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Winner Goes to New Orleans, Loser Heads Home



Date: 17 January 2010
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Time: 12:00 P.M. CST Stadium: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Know Thy Enemy: Blogging the Boys
Gonzo's Prediction: Vikings 27, Cowboys 24
Final Score: Vikings 34, Cowboys 3

Well, we know what the winner of this game has in store for them, don't we? After the 45-14 beatdown that the Saints administered to the Arizona Cardinals last night, both of these teams know that a victory this afternoon will have them travelling to the Big Easy next weekend to take on the Saints at 5:40 PM Central time. There has been a lot of talk going into this one, with much of it centering around how the Vikings aren't going to be able to handle the Cowboys and that they could just as well not even show up today because, to borrow a phrase from a former Viking head coach, the Cowboys asses have already been crowned. Obviously, I don't see things that way.

So, what do the Vikings need to do in order to move on to the NFC Championship Game?

1) Keep Brett Favre upright - Much has been made this week of the match-up of Dallas linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer taking on Minnesota tackles Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt, and with good reason. In their recent winning streak, the Cowboys have gotten very good pressure in passing situations, and they've had a lot of leads as well, which has enabled their pass rushing specialists to pin their ears back and unleash on the rush on opposing quarterbacks. With their 3-4 alignment, the Cowboys rarely rush more than four, although Wade Phillips might try to get a little more creative with things in order to attempt to throw off Favre. . .but Favre's seen darn near everything there is to see, and has played well against the majority of the 3-4 defenses the Vikings have seen this year. If the Vikings can give Favre time to scan the field and find targets, he's going to find them.

Hey. . .you know another way to keep the pass rush off of our quarterback?

2) Establish Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor early - In the Cowboys last four games, they haven't had to worry much about the run. They got an early lead on the Saints, which forced them to abandon the run, the Redskins have no running game to speak of, and the Eagles got behind early as well. They also haven't faced a running back combination like Peterson and Taylor all season, and those two guys can play a huge role in slowing down the Dallas pass rush if the Vikings can get them going early. If the running game can establish a rhythm, it will give the Vikings the ability to go to the play-action game that Favre thrives off of, and will keep Ware, Spencer, and DT Jay Ratliff honest.

Adrian Peterson is due for a big game. . .and I can't shake the feeling that this might be it. He had 59 fewer carries this year than he had in 2008, and had an extra week to get himself right physically, as have all the Vikings. That could play a big role in how effective he is this afternoon.

3) Take advantage of the home field advantage - The Cowboys have been the victims of sloppy play at times, and a raucous crowd at the Metrodome can make a huge difference in the outcome of today's match-up. Dallas offensive tackle Flozell Adams, when he hasn't been busy leg-whipping opposing players or cheap shotting them into oblivion, has had a lot of false start penalties this year, and will probably have a few more with Jared Allen being lined up across from him. If the Vikings' defense, and in particular their front four, can take advantage of the trouble Dallas should have calling audibles and getting the snap count correct, it can potentially be a huge advantage for them in getting after Tony Romo and stifling a suddenly hot Dallas rushing attack.

It's two hours before game time, folks, and the merciful conclusion to what has been one of the longest weeks ever. We know what's at stake. The players know what's at stake. The coaches know what's at stake. We want to go to New Orleans next weekend, and we won't get anywhere near Louisiana without a victory this afternoon. The Vikings have a chance today to be the ONLY team in 2009 to have an unblemished record at home (the Patriots went through the regular season undefeated at home, but got thumped by Baltimore in the Wild Card round), and I honestly think they're going to get it done.

Let's do this already.