Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to December 10 inclusive:
1-1 ML (+0.71 units)
Everything went pretty much according to script on Monday night. Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys went into Soldier Field with a record of 11-15 SU and 7-19 ATS in his December starts, and they duly honked another one, losing 45-28 to the Chicago Bears (–1.5) and falling one game out of first place in the NFC East at 7-6 (8-5 ATS). Romo’s a bum!
Actually, Romo (three TDs, zero INTs, 109.2 passer rating) was fine on Monday. Josh McCown (four TDs, zero INTs, 141.9 passer rating) and the Chicago offense were finer. But there’s good news for Cowboys supporters: Next up are the Green Bay Packers (6-6-1 SU, 5-8 ATS), who are likely to be without Aaron Rodgers when they visit Arlington on Sunday. This matchup has been circled on the Week 15 NFL odds board while we await word on his status.
Romo and the Dallas offense had its moments playing out in the cold, but that Cowboys defense looked like it was frozen in place. The Bears didn’t have to punt at all, which was also the case in Week 5 when Dallas couldn’t stop the Denver Broncos (–7.5 at home) in a 51-48 loss. Only one other team has gone through an entire game without punting this year – and it was the Packers, although they had Rodgers under center when they beat the Minnesota Vikings (+7.5 at home) 44-31.
You can understand why this game is circled. If Rodgers (108.0 passer rating) is able to return from his broken collarbone, he’s a major upgrade over Matt Flynn (81.4), although Flynn did a commendable job in last week’s 22-21 victory over the reeling Atlanta Falcons (+3.5 away). The Packers also had the No. 2-ranked rushing offense in the league through Week 13; Eddie Lacy (3.9 yards per carry) suffered an ankle injury against Atlanta, but it doesn’t appear serious, and James Starks (5.3 yards per carry) is having a solid comeback season in a supporting role.
After watching Bears RB Matt Forte gash the Cowboys for 102 yards on 20 carries, it’s easy to imagine Lacy and Starks doing much the same. The Dallas defense went into Week 14 ranked No. 27 in overall efficiency (No. 23 pass, No. 29 rush), and although LB Sean Lee made his return after missing three games with a hamstring injury, he suffered an apparent stinger during the third quarter and was eventually removed from the game. Tuesday’s MRI revealed no structural damage, so Lee is expected to play on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX).
The deeper problems are in the Dallas secondary. The tallest cornerback on the roster is Brandon Carr at 6-feet; he and his tiny teammates couldn’t stop 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall (six catches, 100 yards) or 6-foot-3 Alshon Jeffery (five catches, 84 yards), who made a remarkable grab in the corner of the end zone at the end of the first half to give Chicago a double-digit lead going into the dressing room.
At least the Cowboys won’t have to deal with 6-foot-5 TE Jermichael Finley, who’s out for the season with a neck injury. But 6-foot-3 WR Jordy Nelson (76 catches, seven TDs) is still very much in action, and Flynn had success last week with 6-foot-4 TE Andrew Quarless, who hauled in a career-high six catches for 66 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown.
Making NFL picks in the dark is no fun, but I’ll go ahead and recommend the Packers in this situation. If Flynn plays, the things that worked in Week 14 should still be available in Week 15. If Rodgers plays? Then they should hand out complimentary blindfolds at AT&T Stadium.
NFL Pick: Take the Packers