The Cowboys are about to enter their fifteenth season since they last won the Super Bowl or were even IN the Super Bowl. That '95 season where the Cowboys were able to cash in on having homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and the Super Bowl was being played at the old Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, where they hadn't lost in over FIVE years(beating up on the Cardinals who were in their division at the time) They were the number one seed that year and didn't even have to face conference rival San Francisco who had gotten beaten by the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys homefield advantage over Green Bay was tremendous. In that playoff game the Packers and a young Brett Favre played the Cowboys evenly through three quarters. But the Packers defense was on the field a LOT and in the 4th quarter the Cowboys and their monstrous offensive line wore them down and out. The Cowboys offense as a whole was able to impose their will on any and every defense and the Packers defense was no different. Favre, playing valiantly, was basically(with nowhere near the imposing running game of Dallas) forced to throw on every down and the pressure to score every time his team had the ball did him in. Plus the artificial turf was in Dallas' favor as well when the two would meet. Anyhow, the Cowboys in their new stadium, still possess a great homefield advantage(beating the Eagles a combined 58-14 in a span of 6 days) and would definitely have the advantage over the Favre led Vikings if they were to meet in Dallas. Favre STILL to this day has never won in Dallas(0-9 lifetime) and the Vikings, a tremendous home team in '09 were only 4-5 away from there including the choking against the Saints. I think that Minnesota beats New Orleans by two touchdowns had they gotten homefield advantage. By the same token I think that the way Dallas was playing heading into their game at Minnesota, had THEY hosted the Vikings, it would've been a different story than the 34-3 pasting that they wound up taking.
Now, the Cowboys know how vital homefield advantage is. They would be overwhelming favorites to go all the way with the much coveted number one seed. And this Cowboys team would be much better, more efficient than the one that had the top seed three years before. That 2007 team had an offense that was high octane but only really a so-so defense. When the offense had a subpar day, was off their game, they could lose. That's what almost happened that year at Buffalo. They barely held on to beat a mediocre Redskins at home that year despite T.O. catching FOUR touchdowns. They were also pushed around by an average Detroit Lions team ALL GAME LONG but were bailed out by Witten's 15 catches, including the winning touchdown with 18 seconds left and a Jason Hansen(normally reliable Lions PK) missed 40 yard kick. This version of the Cowboys has an offense that's more sound and disciplined, less selfish, and capable of lighting up the scoreboard still but a more methodical unit. A methodical unit that spells less turnovers, time consuming drives, and more glaring leadership and field general skills from Tony Romo. Reminds me of those Troy Aikman teams of 1992-96. The defense is TWICE as good as it was in 2007. That to me is what would spell the difference THIS time around if the Cowboys were to be in a similiar postion to what they were in in '07. And then the extras factors. Hunger: The Cowboys, just as they were feeling really confident after drilling the Saints on the road, shutting out the Redskins on the road, and then just DESTROYING the Philadelphia Eagles(who had been hot before running into the buzzsaw of Dallas) in consecutive weeks, might have gotten a little overconfident heading into Minnesota. I think that the at least half of the Saints faithful was hoping for the Cowboys to lose so that they wouldn't have to face the them again. Sure some probably wanted a Saints-Cowboys rematch from the month before. But my feeling is that the Vikings AT HOME posed as THE hurdle for the Cowboys to get to the Super Bowl. I really believe that they would've beaten the Saints again because of how their defense could get to Brees and push the Saints defense around as they did in their December meeting. But the Metrodome was a big advantage for the Vikings, who didn't lose there during the year, as I mentioned before. The Cowboys could almost taste it but wound up tasting something else, blood and spinal fluid in their mouths that is, as their season suddenly ended. Motivation: The Homefield advantage plus the Super Bowl being in Dallas. You think that they want to sit back and let someone else in the conference be in the Super Bowl. Especially if there's very little doubt as to who would WIN if the Cowboys were to make it to the Big Show. That alone should motivate them to no end. Favre will be back this year for probably his final go. But he will be 41 on October 10, and he's never won in Dallas. Plus the Vikings are just average on the road anyways. So that's what I see happening if the Cowboys don't miss out on getting the number one seed in the Conference because they ARE better than the 2007 team. No question. They would know what to do this time to avoid choking at home, especially to a divisional opponent that they know and know well. And what I didn't mention yet also, is that against the Vikings this past January, Dallas had opportunities early to score points before the defense ended up giving up a long touchdown bomb from Favre to Sidney Rice and then they never seemed to recover. Dallas moved the ball all day on offense but it seemed that when they would get 2/3 of the way to where they needed to get(the endzone because they were behind) something would stall the drive. If it wasn't a turnover, it was a holding penalty. And if it wasn't either of them, it was a sack. The yardage was fairly even. The defense however was out there a little too often from the offense bogging down or running into problems EVERY time they would get a drive going. But mainly the defense didn't recover from that early TD bomb after at first, they were containing Favre and company. Plus the missed scoring opportunities early. One thing that Dallas needs to work on so that they can maybe go from eleven wins to 13, is to respond better offensively when they maybe aren't on track yet early in a game. When they go out and push it across the goal line, get points, cash in on early opportunities, they are well on their way to winning. But there are games that were lost and those that weren't lost, they were fortunate to win, where the Cowboys offense either didn't get off to a fast start and started pressing or even worse, was when they had opportunities to score early and somehow failed and were REALLY pressing and getting frustrated. It's a long game and that's their potential downfall is when they start to press on offense and get impatient or frustrated when they either blow early scoring chances or just plain get off to an off target start. One final thing to add for the motivation thing, still speaking of that Vikings game: Up 27-3 in the final couple of minutes, the Vikings tacked on a final touchdown. I'm CERTAIN that had that been Tony Romo and the Cowboys in that situation, that they take a knee and get out of there with an impressive win as it already would've been. And I'm not sure whether you point that one at Favre or the coach. But I think that the Cowboys (especially veteran linebacker Keith Brooking) are still feeling that part of a bad taste in their mouths as well. What goes around comes around.