on the Cowboys. The opening price of Green Bay minus-6.5 gradually discounted to minus-6 across the board before shops like the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook trimmed all the way to 5.5. The Packers are one of the public’s favorite teams to bet on, so a move back upwards would be far from surprising. But the Cowboys are not a neglected side either, especially not with the four-game covering streak they were on heading into last week’s wild-card game. The narrow 24-20 escape over the Lions as 7-point favorites wasn’t enough to sway gamblers away from the group (formerly known as?) America’s Team.
What's your take on the Cowboys' chances of beating the odds and coming away with their ninth road win of the season on Sunday?
In our Playoff Pick 'Em challenge, we're asking you to pick the straight up winners for each playoff weekend all the way through to the Super Bowl. And to spice things up, we're using a Confidence Points scoring system where you have to give each game you pick a specific point value based on how strongly you feel about the accuracy of your selection.
You have until kickoff on Saturday to submit your picks, but why wait until the last second? Here's the link to the entry form.
If the link above doesn't work for whatever reason, use the following alternative, which does not autofill your BTB user name into the entry form.
We currently have 223 picks logged. In early voting, the following trends have emerged:
|Road Team||Game||Home Team|
|Avg. Confidence Pts||BTB Favorite||BTB Favorite||Avg. Confidence Pts|
|6.1||BAL: 23%||BAL @ NE||NE: 77%||10.1|
|6.1||CAR: 14%||CAR @ SEA||SEA: 86%||13.5|
|9.3||DAL: 93%||DAL @ GB||GB: 7%||8.3|
|8.0||IND: 9%||IND @ DEN||DEN: 91%||10.0|
The contest is open to everybody, so go ahead and submit your picks, but make sure you to assign a different Confidence Points number to each game.