The health of Aaron Rodgers is the focal point in an otherwise marquee matchup between the second-seeded Green Bay Packers and visiting Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in the NFC Divisional Round. Rodgers is dealing with a slight tear in his left calf sustained in the regular-season finale and practiced on a limited basis Thursday. No. 3 seed Dallas, which beat Detroit in its playoff opener, is making its first postseason trip to Green Bay since the Ice Bowl in 1967.
Rodgers' importance to the Packers cannot be overstated - he threw 25 touchdowns versus zero interceptions to help Green Bay finish 8-0 at Lambeau Field. "He's obviously very important to our football team," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who estimated that Rodgers took 50 to 60 percent of the reps Thursday in his first practice since he was hurt. "We have a game plan. He did everything we asked of him today." The Cowboys, who are in the postseason for the first time since 2009, are a perfect 8-0 away home, marking the third time in playoff history an unbeaten road team will take on an undefeated home squad.
TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Packers -5.5. O/U: 52.5
ABOUT THE COWBOYS (13-4): A pair of controversial non-penalty calls took the luster off Dallas' comeback from a 13-point, second-half deficit behind 293 yards and two touchdown passes from Tony Romo, who has 20 scoring passes versus two interceptions in the eight road games. DeMarco Murray, the league's leading rusher with 1,845 yards, ran for 75 on 19 carries a week ago and was instrumental in Dallas' success away from home, reaching 100 yards in seven of the eight games. Dez Bryant led with NFL with 16 touchdowns and surpassed 1,200 yards for the third straight season and Terrance Williams had a pair of touchdown receptions last week. Murray's ability to control the clock can help a defense that ranked 26th in the league, allowing 251.9 yards per game.
ABOUT THE PACKERS (12-4): Rodgers had a spectacular season, throwing for 4,381 yards with 38 touchdowns versus only five interceptions while extending his NFL records of 418 pass attempts with being picked off at home - a span in which he has thrown 36 scoring passes. Jordy Nelson is Rodgers' top target with 98 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns while fellow wideout Randall Cobb was equally as dangerous with 91 receptions for 1,287 yards and 12 scores. Second-year running back Eddie Lacy overcame a slow start to average 98.7 rushing yards for the season on his way to 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns. Although Green Bay permitted an average of 119.9 yards on the ground, it nearly cut its total in half over the second half of the season.
1. Green Bay outscored its opponents 196-37 in the first half of its last seven home games.
2. A victory would send Dallas to its 15th conference championship game, tying Pittsburgh and San Francisco for the most since 1970.
3. The Packers have won three straight overall, but the Cowboys have prevailed in the last four playoff matchups between the teams.
PREDICTION: Cowboys 23, Packers 20