Cowboys-Vikings key matchups

A matchup from both sides of the ball that should play a major role in which team advances to the NFC championship game:

Cowboys LT Flozell Adams vs. Vikings DE Jared Allen: If Tony Romo has time, there should be plays to be made against a so-so Minnesota secondary.

That’s a big if with Allen aiming for Romo’s blind side.

To call Allen one of the best pass rushers in the league is faint praise. He joins Hall of Famer Reggie White as the only two players in NFL history to record at least 14 sacks in three consecutive seasons. He’s a remarkable athlete with a relentless motor.

Adams would have a heck of a challenge, regardless of the venue. The triple-digit decibel level routinely reached in the Metrodome when the Vikings’ defense is on the field just makes Adams’ job more difficult, especially considering that the 12-year veteran tackle is partially deaf in one ear.

The Cowboys point to their victory over previously undefeated New Orleans in the Superdome as proof they can handle crowd noise, but Adams struggled in that game. Saints right defensive end Will Smith had two sacks and hit Romo five other times.

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett would do Adams a favor by running right at the 6-6, 270-pound Allen early and often, giving Adams (6-7, 338) a chance to wear down his athletically superior opponent. The numbers, as provided by ESPN Stats & Information, also indicate it would be a wise strategy.

The Minnesota run defense is dominant up the middle, where Kevin and Pat Williams make their presence felt. The Vikings allow only 3.0 yards per carry between the tackles.

But Minnesota allows 5.6 yards per carry to the left side (26th in NFL). The Cowboys rank third in the league running left (6.4 yards per carry).

Allen’s pass-rushing ability isn’t such a huge concern for the Cowboys if they can avoid third-and-long situations. The key to that could be attacking him on the ground on first and second downs.

Vikings WR Percy Harvin vs. Cowboys nickel CB Orlando Scandrick: He played much better in the second half of the season, but if you’re going to pick on a Cowboys cornerback, it should be Scandrick.

Opponents completed 61.3 percent of their passes thrown at Scandrick, by far the highest rate against any of the Cowboys’ cornerbacks. As the slot corner in the nickel and dime packages, he plays primarily man coverage and will have a tough matchup against Minnesota’s rookie sensation.

Harvin, who will go to the Pro Bowl as a return specialist, is extremely dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands. More than half of his 790 receiving yards came after the catch. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Wade Phillips said Scandrick can’t afford to play conservatively against Harvin because of the big-play threat. The best way to keep Harvin from breaking for long gains is to prevent him from catching the ball, which is why Phillips wants Scandrick to be aggressive.