Some of us -- guilty -- figured that this weekend your Dallas Cowboys would be hosting the NFC Championship Game, just one step from staying in town and becoming the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium.
Those plans, to say the least, went awry. Long ago.
At this point the best Cowboys fans can hope for is minimizing the damage and maximizing any drop of joy and entertainment out of Super Bowl XLV February 6 at Cowboys Stadium.
On Sunday it's Packers-Bears in the NFC and Jets-Steelers in the AFC. To me, it's pretty simple who we're rooting for. Or, honestly, which teams we are rooting against.
Chicago Bears - Sure, the Bears laid that memorable 44-0 whipping upon the Cowboys at Texas Stadium back in 1985 on their way to Super Bowl XX and we cringe every time we hear "Da Bearsch!" But the Cowboys don't have a long, much less storied history with Chicago. The Cowboys are 2-0 against the Bears in the playoffs, delivering a 37-7 thrashing of Walter Payton's team in 1977 and winning 17-13 in a Wild Card game at Soldier Field in 1991. Jay Cutler is a little goofy and the Bears beat the Cowboys, 27-20, back in Week 2 of this season in Arlington but, really, it's difficult to manufacture any hatred for Chicago.
Green Bay Packers - Cue the bitterness. I don't know, maybe it's because my memories are older than me, but I have an acute distaste for the Packers and Lambeau Field and Bart Starr and Brett Favre (who will always be Green Bay to me). Stems from, of course, the two NFL Championship Game losses to the Packers in 1966-67. The first one was a 34-27 loss in the Cotton Bowl and the second one -- infamously -- was the 21-17 defeat at Lambeau in the Ice Bowl. Since then the Cowboys have owned Green Bay in the playoffs, winning playoff games over the Pack in '93, '94 and '95. Despite the 4-2 post-season record, there's still something wrong about watching GB celebrate. Besides, that 45-7 embarrassment back on November 7 still stings.
New York Jets - It's cool to hate the Giants and especially the Yankees, but the Jets? Why? The Cowboys are 7-2 all-time against them -- including a 34-3 win in '07 in the most recent meeting -- and they've never met in the post-season. The Jets kept Tom Brady out of Dallas, sent that smug Bill Belichick and his stupid hoodie into vacation and one of their own -- TCU running back LaDanian Tomlinson -- is one of our own.You might not like Rex Ryan's bravado or the fact that their kicker -- Nick Folk -- is a former Cowboy we'd probably like to have back, but to me it's easy to pull for these Jets.
Pittsburgh Steelers - No brainer. It goes back to Franco Harris and Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann and Jack Lambert all the way up to Bill Cowher. Some of the dislike is, let's admit, jealousy. As the Steelers have a record six Super Bowls to Dallas' five, it would be nauseating to see them take a two-game lead in our own building. The Steelers, of course, twice beat the Cowboys in Super Bowls - by four points each in X and XIII. If it weren't for Neil O'Donnell in XXX, I'd have nothing positive at all to say about Pittsburgh. Sure these Steelers have former Cowboy Flozell Adams and ex-SMU receiver Emmanuel Sanders, but having to stomach the Terrible Towel waving in Cowboys Stadium is a Doomsday scenario.
Add it all up and if you're a Cowboys fan this weekend you're rooting for these matchups, in order of preference:
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1. Jets vs. Bears.
2. Jets vs. Packers.
3. Bears vs. Steelers.
4. Steelers vs. Packers.