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Old 10-16-10, 07:42 AM
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Cowboys, Vikings already in playoff mode

Cowboys, Vikings already in playoff mode
By Michael Silver, Yahoo! Sports Oct 15, 11:08 am EDT

When the 2010 NFL schedule came out in April, Sunday’s matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings looked like a scintillating showdown in the making.

The Week 6 rematch of last January’s divisional-round playoff clash, featuring two franchises long on star power and short on patience, figured to be a battle between high-riding title contenders.

It turns out neither team lived up to its share of the bargain. And that’s what makes Sunday’s game at the Metrodome even more compelling.

The Cowboys and Vikings are 1-3 teams which appear perilously close to outright crisis mode, and the loser of this game will be staring squarely into the abyss. While it’s true that five 1-4 teams since 1990 have rebounded to win their respective divisions, it’s also entirely plausible that Dallas (vs. the New York Giants) or Minnesota (at the Green Bay Packers) could lose the following week to drop to 1-5.

In other words, the loser is in deep cow manure, and that’s what makes ‘Boys vs. Vikes a gift to NFL fans – a virtual playoff game in October. Throw in the multitude of spicy storylines accompanying this win-or-go-into-the-tank duel in the dome, and you’ve got yourself some gripping television.

• The owners, Jerry Jones and Zygi Wilf, while similarly aggressive in a relentless pursuit of a spot in February’s Super Bowl (which will take place in Jones’ resplendent new stadium), do not like each other at all. I explored this enmity in my fifth annual NFL owner rankings last month; see Wilf’s writeup under No. 13.

• The quarterbacks, Tony Romo and Brett Favre, are polarizing figures with Wisconsin ties (Romo grew up watching Favre, a Packers legend) and similarly risk-prone styles.

• Newly reacquired Vikings wideout Randy Moss still hasn’t gotten over the Cowboys’ draft snub 12 years ago and seems to take it out on the ‘Boys every time he faces them.

• Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking bristled after January’s playoff defeat, accusing the Vikings of running up the score (he called it “classless”), prompting Minnesota defensive tackle Pat Williams(notes) to say that Brooking had cried “like a little baby.”

I could go on and on, but I really don’t need to hype this game any more than I already have. While October games between strong, functional teams are fun to watch, this matchup is far more interesting. When the whiff of desperation is already in the air, it brings an even greater sense of urgency to the proceedings.

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