Be careful what you wish for.
I can’t remember whether it was Vince Lombardi, Ben Franklin or my grandmother that said that, but the truth behind the old adage remains.
As they sit, therefore, on this NFL wild-card weekend – presumably at home, not Cabo – the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to forgo any wishes about their next opponent.
The only thing they know for certain is that it won’t be the Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys will host the lowest remaining NFC seed January 15, and that can’t be the Seahawks.
Clearly, a return visit by the struggling Detroit Lions might be a nice belated Christmas gift for the 13-3 Cowboys. Coach Jason Garrett’s team outclassed the Lions 42-21 just two weeks ago.
Detroit is on a three-game freefall. The Lions haven’t won since quarterback Matthew Stafford dislocated a finger on his passing hand against the Bears four weeks ago.
Detroit’s three defeats, however, were to the Giants, Cowboys and Packers, all playoff teams. The first two were on the road.
Still, it’s hard to imagine the Lions reversing their slide in Seattle, where so many opponents’ playoff dreams in recent seasons have gone to die. The Seahawks haven’t lost a home playoff game since the 2003 season – nine home victories in a row.
They won’t lose this one.
Which leaves the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers likely playing for the right to face the Cowboys in Arlington.
Again, be careful what you wish for.
Giants fans appear to be salivating over the prospect of beating the Cowboys a third time. That’s the vox publica, at any rate, making the rounds on New York talk radio.
Sample from Thursday: “The Cowboys are scared of us.”
I doubt that. The Giants are going to have their hands full Sunday just staying in the game against the league’s hottest team.
Defense usually rules the NFL postseason. I get that. But sooner or later, a team has to score points, and the Giants have not been proficient at that.
New York ranks 25th (of 32) in the league in total offense and second-to-last when attempting to run the football. In his last five games, starting running back Rashad Jennings has averaged 3.0 yards per carry and he appears to have lost his favored status to Paul Perkins, who had 102 yards last week against the Redskins.
Perkins, a fifth-round draft pick last year from UCLA, is former Cowboys great Don Perkins’ nephew.
I don’t think that will be enough, though, against Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field. As he promised Nov. 23, amidst a four-game losing streak that dropped the Packers to 4-6, Rodgers has Green Bay threatening to “run the table.”
The Packers’ six consecutive wins includes road games at Philadelphia and at division rivals Chicago and Detroit and home victories over the Texans, Seahawks and Vikings. Those three home wins, you might note, came against the NFL’s Nos. 1, 5 and 3 defenses.
Green Bay also beat the Giants early in the season, rolling up 406 yards against the New York defense during a stretch when the Packers were alleged to be struggling.
Defense and history, therefore, are the primary arguments on the New Yorkers’ side. The Giants have passed this wild-card way before, notably in the 2007 season when they went all the way to the Super Bowl title without having a home playoff game.
That was the January when a few notable Cowboys, 13-3 and owning a first-week playoff bye, took off for Cabo San Lucas to wind down before the playoff grind. The Giants ended that grind in brisk fashion, upsetting the Cowboys 21-17 as Tony Romo threw a fourth-down interception in the final seconds.
That 2007 Cowboys team had previously beaten the Giants twice.
Be careful what you wish for.