NFL Divisional Playoff Preview: Sunday

Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings
1:00 pm ET

Of any player that needed the bye week, you have to believe 40-year-old Brett Favre did the most. He might not say so, because in many ways, the man who had an incredible “comeback” season (4202 yards, 33 TDs, 7 picks) thinks he’s still 18. Dallas, meanwhile, has been on quite a roll ever since they upset the Saints in New Orleans in Week 15. They are playing lights out on both sides of the ball, and Tony Romo (whose boyhood hero growing up in Wisconsin was Favre) along with Jason Witten and Miles Austin are going to give the Vikings’ sixth ranked D all they can handle. On defense, the Cowboys rank ninth overall, and even though they are 20th against the pass, that’s skewed a bit because they terrorized Donovan McNabb for two weeks straight, and virtually shut down Drew Brees’ Saints for three quarters in that upset game. The Vikings will likely turn to all-world RB Adrian Peterson a bit more than usual, to try and soften Dallas’ front seven for Favre to take shots down the field with big receiver Sidney Rice and speedy rookie Percy Harvin. And pass rushing specialist Jared Allen will have fun chasing Romo all day. This one has all the makings of a classic, and it’s even more intriguing because these teams have not played each other since 2007. Upset? Don’t be surprised. THE PICK: COWBOYS 27, VIKINGS 20

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers
4:40 pm ET

Imagine a tug of war where the other team lets go of the rope halfway through the contest. That’s basically what happened to the Jets when the Colts pulled their starters in Week 16, and a 15-10 Colts’ lead turned into a 29-15 Jets’ upset. Since then, the Jets routed the Bengals 37-0, when Cincinnati also basically rested their players most of the game. But rookie head coach Rex Ryan doesn’t think his team had any advantage or luck or whatever, and he proved it last week when his Jets went into Cincinnati and upset the Bengals at full strength, and on the road, 24-14. That #1 defense of the Jets is no mirage, so Philip Rivers and that fifth ranked passing offense will really have their hands full. They do have LaDainian Tomlinson, but based on the fact the Chargers are ranked 31st in rushing offense, either LT or his supporting cast is not the same. So the Jets will likely try to stop Rivers, along with big receivers Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates first, but they can’t make the mistake of paying no attention to Tomlinson or the speedy change-up back, Darren Sproles. The Jets will try and use their top ranked run game to speed up the game, and with the Chargers ranked 20th against the run, they just might be able to do that a bit. What’s likely here is that the team which makes the most mistakes will lose. And the Jets are due for one of those games. THE PICK: CHARGERS 23, JETS 13

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