Sunday’s Divisional playoff game between Dallas and the New York Giants is a very important event as far as the Dallas Cowboys are concerned.

For one, it has been 10 years since the Cowboys have even won a playoff game. And secondly, the next playoff victory for new head coach Wade Phillips will be his FIRST postseason win as a head coach. And third, the millions of Cowboy fans have had 10 agonizing years without a playoff win.

With the Cowboys being the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the playoff format set by the NFL states that the top-seeded team in the divisional playoffs meets the lowest-seeded team in the second round of the playoffs.

That happens to be the Cowboys’ nemesis, the New York Giants, who Dallas has already defeated quite handily 45-35 on opening day on Sept. 9 in Irving and again 31-20 Nov. 11 in New York.

Beating the same team three times in a single season is quite a chore, especially since the Giants appeared to have really hit their stride in the last two weeks, hanging tough with undefeated New England Dec. 29 before finally falling 38-35 and then upsetting Tampa Bay 24-14 Sunday in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.

Ironically, the Buccaneers were among the NFL leaders with a plus-15 turnover ratio compared to the Giants’ minus-9. But it was three Tampa Bay turnovers that helped New York grab the lead and coast to the victory.

Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning played a flawless game without a turnover, while New York’s defense bottled up Bucs’ quarterback Jeff Garcia, who had eliminated the Giants from the playoffs twice before with different teams.

Garcia led Philadelphia past the Giants 23-20 last season and also quarterbacked San Francisco over New York 39-38 in 2003 so when the Giants upset three-point-favored Tampa Bay Sunday it was sweet revenge.

And revenge will be on the Giants’ mind Sunday when they invade Dallas, where they suffered their ONLY road loss of the season and then went on to win eight straight games they played away from the Big Apple.

The Cowboys lost two of their last three games, displaying a puny offense both at home against Philadelphia (10-6) and finishing at Washington 27-6.

Several Cowboy starters missed the finale against the Redskins, including star wide receiver Terrell Owens, but New York has much more momentum going into Sunday’s winner-moves-on, loser-goes-home donnybrook.

Owens received a painful high-ankle sprain in the Washington game but was the only injured Cowboy to miss practice last week. He was able to jog after taking off the boot that protected his sprained ankle.

Beating a team twice during the regular season and then meeting them again in the playoffs has been difficult. It has only happened once to the Cowboys—against the Arizona Cardinals in 1998—which resulted in a Dallas playoff loss at Texas Stadium. The Cowboys have a chance to redeem themselves Sunday against the Giants.
The other NFC playoff game finds Seattle (11-6) at Green Bay (13-3) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The three-point favored Seahawks blew a 13-0 lead over the Washington Redskins Saturday, but then ran back two interceptions for touchdowns and eliminated the Redskins 35-14.

The wild card action in the AFC was much more exciting as the Jacksonville Jaguars blew an 18-point lead at Pittsburgh Saturday and then needed a gutsy 32-yard run by quarterback David Garrard on a fourth-and-two and a 25-yard field goal by Josh Scobee to eke out a 31-29 victory over the Steelers.

The 12-5 Jags’ reward for becoming the only team in NFL history to beat the Steelers twice in the same season at Pittsburgh is a trip to New England to take on the undefeated Patriots (16-0) Saturday at 7 p.m.

In Sunday’s AFC game the San Diego Chargers (12-5) turned a 6-0 halftime deficit into a 17-6 victory over the scrappy Tennessee Titans and will travel to Indianapolis to battle the Colts (13-3) in a game that kicks off at noon Sunday. It was the Chargers’ first postseason victory in 13 years.

All of the home teams that had byes last weekend are heavy favorites in this weekend’s Divisional Playoffs. Green Bay is picked by an 81/2-point margin over Seattle and the Cowboys are a 71/2-point choice over the New York Giants in the NFC.

Undefeated New England is a whopping 111/2-point favorite over a good Jacksonville team in the AFC while Indianapolis is favored by 81/2 points over San Diego.

As far as this Korner is concerned, if any upsets occur this weekend it probably will happen in the NFC to either our Dallas Cowboys or Green Bay. We look for New England to handle Jacksonville 28-24, Indianapolis to overwhelm San Diego 20-13, Dallas to outlast New York 31-28 and Seattle to upset Green Bay 23-21.

KWICKIES…It was no surprise that New England quarterback Tom Brady was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for 2007. Brady drew 49 of the 50 votes from a nationwide panel of media members, after leading the Patriots to an unprecedented 16-0 regular-season record. It was the first undefeated regular season since the Miami Dolphins went 14-0 in 1972.

Orange native John Patterson was seen signing autographs at Beaumont’s Parkdale Mall Saturday. Big John’s 2007 season as the No. 1 hurler on the Washington National’s pitching staff was cut short by injuries in the early summer. He underwent arm surgery in September and hopes to be ready to continue as the Nationals’ franchise strikeout leader this spring.

College football players have until Jan. 15 to declare for April’s NFL draft. Port Arthur native and Texas Longhorn junior star running back Jamaal Charles has opted for the NFL draft along with Central Florida running back Kevin Smith, who challenged Barry Sanders’ NCAA record of 2,628 yards in a season, but finished 61 yards short.
The Green Bay Packers went from 8-8 in 2006 to 13-3 this season and tied the franchise record for victories with the 1962, 1996 and 1997 teams. The Packs’ .813 winning percentage tied for ninth best in the franchise’s 87-year history.

JUST BETWEEN US…Roger Clemens appeared to this Korner as if he were innocent of the steroid use allegations by his trainer Brian McNamee both on Sunday night’s “60 Minutes” show and his Monday afternoon press conference at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. He seemed adamant but not angry and fielded CBS interviewer Mike Wallace’s questions without any hesitation or stumbling. The bottom line is that someone is lying, and this Korner’s finger is pointing at McNamee.