Three things to know about next Sunday’s Cowboys-Vikings divisional playoff game:
1. The Cowboys and Vikings both have excellent defenses and elite quarterbacks. Tony Romo and Brett Favre have put up huge numbers this season, while doing a nice job of protecting the football. Dallas is definitely the hotter team, having won four consecutive games.
The Vikings are coming off a blowout win over the Giants, but they dropped three games in December and seemed to lose their edge in the process. The Vikings have one of the best running backs in the game in Adrian Peterson, but the Cowboys have been virtually impossible to run against. The last time Favre faced the Cowboys (Nov. 29, 2007), he was 5-of-14 for 56 yards and he threw two interceptions before being knocked out of the game. The Packers were 10-1 at the time.
2. The Vikings' offensive line slipped late in the season, and I think DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer could have some success getting to Favre on Sunday. Against the Eagles, though, the Cowboys could basically ignore the running game and focus on rushing Donovan McNabb. Stopping the run will be much more of a priority with Peterson in the backfield. The Vikings have a couple of big-play threats in Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, but the Cowboys have a lot of confidence after shutting down DeSean Jackson in three games. It will be more important than ever to make tackles and not allow one of those players to take off after making a catch.
3. Vikings defensive end Jared Allen is one of the best pass-rushers in the league, but he's been relatively quiet over the past month. Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams played well the past two games, but he doesn't do well in loud environments. Vikings fans pride themselves in causing false starts, and Adams is normally willing to go along. I would expect Wade Phillips to pipe in noise during practice this week to help prepare his team.
I think this will be one of the best matchups of the playoffs, but the Cowboys seem to be on more of a roll. The win on the road in New Orleans has given them a tremendous amount of confidence. I don't think they'll be bothered by a hostile environment. And with a quarterback who's not making mistakes, and a defense that's not yielding many points, this is a very dangerous Cowboys team. Should be a fun week.
NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert and I will have you covered all week long leading up to the big game. The Cowboys got the monkey off their back by finally winning a playoff game after a 13-year drought. They should be even more relaxed heading into this divisional playoff game. Winning Saturday night was a mental hurdle that Phillips and Romo needed to clear.
Now they can simply focus on advancing in the playoffs.