In an effort to get closer to the truth about what will happen this weekend during the NFL Divisional Round Playoffs, we talked to bloggers representing all eight teams still left in the chase. For each participant, we asked the same batch of questions. This is the preview for Dallas and Minnesota squaring off up north.
Cowboys @ Vikings
1:00 PM ET, January 17, 2010
Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN
Team: Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
Blog: Blogging The Boys
Author: Dave Halprin
Give us a couple of reasons the Cowboys will win on Sunday.
The Cowboys are playing their best football of the season and have one of the most balanced teams in the playoffs. They can attack you on the ground or through the air on offense, and Tony Romo is playing inspired football. If they continue to get good offensive line play, they should be able to score points as usual. The defense is clamping down on everybody, including some of the best offenses in the league like San Diego and New Orleans. Right now, if the Cowboys continue to execute the way they have the last month, they have a great shot at advancing on Sunday.
One guy from the opposition you would add to the Cowboys.
I'm going to take Adrian Peterson. Then I'm somehow going to fix his fumbling problem. The guy is an MVP-type player and can dominate a game, if I could put him behind the Cowboys line I think he would excel.
Who is the Cowboys MVP?
You could go with Tony Romo, who has finally blossomed into the elite QB Dallas has been looking for. But, I'm going with a guy who has helped Romo put up those great numbers, and finally gave the Cowboys a dominant #1 WR. The Cowboys found out that T.O. was on the decline last year, and Roy Williams just wasn't the guy, so they were stuck with no big-time vertical threat that is necessary for Jason Garrett's offense to work. In steps Miles Austin, who took over the Chiefs game in Week 5 and hasn't looked back. Austin has been a revelation, and the Cowboys owe a ton of their success this year to him.
Who is the X-Factor?
Let me go with OLB Anthony Spencer. The Cowboys defense was OK during the early part of the season, but since the middle of the year they have risen to elite level. This coincides with Anthony Spencer finally starting to make big plays in all phases of the game, but especially in the pass rush. Teams used to be able to swing their pass-protection towards DeMarcus Ware, but Spencer is now making teams pay for that philosophy. It's changed everything on the Cowboys defense.
Scouting report on the Vikings.
The Vikings are a team with a lot of skill-position talent, some of it veteran and some of it shiny and new. They used to be thought of as Adrian Peterson on offense, but obviously Brett Favre has changed that. Lately, they haven't been able to get AP to dominate games - maybe the o-line blocking is suspect - so they've relied more on Favre and the receivers. On defense, they lost E.J. Henderson to injury, and Antoine Winfield hasn't been as productive since his return from injury. But, Jared Allen is still a beast. The Vikes would love nothing more than to get AP going and run the ball, eating up time-of-possession, keeping Favre away from the Dallas pass rush, and keep the Dallas offense on the sidelines. And when the Dallas offense is on the field, they want to pressure Romo to cover for some pass defense issues.
Give us a prediction.
It's tough to win on the road in the playoffs, the Cowboys will have to channel the gritty resolve they showed when they went to New Orleans earlier this season and knocked off the undefeated Saints. The Cowboys will try to run on the Vikes, and they try to exploit the linebacker pass coverage of the Vikings in the middle of the field. They'll be aggressive on defense in going after Favre and AP. Dallas wins a close one 27-24.
Team: Minnesota Vikings (12-4)
Blog: Daily Norseman
Give us a couple of reasons the Vikings will win on Sunday.
The Vikings will win because they're at home. . .and after New England's loss last weekend, the Vikings are the only team in the NFL without a blemish on their home record. They're a completely different team at the Metrodome than they are on the road. The fact that they're as healthy as a team can be at this point in the season sort of helps, too.
One guy from the opposition you would add to the Vikings.
Terence Newman. When he's healthy, he's one of the NFL's premier cover corners, and bringing him to Minnesota would allow Antoine Winfield to make the transition from being an outstanding cornerback to an outstanding safety.
Who is the Vikings MVP?
It's really hard to say anybody besides Brett Favre. In Week 7, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to complete a season with 30+ touchdown passes and 7 or fewer interceptions. Not the first 40-year old quarterback. . .the first quarterback period. He's answered all of the questions that anybody might have had about him over the course of the season, and now has an opportunity to answer more questions in the playoffs.
Who is the X-Factor?
Rookie wide receiver Percy Harvin. The Vikings were widely criticized for taking Harvin in this year's draft, because the perception was that he wasn't the sort of player that the Vikings "needed." But the 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has proven that, quite frankly, EVERY team can use a player like Percy Harvin. Whether it's on kick returns, lining up in the backfield, or catching passes in space, Harvin brings a dimension to the Vikings' offense that they haven't had in a long time. He's going to present a lot of matchup problems for the Cowboys on Sunday.
Scouting report on the Cowboys.
The Cowboys have played amazing football over the past few weeks, but I don't think they're perfect by any means. And I don't think they play nearly as well on the road as they do at home, where they've had the tendency to look a little sloppy at times. Their offense is also predicated on running the football, which plays right into the Vikings' strengths. If Minnesota can get ahead early, I think that the three-headed monster of Barber, Jones, and Choice becomes a lot less effective, and Tony Romo will start feeling the pressure a bit. But the Vikings are really going to have to bring their "A" game this weekend.
Give us a prediction.
I think the Vikings will show why they're such a good team at home this weekend. The Metrodome will be rocking, the defense will be fired up, and the offense will click like it has since the second half of the game at Chicago. It's going to be a very good football game, but in the end, I think the Vikings will prevail by a touchdown or less.