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Time To Find Out

mind, the offense starting to not only score, but set the tone early, and the special teams locking up speedy return specialists, the Cowboys can put it on someone. They're showing they can do it any place and any time.

So, blowouts? Unlikely, but always possible.

But I think it's safer to assume a close one, for either team. You don't get this far in the playoffs without having a little fight in you. This game is so big that you've got players who just can't help themselves with these guarantees. I don't think it's pure trash talk as much as it's just overconfidence from both sides.

Both squads want and need this game so bad, that it'll probably go down to the very end. And we know what that means, the kickers are usually involved somehow.

That's the one area the Cowboys don't really have the advantage. Ryan Longwell is a veteran, experienced kicker who has hit his share of big kicks. Shaun Suisham hasn't really been there and if it wasn't for a 48-yard field goal he drilled last week, how much confidence would you have in him this week? Better yet, would Wade Phillips, the coaching staff or even Suisham have a ton of confidence in him making a key field goal this weekend?

You have to wonder what will happen in that situation. Personally, I don't think the Cowboys are out of the woods yet on the kicker. That position has tried to bite this team all year long and wouldn't you know it, chomps down on the Cowboys' backside in the biggest game of the year.

Not trying to throw out bad vibes, but I think that's the one position on the team that hasn't played with consistency despite this four-game winning streak. And if this game will indeed come down to the very end, you can only cross your fingers and hope the Cowboys make enough plays - and kicks - to get the job done.

All in all, it's just time to play. You've probably already tossed and turned at night trying to figure out just how the Cowboys can survive the Vikings and move on. While we all know Minnesota hasn't lost at home this year, I'm sure many of you have pulled up the Vikings' schedule and tried to tell yourself they haven't played anyone very good. Or that the 49ers game when Favre just out-Favred them in the final seconds, doesn't really count as a win.

But the facts are the facts. The Vikings are 8-0 in the Metrodome this year. And I'm sure many of their fans have no doubt they'll get to 9-0. And why wouldn't they? They're the No. 2 seed in the NFC. They've been that team all year long and now the Vikings are healthy, rested and ready for the Cowboys.

But in two weeks, you can heal bumps and bruises. You can study a lot of film and you can probably work on some new wrinkles or at least dig deeper in the playbook. But at this stage in the game, what you've got talent-wise is what you've got.

And at the end of this day, if the Cowboys are simply better, it will show. Personally, I've wrestled with this pick all week long because I can just see all of the scenarios taking place. And for some reason, I have a hard time thinking this Cowboys team will be playing for the NFC Championship Game next Sunday. It just seems too farfetched for this team.

However . . . stepping away from the big picture and focusing only on this upcoming game in Minnesota, I think the Cowboys are better. They're playing better, they're healthy and they're hungry. This football team has found a way to get it done in the last month and Sunday doesn't change.

So while it's hard to fathom this team being just one win away from the Super Bowl, it's even harder to think they'll play four quarters against the Vikings and not be on top when it's all said and done.

The Cowboys might be young, they might be inexperienced and they may not truly understand what it takes to win this game. But at the end of the day - and game - the Cowboys are just better than the Vikings.

But will that be enough to get it done Sunday? If anything else, at least it's finally time to find out.

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