Competition: NFL Wild Card Round Date: Sunday 6th January Venue: AT&T Stadium Kick-Off: 01:15 GMT
After a year-long absence from the playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks collide in the early hours of Sunday morning in what will be a stern battle where both sides are looking to extend their campaign.
The Cowboys, after a narrow defeat against the Green Bay Packers in 2016, host a Seahawks side who were eliminated by the Atlanta Falcons in the same year and both have plenty to prove after a turbulent campaign where they finished 10-6.
After stagnating campaigns in 2017, both entered the 2018 season with plenty to do and not many expected much from either side. The Cowboys were still perceived to have at least another season worth of rebuilding before returning to their best, while the Seahawks’ restructure had only just begun.
In the end, both teams have shown their capability and can be considered underdogs heading into the post-season. Ahead of this weekend’s showdown, we’ve taken a look into the game below to identify the key talking points ahead of the clash.
— NFL (@NFL) December 31, 2018
Cowboys look to Elliott
After missing a large chunk of 2017 with a six-game suspension, Ezekiel Elliott has been the man of the hour for the Cowboys this season and leads the NFL in rushing yards for the entire campaign – although he will face a stern test this weekend.
The Seahawks’ defence in the Pete Carroll era has been rather formidable and, despite a lot of big-name departures prior to the season, the new kids on the block in the Pacific North West have proven their capability. However, there is still an issue with conceding decisive penalties – as shown by the defeat to the 49ers three weeks ago.
Seahawks running game
While Dallas look heavily on Elliott to lead their running game, the Seahawks have taken a different direction since the dominating days of Marshawn Lynch and instead have a number of capable options that give them the opportunity to shake things up.
Chris Carson, fifth in the NFL’s rushing yards this season with 1,151, is certainly the first choice but Mike Davis also boasts over 500 yards and Rashaad Penny has over 400. On top of this, Russell Wilson remains just as capable with his feet and has accumulated over 350 rushing yards this season.
Only one NFL quarterback played every snap for his team this season: Russell Wilson. He's never missed a single game or start in his seven pro seasons.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 1, 2019
Wilson against the pass rush
Russell Wilson enters the playoffs once again as the Seahawks’ shining light and, after guiding Seattle to their first Superbowl triumph in 2014 and then falling at the final hurdle the following year, the 30-year-old has the hopes of the entire franchise resting upon him.
The difficulty with defending against Wilson is that he is always a threat and somehow remains calm under pressure when the pocket collapses. If the Cowboys are to keep him quiet, they will need to hit him hard – but that is easier said than done against a quarterback who has led Seattle into the playoffs in six of his seven seasons, quite an improvement for a side that had ventured into the post-season just once in the four years before he was drafted.
Cowboys look for revenge
The two teams have met once before in the playoffs, also in the Wild Card round, in what was a sensational encounter in 2007. Back then, a 37-yard touchdown pass thrown by Matt Hasselbeck to Jerramy Stevens proved to be decisive – with the teams exchanging the lead on four occasions.
After winning the next three up until 2011, the Cowboys have defeated the Seahawks just once in the past five meetings, back in 2014, with two of those losses coming on their own turf. Back in September, the Seahawks dominated and only allowed Dallas to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter – by which stage the game was done and dusted.