Talk about groundhog week.
Last week, all the talk was about how the Ravens’ game against Pittsburgh was the biggest regular-season game in franchise history.
Guess what, fans? Now Saturday night’s game against the Cowboys in Texas Stadium is the biggest regular-season game in franchise history.
The circumstances are incredibly similar. Just as the Steelers and Ravens found themselves in a struggle for AFC North supremacy last Sunday, Baltimore and Dallas are fighting for their playoff lives in a few days.
With just two games remaining, neither team can afford a slip.
In Las Vegas, the Cowboys are a consensus 4 ½-point favorite. This also happens to be the last game in Texas Stadium before Jerry Jones moves the ‘Pokes into that gazillion dollar space station he’s building out there. Cowboy legends will be crawling all over the place for farewell ceremonies but for all the talk about history’s motivation, this 2008 Dallas team needs no more motivation than its own legacy of playoff futility. You know, the best team ever to never win a playoff game.
This is a weird bunch, these Cowboys. They are bent into a pretzel by internal disharmony and sometimes their play reflects that. But last weekend, when they had every excuse to implode, they put together a great performance against the Giants in Texas Stadium. The Cowboys have been playing well at home –- they’re 6-1 so far. The Ravens have been a decent road team, 4-3.
As far as matchups are concerned, Dallas Morning News sports writer Rick Gosselin points out that the Cowboys have had more difficulties with big backs (Brandon Jacobs, Steven Jackson) than speed backs, which brings Le’Ron McClain into the discussion as a key factor. But against Pittsburgh, the absence of Ray Rice seemed to remove a dimension that gives the Ravens’ offense some big-play threat. A couple of plays from Rice have gone a long way in a few games this season.
On the other side, the Ravens have their hands full accounting for all those Cowboys’ receivers. Terrell Owens, Roy Williams, Jason Witten, even Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin. Obviously, that means the Ravens have to choke off the Cowboys passing game where it originates, in the pocket.
Sure, history will be the theme of Saturday’s game as Dallas trots out the Roger Staubachs and the Bob Lillys –- Cowboys who ended their careers long before the Ravens even arrived in Baltimore. But athletes live in the now. These Cowboys who close out Texas Stadium will be more concerned about surviving into the playoffs. And for these Ravens, that building with the hole in the roof in Irving is just another place where they can make a little history of their own.