Final Word: Cowboys at Vikings

January, 15, 2010
1/15/10
1:00
PM ET
AFC: Jets-Chargers: Graham | Williamson Colts-Ravens: Kuharsky | Walker
NFC: Cowboys-Vikings: Mosley | Seifert Saints-Cardinals: Yasinskas | Sando

Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's divisional playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys (12-5) and Minnesota Vikings (12-4).

Tony Romo
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesTony Romo's career QB rating of 95.9 shows he can play at an elite level.
1. Bring the noise: It's hard to imagine the Metrodome being louder than the Saturday night in New Orleans, where the Cowboys gained confidence with a win over the previously unbeaten Saints in Week 15. But that Viking horn going off every 30 seconds or so can start to play tricks with your mind. It's well-known that Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams has some hearing loss, which contributed to his six false start penalties this season. Dallas has done an excellent job of getting off to quick starts during its four-game winning streak and that will be imperative against the Vikings on Sunday. The last thing the Cowboys want is to fall behind early and let this crowd get carried away. That's why I think it's important for Dallas to establish the running game early on. The Cowboys' enormous offensive line feeds off the running game. If the Cowboys have some early success on the ground, you'll see players such as Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis begin to gain confidence against the Vikings' talented front four.

2. Romo vs. his boyhood idol: I know that Tony Romo is trying to downplay the whole boyhood idol theme, but don't let him fool you. Growing up in Burlington, Wis., he tried to copy Brett Favre's every move. And when he first got into the NFL, he would wear his jacket on the sideline just like Favre (a cape) and position his chinstrap the exact same way as No. 4. It's no coincidence that he ended up with a similar style to Favre's. The Vikings are hoping they can take an early lead and force Romo to put too much pressure on himself. Romo's played better than Favre down the stretch, and I don't expect for his game to fade now. The Cowboys like the matchup they have with Miles Austin against Antoine Winfield, who's been banged up. I heard Chris Mortensen talking about it on the ESPN affiliate (103.3 FM) in Dallas on Thursday. He doesn't think Winfield is himself because of a bum foot, and he believes the Cowboys can exploit that matchup. Winfield's still a scrappy player, but he's not the guy he was three years ago -- or even three months ago, for that matter. If the Cowboys' offensive line can give Romo time, I think he can light up this secondary.

3. The Vikings' offensive tackles will have their hands full with the Cowboys' outside linebackers: Wade Phillips has been doing a nice job of moving DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer around. You'll even see them line up next to each other occasionally. It's important for the Vikings to communicate against this defense. I don't think Bryant McKinnie's prepared for what he's about to face with Ware. I guess Julius Peppers gave him a little preview, but Ware's even more relentless. Vikings coach Brad Childress must neutralize the Cowboys' pass rush by dumping off the ball to his tailbacks or fullbacks. Favre doesn't need a ton of time in the pocket, but you can't have him running for his life. The last time he faced a Phillips defense in the regular season, he was knocked out of the game after throwing two interceptions. Fortunately for Favre, Nate "The Mayor" Jones from Rutgers is no longer with the Cowboys. That's the man who sent him to the locker room on a corner blitz. This game should have it all, and the NFC East blog will be at the Metrodome to bring you every moment. Thanks for spending a little time with us this afternoon.

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