If the Dallas Cowboys or Seattle Seahawks are going to take flight in the NFL playoffs, they’re going to do it on the ground.
Both franchises, who meet in Dallas on Saturday night, rely on their running games to get the job done.
The Seahawks led the league in rushing this season, and the Cowboys are led by running back Ezekiel Elliott, who won his second rushing championship in three seasons.
Both teams have stifling defenses, too, rounding out the time-tested recipe for solid postseason football: a defense and running game.
“We’re feeling great,” said Elliott, who will be running behind the Cowboys’ original starting offensive line this season. “I believe we have the best defense in football, and a pretty good offense, a lot of weapons.”
These Cowboys look a little different from the team that lost at Seattle 24-13 in September.
That’s because they now have receiver Amari Cooper, acquired from Oakland, who gave the Dallas passing game a big boost. He finished the season with 53 catches for 725 yards with six touchdowns in nine games.
But Cooper has cooled of late. He had only 13 catches for 83 yards in the last three games, including a fumble in the season finale against the New York Giants. Still, he’s convinced he’ll make an impact Saturday.
“They brought me in here to make plays,” he told reporters. “I believe I can do that. … Very excited to get things rolling.”
The Seahawks have won six wild-card games in a row, a streak that began during the 2006 season when Dallas quarterback Tony Romo botched the hold on a potential go-ahead field goal in Seattle. The Seahawks held on for a 21-20 victory. A more ominous trend for Seattle during that 12-year span? Every time the Seahawks have won a wild-card game, they’ve lost in the divisional round.
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
CATEGORY: SEATTLE | DALLAS
Points scored: 6.8 (T6) | 21.2 (22)
Points allowed: 21.7 (11) | 20.2 (6)
Pass offense: 193.3 (27) | 222.1 (23)
Rush offense: 160.0 (1) | 122.7 (10)
Pass defense: 240.1 (17) | 234.7 (13)
Rush defense: 113.2 (13) | 94.6 (5)
Sacks: 43 (T11) | 39 (T16)
Penalty yards: 59.9 (21) | 55.3 (11)
Turnovers: +15 (1) | +3 (12)
Sam Farmer’s pick
Both teams can play keep-away with their running games and put the clamps on with their defenses. The big difference is at quarterback, where the seasoned Russell Wilson tops Dak Prescott, who has yet to win a postseason game.