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Cowboys return home Sunday to host Packers
By: Brian Graham - StatFox
Published: 12/15/2013  at  5:14:00 AM
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Kickoff: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Line: Dallas -7, Total: 49.5

Two teams trying to keep playoff hopes alive collide Sunday when the Cowboys host the Packers.

Green Bay is 0-6 ATS (1-4-1 SU) since QB Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone and will likely need QB Matt Flynn to start again, as Rodgers is doubtful to be cleared to play for this matchup. Dallas QB Tony Romo didnít play well in Mondayís 45-28 loss in Chicago (11-for-20, 104 yards), but he still threw 3 TD passes and no picks, giving him 27 TD and just 7 INT this year. Romo has been especially good at home where he's thrown for 285 YPG, 14 TD and 4 INT and has led his team to a 5-1 SU record (4-2 ATS). The Packers have lost nine straight visits (1-8 ATS) to Dallas, but hasnít played in Big D since 2007. When these teams last met in 2010, Green Bay won 45-7 behind 289 passing yards and 3 TD from Rodgers, while Romo was sidelined with an injury. Both teams have favorable betting trends for this matchup, as the Packers fall into the category of underdogs after allowing 17+ points in the first half of two straight games against an opponent after a double-digit loss, who are 57-27 ATS (68%) since 1983. However, favorites like the Cowboys who are terrible on defense (370+ YPG allowed) facing a poor defense (335 to 370 YPG allowed) after 8+ games are 41-18 ATS (70%) in the past 10 seasons. In addition to Rodgers' injury, the Packers are still without top WR Randall Cobb (fibula) who was supposed to be back by this point, while both RB Eddie Lacy (ankle) and LB Brad Jones (leg) are questionable for this game. The Cowboys remain thin at linebacker with LB Bruce Carter (hamstring) doubtful and LB Justin Durant (hamstring) questionable, but LB Sean Lee (neck) is expected to play despite suffering what appeared to be a major injury last week. Starting CB Morris Claiborne (hamstring) is also questionable for Dallas.

Which team will help its playoff positioning on Sunday? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. The experts continue to flourish, combining for a 56% ATS record (53-41-6) over the past seven weeks. StatFox Brian has a 65% ATS (22-12-2) mark in Best Bets since Week 7, and is 56% ATS (30-24-4) this season. StatFox Scott is 9-5 ATS in the past three weeks of Best Bets, and is 54% ATS (27-23-2) this season, including 62% ATS (24-15-1) in Best Bets since Week 4. StatFox Gary has six perfect weeks in Best Bets since Week 4, and is 5-2 ATS in the past three weeks.

With QB Aaron Rodgers unable to play, QB Matt Flynn expects to make his fourth straight start. After a miserable performance on Thanksgiving (10-for-20, 139 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 2 lost fumbles), Flynn played pretty well in last week's 22-21 win over the Falcons, completing 24-of-32 passes (75%) for 258 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. However, Flynn needs to get rid of the football quicker, as he has absorbed 12 sacks in these past two games. Flynn did a great job spreading the wealth in last week's win with seven different Packers getting multiple targets and only TE Andrew Quarless (seven targets) seeing more than five passes come his way. Top RB Eddie Lacy (887 rush yards, 3.9 YPC, 7 TD) rolled his ankle in last week's win, but was able to return to the game and appears like he will be able to start on Sunday. If the rookie cannot go, backup RB James Starks (346 rush yards, 5.3 YPC, 3 TD) is certainly capable of carrying the workload. Defensively, the Packers have been below average, ranking 25th in the NFL in yards per play allowed (5.7) and rushing defense (123 YPG), while ranking 20th in scoring defense (25.1 PPG allowed) and 19th on third downs (39%). Its red-zone efficiency (55% touchdown rate, 15th in NFL) has been adequate, and after failing to force multiple turnovers in eight straight contests, this unit has generated six takeaways in the past two games.

Dallas averages just 328 total YPG (22nd in NFL) on offense, but has been able to post a hefty 27.5 PPG (T-3rd in league) because of an excellent red-zone efficiency of converting 71% of its trips into touchdowns (2nd in NFL). The team has been pass-heavy for most of the 2013 season with 235 passing YPG (15th in NFL) and just 94 rushing YPG (24th in league), but has made a concerted effort to pound the football over the past four weeks with 135 rushing YPG on a hefty 5.7 YPC. This includes 198 yards on 28 carries (7.1 YPC) in last week's loss in Chicago, when top RB DeMarco Murray (843 rush yards, 5.3 YPC, 7 TD) gained 146 yards on just 18 attempts (8.1 YPC). Murray has also been a valuable receiver out of the backfield with 41 catches, which ranks third on the team behind WR Dez Bryant (70 rec., 908 yards, 10 TD) and TE Jason Witten (55 rec., 632 yards, 7 TD). This Cowboys defense continues to be gashed on a weekly basis though, ranking among the worst NFL defenses in several categories. They rank last in total defense (427 YPG allowed), last in passing defense (299 YPG), last in first downs allowed (24.9 per game) 28th in rushing defense (128 YPG), 28th on third downs (43%), 26th in red-zone defense (61% touchdown rate) and 26th in scoring defense (26.8 PPG). This unit has also not made enough big plays, with a mere four forced turnovers in the past four games combined.

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