Courtesy of Bobby Smith
CEO, Sports Reporter
SUNDAY, JANUARY 11
*GREEN BAY over DALLAS by 4
The Packers are 8-0 SU home this season The Cowboys are 8-0 SU on the road. Although Dallas played bum after bum away this season, they beat the Seattle Seahawks fair and square in that very difficult place to play. You can't take that away from them. And the Packers won't try. They'll just throw the ball all over the field against them -- maybe not deep with regularity because Dallas is playing a lot of Cover-3 now -- but Aaron Rodgers throwing against a Cover-3 should fare better than, for instance, the less accurate and less good Matthew Stafford throwing against it. Tony Romo throwing against Green Bay's mixed coverages and looks should not fare as well.
The Packers love their cornerbacks, Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. They trust them in man-to-man coverage and Dom Capers has blitzed more frequently this season. Sample this, from last year's 37-36 win by Green Bay in Dallas: "Romo threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns, but couldn't avoid two more critical mistakes." Those mistakes were interceptions by Shields and Williams. By the way, Green Bay's quarterback for the entire game was back-up Matt Flynn. Dallas' defense is playing better than it was a year ago when Flynn completed 26 of 39 with 4 TD passes, but, as they say on the Internet, Aaron Rodgers > Matt Flynn. Opponents who assert their physicality for four quarters give the Packers problems.
Think back to San Francisco beating them three straight times, and Seattle beating them on opening night this season. Dallas' offensive line can pound the Packers' front seven for productive DeMarco Murray runs -- as long as the scoreboard is close -- and their defense made plays against the Lions when it mattered after they trailed 0-14. So, the Cowboys are probably in this thing whether they manage to lead or stay close early, or are coming from behind in the fourth quarter against a relaxed Packers' defense looking at the clock. That is, unless Romo reverts to one of those 2-fumble, 2-interception games. GREEN BAY, 31-27.
*DENVER over INDIANAPOLIS by 4
The Colts' defense caught many breaks last Sunday: Playing home, where they'd allowed only 17.7 points per game this season vs. 28.3 ppg on the road; the other side was on the road for the sixth time in eight weeks; the Bengals were without their top two receivers, A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham; the opposing quarterback was Andy Dalton - yawn. What was Andy Dalton going to do without Green and Gresham, other than try his best, struggle, and lose, along with the rest of the Bengals, who put together the best game plan they could, and executed it well enough under the circumstances?
Now, the Indy defense is not playing the less-than-full strength Bengals at home. They're playing the rested and ready Denver Broncos on the road. In this stadium, during the regular season, the Broncos averaged 35.3 ppg. The Colts "held" Denver to 31 points at Mile High on opening night, but that was Peyton Manning's first four-quarter game of the season, Wes Welker didn't play, Emmanuel Sanders was playing his first game...and yet the score was 24-0 with 2 minutes to go in the first half, and Denver eased up in the second half with division foe Kansas City on deck. Second time around, in a big game, Manning figures to shred the Indy defense like wheat.
The Broncos won't have Mohammed Sanu dropping balls. They'll have Demaryius Thomas, Sanders, Julius Thomas and Welker running better routes, grabbing passes and gaining big yards, all day long. This won't look anything like the Colts' defensive performance a week ago. But Cincinnati's defense is a little bigger and a little better than Denver's. They covered the Indy guys well. The Broncos' secondary won't cover them as well, and the Colts should run the ball well enough against it, too. Indy does very nicely with the multiple tight-end sets. It's why they were second in the AFC in Time of Possession.
The Colts' QB Andrew Luck can put the ball where he wants to as well as Manning can, with deeper range, and they're gonna move the ball and score, too. The Denver defense isn't facing Geno Smith, or Alex Smith twice, or Philip Rivers, who can barely move his arm, twice, or Oakland's rookie quarterback twice, or Miami (Ugh!, yet the Dolphins scored 36 here!), or Buffalo's quarterback who retired two minutes after the season was over, or Shaun Hill on the Rams. Manning and all of his buddies on offense, defense and special teams figure to have to work for real for at least 60 minutes to put this one away. DENVER, 35-31.
MONDAY, JANUARY 12
COLLEGE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
AT&T Stadium -- Arlington, TX
OREGON over OHIO STATE by 11
'We have seen the enemy, and he is us!' So says the Oregon Ducks, kings of the no-huddle, up-tempo, run-based spread offense West of the Rockies. Urban Meyer has molded Ohio State into a similar offense, as he did at Utah, and at Florida. His defenses with those programs were probably better than this Buckeyes' defense, which has allowed 536 yards and 37 points to Michigan State, and 407 yards and 35 points to Alabama, the two best teams they've faced so far.
Then, figure that the extremely underwhelming and flawed offenses of Indiana and Michigan scored 28, and 27 vs. Ohio State late in the season. Where the shutout in the Big Ten Championship Game vs. Wisconsin came from is anybody's guess, but the fact that the Wisconsin head coach snuck out the back door immediately afterwards kind of shows you where his head was at all along. Ohio State's accomplishments against Alabama were impressive. Eight runs inside the tackles went for 10 yards or more, one more than Alabama had previously allowed for the entire season on such runs. But guess what?
Oregon rushed for 206 yards inside the tackles against Florida State, the most such yards FSU has allowed in two seasons. This could be one of those 'Anything you can do we can better' situations. The passing arm of Oregon's Heisman winner Marcus Mariota's isn't as strong as Cardale Jones' arm, but executing offense is about more than arm strength. Jameis Winston was a befuddled fellow trying to throw vs. Oregon's defense. "That was a sledgehammer game," Meyer said afterwards about facing Alabama. That could be a hint as to which team can recover better from last week's efforts. Oregon didn't really get a physical pounding from Florida State. The Seminoles threw a lot of screen passes when Jameis Winston wasn't dropping back and looking for guys who weren't open, and they also did a lot of trap-blocking on running plays.
Theoretically, Oregon should be a little fresher than Ohio State, which now faces an opponent very comfortable running and executing blur-tempo offense, as opposed to Alabama, who tries to do it but never really seems comfortable executing it. Because Oregon's defense practices against their offense and has been practicing against it much longer than Ohio State's D has practiced it against their O, the Ducks shouldn't ever be overwhelmed by the task. If they had extra time to prepare, maybe we'd like Ohio State plus the points in this game. As it is, off the normal prep time, we'll lean to Oregon. They give opponents and 'against' bettors hope early, but eventually, they get to the line of scrimmage too quickly, execute too well, and trigger the unraveling of the other side. OREGON, 47-36.
Bobby Smith is Editor of Sports Reporter and sportsreporter.com, and author
of "How to Beat the Pro Football Pointspread," currently the nation's #1 best-
selling sports betting book. Check that fact, and order it, at www.amazon.com.