IRVING, Texas -- Much will be made this week of the matchup between Minnesota LT Bryant McKinnie and Dallas OLB DeMarcus Ware. That pits Pro Bowler vs. Pro Bowler, although McKinnie didn't perform at that level in the last month of the season.
But the matchup on the other side might have a bigger impact on the game.
Anthony Spencer, who has seven sacks in the last seven games, has arguably been the Cowboys' most dominant defensive player since the midpoint of the season. He'll be matched up with rookie second-rounder Phil Loadholt. If Loadholt gets much help, that either means Ware will be one-on-one or Minnesota will be in max protect, limiting the number of receiving options for Brett Favre.
Spencer vs. Loadholt appears to be a major mismatch in the Cowboys' favor. Loadholt, whom the Cowboys probably would have picked if the weren't able to find a taker when they traded down and out of the second round, is a massive man who could be outmatched by Spencer's quickness.
Spencer's role defending the run is just as important as his pass-rushing presence. He's been consistently dominant as a run defender, leading the Cowboys with nine tackles for losses during the regular season and racking up two more in the playoff opener.
If Spencer and Co. can contain Adrian Peterson, who has gone seven games since hitting 100 yards, that would put the onus on Brett Favre to beat the Cowboys with his arm. Spencer can make Favre's job a lot tougher by exploiting his mismatch.