The monkey that has been on the back of the Dallas Cowboys since 1996 has disappeared!!! The 14-year playoff jinx that has demonized the Pokes was exorcised Saturday night when The Boys gave the Philadelphia Eagles their second lesson within a week of Pro Football 101.

After blanking the Eagles 24-0 in the regular season finale a week ago, the Cowboys put another defensive whipping on Philadelphia 34-14 Saturday night to advance in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs.
The victory not only snapped the Cowboys’ longest playoff dry spell in franchise history, (their last playoff victory occurred Dec. 28, 1996), but it also presented Wade Phillips with his FIRST playoff win in five tries with three teams as a head coach. 

And it also was the only time Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid lost the first game of the playoffs after winning his first seven. The loss closed out the season for the Eagles at 10-6 with half of those losses coming at the hands of our Cowboys this season.

The Cowboys will play the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at noon in the Metrodome. The two teams have met seven times in the past. Strangely enough all of the remaining NFC playoff games will be played indoors, so wintry weather won’t be an excuse for any of the future losers.

The other NFC Wild Card playoff game played Sunday afternoon appeared to be a “defenseless” battle between Green Bay and the hosting defending NFC champion Arizona Cardinals. The game looked more like a track meet with both teams racing up and down the field and into each other’s end zone with regularity.

But when the final gun sounded, the score was tied at 45-45, forcing a sudden-death overtime period. The extra period was only a couple of plays old when Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers fumbled and the ball was scooped up by Arizona’s Karlos Dansby, who scored the 17-yard touchdown that gave Arizona the 51-45 win plus a berth in the quarterfinal round and sent the Packers back to cold Wisconsin.

In fact Arizona is the ONLY team so far that “rested” its regulars the final week or two and is still in the playoffs. Those other teams who lost with the scrubs playing—like Cincinnati, New England and even Philadelphia—now have eight months for their regulars to “rest.” We’ll see next week how Indianapolis, New Orleans and Minnesota play this weekend “well-rested.”

Sunday’s AFC game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Patriots in New England started off with a surprising 83-yard touchdown gallop by Ravens’ tailback Ray Rice as Baltimore scored fast and often. By the end of the first quarter the Ravens led 24-0 and never looked back, winning easily 33-14.

The loss was the first for the Patriots in Gillette Stadium this year and the first playoff loss there for the Pats, who hadn’t lost a playoff game at home since Dec. 31, 1978 by the Bum Phillips-coached Houston Oilers in the old Foxborough Stadium. 

The New York Jets probably took the place of the Houston Texans in the AFC Wild Card Playoffs after being the beneficiary of two “gimme” games they won over the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals, both of whom elected to “rest” many their regular players.

Nobody can blame the Jets for playing well enough to beat these two teams that elected to run up the white flag of surrender rather than finish the regular season competitively, but the Jets certainly appreciated the charity and made the most of the situation at hand.
They traveled to Cincinnati and played in temperatures near zero and beat the Bengals in every phase of the game, 24-14. The Jets’ rookie head coach Rex Ryan put everything into perspective when he said, “It doesn’t matter how you got to the playoffs. We’re in and the rest of the teams are going to have a hard time getting us out.”
We were able to take a look at the Las Vegas odds of each playoff team to win both the Conference title and Super Bowl that had to be wagered before the kickoff of Saturday’s first wild card playoff game.

Based on a $100 bet, our Cowboys will pay $575 to win the NFC and $1100 to win the Super Bowl. Other teams still alive include the Saints, who will pay $100 on a $105 bet, the Vikings $205 on a hundred and Arizona $575 on $100. The Packers and Eagles would have paid $925 and $1250, respectively, on a $100 wager.

Indianapolis is the big favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl and the Colts would pay $100 on a $165 bet, with the Chargers paying $200 for a $100 bet, followed by Baltimore at $1300 and the NY Jets at $1800 for a $100 bet.

The payoffs to win the Super Bowl based on a $100 bet include Indianapolis $140, New Orleans $230, San Diego $395, Minnesota $425, Dallas $1100, Arizona $2000 Baltimore $2700 and the NY Jets at $3300. 

The Vegas Boys will publish new odds on the NFC, AFC and Super Bowl projected winners to be wagered before kickoff of this week’s playoff games.

The playoff lineup for this weekend finds Arizona at New Orleans Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (FOX) and Baltimore at Indianapolis in the 7 p.m. (CBS) game. Our Cowboys play at Minnesota at noon Sunday (FOX) followed by the Jets at San Diego in the 3:30 p.m. (CBS) contest.

If Dallas can stay on its roll and beat the Vikings and Arizona outscores the Saints, the Cowboys would play the Cardinals in the semifinal round at Dallas. The Cowboys have never trailed during their four-game winning surge and have surrendered only 31 points over that four-game stretch. 

Several of the pro football analysts believe the Cowboys are playing the best football of all the teams left in the NFC. This Korner agrees and hopes the trend continues for the next three games.

KWICKIES…It’s not a great big surprise that Texas All-American safety Earl Thomas decided to declare for the April NFL Draft. The former West Orange-Stark standout athlete had such a great redshirt sophomore season that he felt the time was right. This Korner hopes he can play as well at the next level as he has the other two.

The Lamar Lady Cardinals continued their hot streak in the Southland Conference opener by whipping Southeastern Louisiana 85-58 Saturday in the Montagne Center. The win upped their overall mark to 11-4 and the Lady Cards will play 7 p.m.  today (Wed.) at Texas-Arlington.

However, the Lamar Men’s basketball team didn’t fare so well in Hammond Saturday against Southeastern Louisiana, dropping their opener 78-56 to the Lions. It was the Cards’ seventh straight road loss without a win and dropped their overall record to 8-8. The Redbirds play their next two Southland Conference games at home against UTA Wednesday and McNeese on Saturday. Their next road game is Jan. 20 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

The Texas Longhorns remained unbeaten as they downed Colorado 103-86 in the Big 12 basketball opener Saturday. The win was the 15th straight for the ‘Horns without a loss who are 15-0 for the first time since the 1932-33 season.

It appears that Texas Tech hired a great coach in Tommy Tuberville, although there probably will be less emphasis on the Red Raiders’ patented wide-open offense and more on defense.
And as far as Pete Carroll’s departure from USC to the Seattle Seahawks, there’s only a couple of reasons a coach leaves a place like Southern Cal—more money (which he’ll probably get), a declining program (which last year’s 8-4 regular-season record indicates) or trouble with the NCAA (which is also coming into focus).

JUST BETWEEN US…This Korner predicted both of the upsets that occurred in last weekend’s NFC Wild Card playoffs, missing only the Green Bay-Arizona game. We believe the upsets will continue with Arizona extending the New Orleans Saints’ losing streak to four straight 45-42, Baltimore upsetting Indianapolis 21-17, our Dallas Cowboys downing Minnesota 34-21 and San Diego avoiding the upset by the Jets 27-24.