(once) - rarely is everything perfect heading into the playoffs.
Now this year you might think so, might even be considering this divisional-round game against the NFC East's second-place team a cakewalk. Not only have the Cowboys defeated the Giants twice this year, but the Giants finished the season losing two of their last three and after a 6-2 start tumbled to 4-4 the second half.
And the other two remaining NFC teams didn't exactly streak to the finish, either. While Seattle eliminated Washington, the Seahawks lost two of their final three regular-season games, and now must go to Green Bay, which went just 3-2 down the stretch - one of those losses to the Cowboys.
But even though the Giants became two of the nine victims beaten by the Cowboys during the regular season by at least 10 points, those victories were not as easy as the final scores might indicate.
The Cowboys needed that 51-yard slant pass to Sam Hurd with 3:03 remaining to break open a 38-35 game for the Cowboys. And at Giants Stadium, remember the Cowboys were only up 24-20 early in the fourth quarter before Tony Romo nailed Terrell Owens with a 50-yard touchdown pass.
Plus, don't fool yourself. They also needed Owens in those two games, just as his presence at 3:30 p.m. (CST) Sunday will be imperative in this first playoff game at Texas Stadium since 1998. Owens in those two games caught nine passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns.
We'll get another update on the high left ankle sprain suffered against Carolina come Monday. Phillips last was hopeful Owens would be ready to practice either Wednesday or Thursday. Me, I'm guessing they just need him ready by 2:30 p.m. Sunday when the inactives must be turned in.
The last word on Owens' injury came from owner Jerry Jones on Friday, saying on his weekly radio show on 1310 The Ticket he only had only "minimal swelling" left and that "I like where he is. Our trainers are really satisfied with the progress he's making."
When asked if he thought Owens would have a chance to be totally healthy for the playoff game, Jones turned cautious, saying, "I don't know, and I don't know that the doctors and trainers know."
Just know that scoring points against the Giants will be important. Why, they totaled 55 against the Cowboys in the two losses. That averages out to 27.5 a game. Just Sunday the Giants threw down 24 points on the Bucs, the NFL's No. 2 defense and No. 1 pass defense. And recall they scored at least 24 points in seven of their 16 regular-season games, including the 35 they threw down against the Patriots in the season finale.
Chances are the Cowboys will have to do a tad better than the 10.7 points they averaged over the final three games of the season.
Otherwise, all these valued and now needed firsts will evaporate into a sixth . . . .
As in sixth consecutive playoff loss.