Broadcast Team: Thom Brennanaman, Troy Aikman, Chris Myers and Pam Oliver (Field Reporter)
High anxiety will be in the air at the Metrodome in a game that everyone is appropriately dubbing “The Desperation Bowl”. This game is a rematch of the 2009 NFL Divisional Playoffs (won handily by the Vikings 34-3). But this early season game has taken on an even bigger aurora as both the Cowboys and Vikings enter this game with a record of 1-3.
Though a “lose” in this match-up is technically not a death sentence, there will be little hope for the loser — Since 1990 only five out of 240 playoff teams have started with a record of 1-4, which is only 2 % . Especially when both teams entered the 2010 NFL Season with extremely high hopes.
The expected raucous crowd should be hyped for this “Loser Leaves Town” match-up and a big reason will be each team’s respective quarterback. In last year’s playoff lose, the Cowboys QB Tony Romo (sacked 6 times and hit often in the playoff loss) was a disaster and had trouble dealing with pressure brought from the Vikings’ D-line, especially DE Jared Allen.
It will be incumbent on the Cowboys’ shaky offensive line (allowed 6 sacks in Week 5 loss to the Titans) to protect Romo (119-174, 1346 yards (2nd in NFC), 7 TDs and 5 INTs) this time around. The key person on the offensive line will be OG Montrae Holland who is replacing benched inconsistent high-price tag player Leonard Davis (seven-year, $49 million contract).
Romo will definitely be trying to get the ball to his stellar receiving corps of TE Jason Witten, rookie WR Dez Bryant (ankle), WR Roy Williams, and Pro Bowl WR Miles Austin (31 receptions for NFC-leading 474 yards, 15.3 ypr, and 2 TDs).
But in my opinion, the Cowboys would be best served by slowing down the Vikings speedy attacking defense by re-establishing their dormant rushing attack — Felix Jones leads the team with only 197 rushing yards and 0 TDs. Surprisingly even with head coach Wade Phillips on Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones’ Hot Seat, young offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has chosen to put the ball in the air over and over instead of going to his three-headed monster of Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice.
Romo has averaged 43.5 attempts per game including a high of 47 in a Week 1 loss to the Redskins. The Cowboys must bring back forgotten player, Barber (has just six carries in 2010), to have any chance to win this game. However finding holes against the Vikings D-line led by the Williams Wall (DT’s Pat and Kevin Williams) will not be easy.
However everyone knows that Romo is a just a “bit” player in this marquee match-up as the NFL’s media circus has descended on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. To say the least the 2010 NFL Season has been a nightmare for No. 4.
The 41-year old passer/grandfather came out of another brief retirement looking recapture his 2009 form, but all hell has broken loose. Favre (74-131, 861 yards, 5 TDs, 7 INTs (same number as the entire ’09 season) and a 67.0 quarterback rating) has been battling an elbow injury that clearly has made him “less” than effective in his first 4 games and he is even contemplating sitting out a game or two, which would end his NFL record 289 consecutive games ironman streak.
He has been hit often (sacked every 14 pass plays) and his receiving corps has be decimated by injuries — leading receiver Sidney Rice has been out all season due to hip surgery and former Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin is battling migraine issues.
Madden’s favorite kid-like quarterback has looked beleaguered, old, and disinterested as his team has stumbled out the gate. And to make matters worse, the married Favre has been embroiled in an alleged “Sexting” controversy courtesy of his 2008 stay with the NY Jets. The website Deadspin.com has been driving the story that Favre made inappropriate advances toward former Jets’ reports Jenn Sterger including some salacious voicemails and photos.
The NFL’s favorite future Hall of Famer has tried to stay above the fray, but now the league is getting involved and you know it has to be affecting the 19-year veteran’s play – only was 14 of 34 and had a bad game-closing interception (returned for a TD) in a 29-20 loss to the NY Jets in Week 5. The good thing is that the Favre does have new buddy, receiver Randy Moss, more acclimated after a whirlwind couple of days last week (traded at mid-week and played against the NY Jets on MNF).
We see if the two can hook-up again after they connected on a 37-yard touchdown against the NY Jets. Also I want to see if the Vikings equally inconsistent offensive line can stay away from penalties and stop the Cowboys explosive pass rushing tandem DeMarcus Ware (2nd in the NFL with 6 sacks) and Anthony Spencer. The position on the Vikings’ O-line will be their center position which has not been the same since starter John Sullivan has a calf injury.
As is the case with Romo, the Vikings would be best served giving Favre some run support, especially with his on-going elbow problems. Outside of Moss and Harvin, the rest of the Vikings receiving corps are “just guys”. So Minnesota needs to establish running back Adrian Peterson (88 rushes for an NFC leading 480 yards, 5.5 ypc, and 3 TDs plus no fumbles).
The aggressive runner would be the perfect medicine to soften-up the Cowboys speedy 3-4 defense, so Favre doesn’t have to throw the ball over 30 times. The Cowboys allowed 158 yards rushing last week to the Tennessee Titans in a 34-27 loss. The Cowboys will surely pack the box in order to take away Peterson and make sure that Favre is healthy enough to beat them.
A key player on the Dallas defense should be run stuffer and emotional defensive leader, ILB Keith Brooking. The 13-year veteran is fighting mad after he registered one solo tackle in the Cowboys’ playoff loss and he also thinks that the Vikings ran the score up in the that game. The Vikings will also look to attack a Dallas secondary that, outside of veteran CB Terrence Newman, has looked vulnerable at times.
LV’s Pick: This is a tough game to pick, because these two teams’ backs are against the wall and they also are evenly matched — All-Time Regular Season record is tied at 10-10. This game is almost a pick’em as Minnesota is favored by only a point and a half. I expect the Cowboys to try to get some pressure on Favre, but they will need to watch Peterson first.
If Peterson gets going, expect play-action from Favre down the field to Moss and Harvin. Conversely the Cowboys will have to deal with extremely loud crowd noise and fix a shaky O-line to come away with the victory. As always watch for turnovers — both passers have more than 5 INTs so far this season — and big plays on special teams from both sides.
In making my pick, I believe that the Vikings have too many advantages going in their favor not to win this game (home field, noise, Peterson, a very good D-line going against the Cowboys bad O-line and much more). Also the Vikings have won 5 of the last 6 regular season games against the Cowboys. Expect some high scoring as Moss and Austin put on a show – Vikings 31, Cowboys 24