NFL Divisional Round Playoffs
After coming off back to back impressive defeats of division rival Philadelphia, the Dallas Cowboys travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings, who had a bye last week in the divisional round of the playoffs in a 1:00 P.M. start on Sunday, January 17th.
The Cowboys come into this game as one of the hottest teams still left in the playoffs. After starting the month of December losing two straight games, they were able to turn things around quickly with a huge 24-17 win over New Orleans.
Since then they have won three games in a row, giving up a total of 14 points while scoring 75. The main reason for their turnaround has been the steady play of QB Tony Romo and the elevated play of their defense. In last week’s 34-14 win over the Eagles, Romo completed 23 of 35 attempts for 244 yards and two TD’s with no interceptions.
The fact that they ran the ball for close to 200 yards also helped as he is at his best when asked to manage the game, not try and win it on his own. With the exception of one long pass play for a score, the Dallas defense completely shut Philadelphia down by putting constant pressure on Donovan McNabb with just their front four, while their secondary threw a blanket over their wide receivers.
Dallas this season has been the perfect example of the phrase, “It doesn’t matter how you get there; it is all about how you arrive.” Teams that are peaking at the end of the season have a way of going deep into the playoffs, if not all the way to a championship.
This team always had the talent—they just needed the confidence to get over the hump. A perfect example of this is their running game. In Week 17 against the Eagles, Marion Barber led the way with 91 yards rushing on 14 carries. In the wild card win, Felix Jones was the man, gaining 148 yards on 16 carries. Miles Austin has been Romo’s go-to guy the whole second half of the season, but last week suddenly Roy Williams and Patrick Clayton both made huge contributions to the win.
Their defense has been solid all year long, but their defensive secondary led by Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman has really elevated their game. Momentum is a powerful tool especially in the playoffs. Right now that may be the most effective tool in the Cowboy’s box.
Minnesota has had a very successful season by any standard winning 12 of 16 games. Veteran QB Brett Favre has put up MVP like numbers throwing for over 4200 yards. RB Adrian Peterson rushed for almost 1400 yards and their defense finished the regular season ranked sixth overall and second against the rush.
The reason for concern heading into this game is the way they finished the season by losing three out of their last five games. The main thing that contributed to this slide was their performance on the road. All three of these losses were out of the friendly confines of the Mall of America Field, while the two games at home were lopsided wins over the Bengals and the N.Y. Giants. Given the fact that the Vikings are hosting this game is in itself a huge advantage as they are 8-0 at home this season.
For Dallas, they have to start fast like they did against Philly. If the offense has a few three and outs, their overall confidence will be shaken. They are at their best when moving the chains and chewing up the clock as opposed to trying to create big plays. Defensively they have to keep Peterson between the tackles and put some pressure on Favre to keep him from making plays. The longer this game stays a low scoring battle the better their chance to win.
For Minnesota, they have to make the most of their home field advantage. They are clearly a much better team at home and tend to thrive on both sides of the ball in this environment. If they can get Peterson going early it will open up the throwing lanes for Favre. An early lead could force Dallas to alter their game plan away from the run which will play right into the strength of Minnesota’s defense; putting pressure on Romo that will result in a mistake or two.
There is no question that Dallas is hot, but Minnesota is still the better team despite their recent woes. Remember, all four of their losses were on the road. I’m not ready to bet against Brett Favre in favor of Tony Romo, so I’m going with the Vikings and the OVER .
- The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Dallas’s last 5 games
- Dallas is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games
- Dallas is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games
- The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Dallas’s last 5 games on the road
- The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Minnesota’s last 8 games
- Minnesota is 12-4 SU in its last 16 games
- The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Minnesota’s last 5 games at home
- Minnesota is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home