NFL Playoffs - Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys: Everything you need to know
Dallas is a division champion having won the NFC East while Seattle is a wild card team. But that's only because the Seahawks played in the NFC West with the Los Angels Rams (13-3). The reality is that Seattle is the slightly superior opponent despite their seeding status. The Seahawks, who have just few players remaining from the Super Bowl years, simply must successfully contend with being on the road in a playoff environment. If they do, this is their game for the taking.
A loss for Seattle would be viewed as a great disappointment after the Seahawks overcame the odds to get into the playoffs following so much roster turnover.
As for Dallas, it rebounded from a 3-5 start to reach the playoffs. Losing at home in the first round would place the heat right back onto coach Jason Garrett.
Betting line: Dallas minus 2, over/under 43.
Time: 5:15 p.m., Sunday.
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
Radio: Portland, KFXX, 1080 AM and Portland, KGON, 92.3 FM
Seattle's injury report is light. Not one player is listed as being out. Fullback Tre Madden (hamstring) is doubtful and left guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle) is listed as questionable and is pushing hard to play even though he did not practice this week.
“He’s got to run and stay in control of all of the movements he’s got to do and feel okay about it, and then we’ve got to sense his confidence that he feels good about it," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He’s telling us everything like he would. He’s got to show us.”
Practicing fully after either being limited were cornerback Shaquill Griffin, wide receiver Doug Baldwin and safety Tedric Thompson.
For Dallas: DL David Irving (ankle) is out. G Xavier Su'a-Filo (ankle) is doubtful. WR Tavon Austin (groin) and safety Darian Thompson (groin) are questionable.
When the Seahawks have the ball
Seattle averaged just 2.9 yards per carry during a 24-13 win over Dallas in September. But the team's commitment to the run (39 carries for 113 yards) set the tone for the rest of the season.
The Seahawks, who led the NFL in rushing, must maintain that same level of commitment on Saturday against the league's No. 5 ranked defense.
The fact that Indianapolis, who ranked 20th in rushing, was able to run the ball for 178 yards on the Cowboys during a 23-0 win, should make the Seahawks feel very good about their chances of running the football well.
Whether they do or don't, the Seahawks have an extreme edge at the most important position; quarterback. Russell Wilson was a steady 16 of 26 for 192 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting played without wide receiver Doug Baldwin.
When the Cowboys have the ball
Dallas QB Dak Prescott is no Russell Wilson, but the Cowboys' leader has returned to his rookie form in 2016 since the acquisition of WR Amari Cooper. He has six touchdown receptions in nine games while nobody else on the team has more than three. And that's the problem for Dallas.
WR Cole Beasley is a nice possession receiver, but his 10.3 yards per reception won't scare Seattle, which held Prescott to 168 yards passing with two interceptions and one touchdown in the first meeting. The Seahawks will likely look to shutdown Cooper and dare anyone else in the passing game to beat them. Cooper has been great, but defenses held him to under 60 yards receiving five times in his nine games with Dallas and just 83 over the team's final three games.
Where Dallas does have the advantage is with RB Ezekiel Elliott, who led the NFL in rushing. He could be the difference maker if Seattle allows him to have a huge game. He had 127 in the loss at Seattle and that number would work just fine for the Seahawks...as long as Cooper is held in check.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll: “It’s been a really fun week getting ready. It’s a great time of year for playing football. For the guys that have been there, they really regard it highly. The new guys are trying to figure it out, trying to draw from the guys that have been around, but man, it’s fun. It’s fun to coach, it’s fun to work, it’s fun to follow your teams and all that so we feel very fortunate that we’re in this spot."
Dallas coach Jason Garrett on the difference between these two teams since their Week 3 meeting: “I just think we’ve probably grown over the course of the season. We have a lot of young guys on our team who are playing significant roles and I think as much as anything else, they just needed to play. We were inconsistent early on in the year from week to week within games, all of that and I think over time, in the early part of the season, we learned from a number of these different experiences.”
This game could go either way. But Seattle has the clear edge at head coach and quarterback. That reality should be enough to get the Seahawks through this game and on to the divisional round at either New Orleans (13-3) or the Los Angeles Rams (13-3).
Only few players remain on Seattle from the Super Bowl years, so it's possible that a few newbies to these types of situations become in awe of the moment. But on the other side, Dallas last won a playoff game in 2014.
Neither team is explosive enough to likely produce a blowout, so this game should go down to the wire where that edge at head coach and quarterback will matter most.
Look for this game to come down to Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott each with a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. In that scenario, my money is on Wilson.
Final score: Seattle 23, Dallas 17