It's the Divisional round of the playoffs and what most fans consider the best weekend of football during the NFL season. There are two excellent NFC match-ups in store with the Carolina Panthers traveling to Seattle to take on the Seahawks on Saturday and the Dallas Cowboys traveling to Green Bay to take on the Packers on Sunday.
Saturday's match-up promises to be a defensive affair that has two of the hottest teams in the NFL. The Panthers have now won five straight after a 3-8-1 start and Seattle is on a six game winning streak after starting out 6-4. Both defenses are playing out of their mind but Seattle has won in Carolina each of the last three years and this game will be played in Seattle.
Sunday's match-up between Green Bay and Dallas promises to be more of a shoot-out with the high-flying Green Bay offense that is undefeated at home taking on the balanced attack of the Dallas Cowboys who are undefeated on the road. The Cowboys will be dealing with some weather conditions they haven't played in all year but Aaron Rodgers won't' be playing at full strength due to a calf injury.
Let's take an in depth look at both games and see which team has the advantage.
Dallas @ Green Bay: Sunday, January 11th @ 1:05 EST
Dallas travels to Green Bay in what most people consider the match-up of the week. Green Bay is undefeated at home and Dallas is undefeated on the road with arguably the best offensive line in football. Green Bay is in a tough spot because Aaron Rodgers will be playing with a partially torn calf muscle. His lack of mobility causes all sorts of headaches for the Green Bay offense and the team may be forced to rely much more on their running game and Eddie Lacy.
Dallas will have to run the ball and run the ball well to win this game. If Dallas is going to win, it's going to be at the expense of DeMarco Murray chewing up the clock and Tony Romo converting some key plays on third down and in the red zone.
There's also a good chance that the Cowboys offense plays well and puts up points on the scoreboard and still gets blown out at the expense of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have dismantled several quality opponents at home and there is a good possibility that the Dallas defense that has been overachieving all year won't be up to the task of slowing down the Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy.
I see the Packers jumping out to a lead early in this game like they've done all season and putting the game in Romo's hands. I also see Romo having a great game but falling just short at the end in large part because of his defense. Romo will get the blame for the loss but it will be more about what Rodgers did and what Dallas's defense didn't do that determines this game.
Carolina @ Seattle: Saturday, January 10th @ 8:15 PM EST
Carolina heads to Seattle as an 11.5 point underdog against the Seahawks on Saturday. That spread looks a little high at first glance but given the fact that Seattle has beaten Carolina in Carolina the last three years it actually sounds about right. Carolina has to travel to one of the toughest places to play in the NfL and teams with losing records during the regular season have been blown out in recent history during the divisional round.
While Carolina's defense has been playing lights out, their offense has not been lighting up the scoreboard and Carolina will need to play a flawless game ti come out on the winning end. Carolina looked impressive against Arizona but they were facing a third-string QB and the Cardinals did not capitalize on the Panthers mistakes.
If Carolina can't run the ball and turns the ball over, this game will be out of reach by halftime. I expect Carolina to have some success in the run game but to struggle in third and long situations. I see this game being close in the first half with Seattle pulling away in the fourth quarter and winning with some nice runs from Beast Mode and several extended plays by Russell Wilson. Wilson has established himself as a big-game quarterback that can extend plays and make things happen in crunch time.
Carolina's defense will keep them in the game, but Wilson and the Legion of Boom will prove to be too much for Cam Newton and the Panthers.