Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 Divisional Playoffs Preview: Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings

By Zac Wassink

Brett Favre Looks to Play in Another NFC Title Game

The Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings face off in the Metrodome this Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m., and the game will be shown on FOX.

X-Factor: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson had yet another fantastic regular season, rushing for 1,383 yards and 18 touchdowns. Peterson also battled Tiki Barber-itis in the season, fumbling seven times (six of those were lost). This Sunday, Peterson and his offensive line will be facing a Cowboys defense that held the Eagles to 93 combined rushing yards in the team's two straight victories over Philly.

The Vikings will win...

because Hollywood Brett Favre is again one of the best quarterbacks in all of the NFL. 4,202 yards. 33 touchdowns. Only seven interceptions. A QB rating of 107.2. As with the Favre of old, the stats only tell half the story. Ask the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers or even the Chicago Bears if Favre can still make the big play when the time comes. Remember that Favre won't be playing in the snow and blistering cold this Sunday. He'll be in a dome that he's very, very familiar with and comfortable in.

The Vikings aren't all offense. Minnesota finished the 2009 NFL regular season in the top ten in points allowed (19.5), sixth in yards allowed (305.5) and first in team sacks (48). Defensive end Jared Allen leads the pass rush with 14.5 sacks. The Cowboys haven't been flawless against the pass rush as Tony Romo was sacked 34 times during the regular season. Romo was sacked twice by the Eagles last week.

One Dallas Cowboys victory does not take away a decade-plus of bad playoff appearances. The Cowboys will be visitors in the Metrodome, arguably the loudest stadium in the NFL and a place where the Vikings went a flawless 8-0 during the season.

The Cowboys will win...

because the Cowboys are currently the best team in the NFL (according to the most controversial power rankings on Associated Content). Dallas has shred the "we can't play in late December/January" stigma by winning four consecutive games, including one at New Orleans and two straight against an Eagles team picked by many to win the Super Bowl.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has finally been playing like an elite passer at the end of a football season for the first time in his career. In the past four games, Romo has averaged 288 yards a game, thrown six total touchdowns and only two picks. His QB rating over the four games has been 100. You couldn't ask for much more from Romo.

Running back Marion Barber may not play against the Vikings. The Cowboys might not miss him. Felix Jones rushed for 91 yards on 15 carries against the Eagles in the last game of the regular season and then ran 146 yards on 16 carries on Wild Card Weekend.

Dallas finished the regular season with just six fewer sacks than Minnesota. The Cowboys got to Donovan McNabb four times during last Saturday's playoff game. Brett Favre isn't the most mobile QB playing in the NFL so if DeMarcus Ware and the rest of the pass rush can get into the Minnesota backfield, Favre may make one too many mistakes.

Prediction: Dallas and Minnesota are two teams going opposite ways as they approach the 2010 NFL Divisional Playoffs. The Cowboys have proven that they can defeat elite teams and do so on the road in a dome. Cliché alert: The Dallas defense won't be able to stop Minnesota but the Cowboys can contain Favre, Peterson and company. Favre, who was also sacked 34 times in the season, may be playing behind a very tough offensive line but the Dallas defense has been the best in the NFC the past couple of weeks. I also believe in Tony Romo. Can't believe I just wrote that.

Dallas 26
Minnesota 24