Changing of the guard: Can Romo and Luck unseat Rodgers and Manning?

01/11/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

Two more games on Sunday will set the final four teams for the two conference championship games next weekend. Two teams full of history and tradition meet in the NFC, while a legend will lead his new team versus his old one in the AFC.
Dallas at Green Bay
Both of these teams finished the 2014 regular season with 12 and 4 records, and were champions of their respective divisions. The Packers were a perfect 8 and 0 at home during the regular season, while the Cowboys won all 8 of their road games. Both of these teams can score as well, as Green Bay averages 30.4 points per game and Dallas averages 29.2. Both teams come in having won 7 of their past 8 games as well. The Cowboys come in off a big come from behind win over another NFC Central team, as they battled back from 13 points down in last weeks 24 to 20 playoff win over Detroit. The Lions held the NFL's leading rusher DeMarco Murray to 75 yards rushing and held the Cowboys leading receiver Dez Bryant to 48 yards on just 3 catches. But Tony Romo picked it up for the Cowboys, passing for 293 yards and 2 touchdowns, both to Terrance Williams, who led Dallas with 92 yards receiving. This game will likely come down to which defense can prevent more damage against what's been their weakness.

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Dallas against the pass or Green Bay against the run. The Cowboys give up an average of 251.9 yards per game, while the Packers average 266.3 yards per game through the air. On defense, Green Bay gives up an average of 119.9 rushing yards per game, while the Cowboys average 147.1 yards per game on the ground. Detroit's Matthew Stafford passed for 323 yards in last weeks loss to Dallas. The Packers Aaron Rodgers threw for 4,381 yards during the regular season, and just 5 interceptions against 38 TD passes. The receiving tandem of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have put up big numbers as well. Nelson caught 98 passes for 1,519 yards and scored 13 touchdowns, while Cobb had 91 receptions for 1,287 yards and 12 scores. These teams met last season, with Green Bay winning 37 to 36, led by Eddy Lacy's 141 yards rushing. These teams last met in the playoffs in the 1996 NFC Championship game, which Dallas won en route to their last Super Bowl victory. They last met at Lambeau Field on New Years Eve of 1967, in the game referred to as the "Ice Bowl".
Indianapolis at Denver
It'll be Round 2 of Peyton Manning's old team versus Peyton Manning's new team in this one. The 12 and 4 Broncos come in off of a first round bye, while the 12 and 5 Colts come in off of a 26 to 10 Wild Card round win over Cincinnati. Andrew Luck led the way, passing for 376 yards and 1 TD in the win. Luck led the NFL with 40 passing touchdowns on the regular season, and threw for 4,761 yards. The man he replaced in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning, threw for 4,727 yards and 39 TD's. These teams met in Denver in the season opener, with the Broncos winning 31 to 24. Manning passed for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns in that game, with TE Julius Thomas catching 7 passes for 104 yards and all 3 of those TD passes. Luck passed for 370 yards and 2 scores in the losing effort, but also threw 2 interceptions. Denver won 5 of their final 6 regular season games, while the Colts have won 6 of their past 7. The Broncos were perfect in their 8 home games, while the Colts were 5 and 3 on the road. These are two of the top passing offenses in the NFL with Indianapolis leading the league averaging 305.4 yards per game. Denver ranked fourth, averaging 291.3 yards per game. The Broncos feature two 1,000 yard receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Thomas led the team with 111 receptions for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns. Sanders caught 101 passes for 1,404 yards and 9 TD's. This will be the third meeting between these teams since Manning moved from Indianapolis to Denver. The Colts won last seasons meeting at home 39 to 33. In games versus his former teams, Manning has passed for 655 yards and 6 touchdowns, while Luck has thrown for 598 yards and 5 TD's in those games.

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