Dallas Cowboys (9-7) at Seattle Seahawks (9-7)
KICKOFF: Saturday, 8:00 ET
TV: NBC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer
SERIES: 11th meeting. Dallas holds a 6-4 lead in the series. Seattle won the most recent meeting last season, 13-10 at Qwest Field. Jordan Babineaux returned a Drew Bledsoe interception 25 yards in the final seconds, setting up Josh Brown's winning 50-yard field goal. In 2004, a disputed touchdown by Cowboys WR Keyshawn Johnson helped the Cowboys earn a 43-39 victory after trailing by 10 points late in the game.
2006 RANKINGS: Cowboys: offense 5th (13th rush, 5th pass); defense 13th (10th rush, 24th pass). Seahawks: offense 19th (14th rush, 20th pass); defense 19th (22nd rush, 16th pass)
PREDICTION: Cowboys 34-30
KEYS TO THE GAME: Minus three of their top four cornerbacks, the Seahawks have to hope the forecasted wind and rain bring out the error-prone side of Cowboys QB Tony Romo and WR Terrell Owens. Romo has eight interceptions and seven fumbles in the past five games while Owens led the league with 17 dropped passes. But as long as Romo gets time in the pocket, he should see open receivers running all over Qwest Field. Seattle will start a rookie and converted safety at corner, with the nickel back to be determined in practice this week among several new faces. The Seahawks' offense can't wait any longer to find its rhythm. QB Matt Hasselbeck must lead a balanced attack that scores frequently and doesn't settle for field goals if Seattle is to create the high-scoring affair it needs to keep the game competitive.
Cowboys: This will be the team's fifth trip to Seattle in the past three years (two regular, two preseason games). ... Will participate in their NFL-record 55th playoff game. They have won a record 32.
Seahawks: Have won three consecutive division titles. ... Hasselbeck's 1.57 interception percentage is third-best in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 150 attempts.
--WR Terrell Owens might be playing his last game with the Cowboys. He is due a $3 million roster bonus in March. There is speculation that if Bill Parcells returns, Owens will not. If Owens returns, its likely Parcells will be gone. "I'm not even really focused on that right now. I hear all the speculation, but that's not what's important for me," Owens said. "I am very confident if I am not here I will be some where else."
--QB Tony Romo has been practicing throwing wet balls and wearing gloves in preparation for the Seattle weather. "If it's raining, I'll be wearing gloves," Romo said. The Cowboys' wide receivers have also been preparing for inclement weather. They might have to adjust how they catch the ball.
"You've got to focus on it and squeeze it a lot harder," receiver Patrick Crayton said. "Like some of the times you could just let it hit your hands and go on. With these, you've got to make sure it's secure and tuck it away before you can think about running up field."
--WR Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn said the Cowboys will attack the banged up Seattle secondary. Cornerbacks Kelly Herndon and Jimmy Williams are on injured reserve and Marcus Trufant is out with a high ankle sprain. Jordan Babineaux, a converted safety, and rookie Kelly Jennings will start at cornerback. "They are down at cornerback," Glenn said. "We have to pass. They know it. We know it. Everybody knows it."
--OT Pat McQuistan will be active against the Seahawks because Bill Parcells wants to give him some experience for next season. That means Parcells will be taking an extra offensive lineman to go the game. He will likely go light in the secondary, meaning safety Tony Parrish might not play.
--WR Darrell Jackson (toe) missed practice again Thursday. His status for Saturday is a game-time decision.
--WR D.J. Hackett (hip flexor) missed practice again Thursday. His status for Saturday is a game-time decision.
--RG Chris Gray (thigh) returned to practice Thursday. His status for Saturday is a game-time decision.
--OL Floyd Womack (groin) returned to practice Thursday. His status for Saturday is a game-time decision.
--WR Nate Burleson (ankle) practiced again Thursday. He'll play Saturday.
--CB Marcus Trufant (toe) will not play Saturday.
--LB Leroy Hill (concussion) practiced again Thursday. He'll play against the Cowboys on Saturday.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The Cowboys are not looking back. They are looking forward. Never mind the three losses in December and the blown NFC East title, the Cowboys are in the playoffs and that's all that matters to them now. "If you want to talk about history, then go to the museum," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "I am focused on Seattle."
The players are ready to move forward as well. Thankful that they are still playing, rather than dwelling on their abject performances the Cowboys are looking at Saturday's wild card playoff matchup Seattle as a chance to change the perception of their season.
The team has had good practices this week and is ready to go against the Seahawks. "We are confident," linebacker Bradie James said. "We made it to playoffs. This is where we want to be. We have to go out and do what we got to do. It's win or go home."
The Cowboys must fix their problems on defense, considering they have allowed 132 points in the last four games combined. "I am a defensive player, it's on us," nose tackle Jason Ferguson said. "We just got to get on the field and prove it. The test is you know they are going to make a play. We have to bounce back after they make one."
Quarterback Tony Romo also must get back to his sensational ways. Romo has seven fumbles and eight interceptions in his last eight games. "It's not a time to be doubting him," receiver Terrell Owens said. "I definitely have full faith in him just like he has full faith in these guys in this locker room."
The Seahawks wrapped up their final wild-card practice Thursday amid concerns for the health of two key receivers. Darrell Jackson and D.J. Hackett missed practice again, raising questions about their ability to play Saturday. Jackson missed the final two regular-season games with turf toe. Hackett suffered a hip-flexor injury last week.
"We will have most of the guys ready," coach Mike Holmgren said after practice. "There will be about five game-day decisions."
Jackson and Hackett fall squarely into that category. Neither practiced all week. It was assumed Hackett would play, but that seems less likely after he was limited to some light jogging Thursday. Jackson tested his toe in a private workout session after practice Thursday. Holmgren declined to discuss how it went.
Nate Burleson could start opposite Deion Branch if Jackson and Hackett remain unavailable against the Cowboys. Burleson will continue to handle punt- and kick-return duties as well. Meanwhile, Seattle's offensive line got a boost when Chris Gray and Floyd Womack returned to practice. Both remain questionable, but Gray is expected to start at right guard after a one-game absence. His 121-game regular-season starting streak ended last week.
"It's playoff time," Holmgren said. "As I told our team, you are either in or out and don't be hanging around the training room unless you're hurt."
Cornerback Marcus Trufant will not play against the Cowboys. The Seahawks are extremely thin at the position after placing Kelly Herndon and Jimmy Williams on injured reserve this week.
Newly signed corners Pete Hunter and Rich Gardner could play quite a bit in nickel and dime situations. Both have NFL experience, but neither was in the league this season.