NFL Nation: Vikings-Cowboys Quick Take

Quick Take: Cowboys-Vikings

January, 10, 2010
1/10/10
11:46
AM ET
Three things to know about next Sunday’s Cowboys-Vikings divisional playoff game:

1. Minnesota tight end Visanthe Shiancoe had this to say Sunday morning via Twitter: "Cowboys are leaving the suburbs and coming to the hood! Better be ready.. "ain't nothing nice"." Among other things, Shiancoe was referring to the Vikings’ 8-0 record at the Metrodome this season, located in downtown Minneapolis. Minnesota has been a confident, proficient and aggressive team all season at the home, and it’s probably the best advantage the Vikings will have going against a Cowboys team that is playing at an elite level. (The Cowboys are 5-3 on the road this season.) I really don’t think the Metrodome is the loudest stadium in the NFL, but it’s certainly claustrophobic and carries a long history of audio intimidation. The Cowboys lost their last three games there, including a 1999 wild-card playoff game, and last won at the Metrodome in 1995.

2. Minnesota coach Brad Childress gave his players the week off, and left tackle Bryant McKinnie better have made the most of it. McKinnie finished the season with several minor physical ailments and didn’t play well down the stretch, most notably getting benched after a disastrous night against Carolina’s Julius Peppers. McKinnie figures to face Dallas' DeMarcus Ware, an equally fearsome pass-rusher, in what could be the game’s most critical matchup. Ware had a dominant game Saturday night against the Eagles, and the Cowboys will have their pick of matching him against McKinnie or the Vikings’ rookie right tackle, Phil Loadholt. The Vikings will have to slide protection toward Ware no matter where he lines up. We have little confidence that McKinnie (or Loadholt) would fare well in a one-on-one situation.

3. There has been a long and colorful playoff history between these two teams. Perhaps the most-remembered loss in Vikings history came on Dec. 28. 1975. The Cowboys won that divisional playoff matchup after receiver Drew Pearson caught a Hail Mary pass from Roger Staubach to cap a fourth-quarter drive. In Minnesota, the receiver on that play is known as “Push Pearson” because of the long-held contention he pushed away cornerback Nate Wright before making the catch. Offensive pass interference wasn’t called, and the crowd at the old Metropolitan Stadium got so rowdy that field judge Armen Terzian was hit by a whiskey bottle and knocked unconscious.

Quick Take: Cowboys-Vikings

January, 10, 2010
1/10/10
9:14
AM ET
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.

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