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Michael Taylor 8th Jan 2010 - 17:21

It’s time for Romo to stand up and deliver

It's that time of year again where heroes are made and Tony Romo typically fails but, with a little help from his defence, the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback may finally flourish in post-season play.

As Dallas welcomes a familiar foe to Cowboys Stadium for the wild card round in the Philadelphia Eagles the former Eastern Illinois All American knows this could be his final chance to impress.

It's all because seemingly every year, when it comes to the play-offs, Romo falls short.

Whether it's highly publicised relationships with the likes of Jessica Simpson breaking out on the eve of divisional championship games or simply a lack of production when it matters, Romo has been the target of exasperation in football crazed Texas for far too long to remember.

The exasperation is easily understood as well considering the transparency of difference between his regular season production compared to that of his play-off equivalent.

Since taking over from Drew Bledsoe in 2006, Romo has started 39 games posting an average QB rating in excess of 95, yet in his only two post-season appearances to date he's thrown for just 390 yards with a completion rate a clip under 54%.

Add into this his shocking wild card shootout performance against the Eagles in 2008 and you get a picture of a man who simply goes hiding in the big games.

It could be so different this year though if his defence provides him with the same sort of boost they have over recent weeks.

Down the stretch Wade Phillips' defence did everything they could, plus more, to ensure the ball was kept in their offence's hands for the longest possible time.

First of all they limited the previously unbeaten Saints to 17 points before going on to shut-out the Redskins and Eagles as they clinched the NFC East.

The latter is surely where the inspiration for this game has to be drawn from though as Terence Newman, Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins completely wiped out Philly's big play ability.

The entire secondary refused to let a receiver break free and their unbelievable coverage paved the way for a pass rush onslaught that kept Donovan McNabb off balance for the duration.

It isn't the only time Coach Phillips has managed to keep the potent Eagles offence quiet this season with the 20-16 triumph in week nine going down as a notable mental victory for Dallas.

If the secondary remains strong and the Phils' defensive line fails to stop OLB blitzes, as they did last week, then there's surely only one winner with Dallas looking great value at 10/11 with a four point handicap.

You do have to believe Andy Reid will come with a plan B here though and it will most likely see the ball being put in the hands of Brian Westbrook on a much more regular basis.

Westbrook can do it on the ground or as a receiver and it could all come down to his ability to make things happen if the Eagles' usual threat once again falls.

However, I won't be banking on it given Dallas' momentum and Philly's inability to establish an accomplished rush all season.

As such I'm taking Dallas all day and also looking at less than 45 total match points at 10/11 as the best bet in this potentially low scoring game - which could be made even lower if Romo plays to form.

New York Jets @ Cincinnati Bengals

There's another week 17 rematch in Saturday's first wild card game when the New York Jets travel to a snowy Paul Brown Stadium in Ohio.

In the season finale the Jets claimed the final wild card spot thanks to a 37-0 battering of a lacklustre and impotent Cincinnati Bengals - don't expect Marvin Lewis' men to be quite as pathetic here though.

Just how well the Bengals can bounce back is the big question though when you consider they endured a second half to the season that included the death of Chris Henry and very little downfield threat.

There's no doubting they hold the quarterback edge in former Pro-Bowler Carson Palmer, it just remains to be seen if anyone other than Chad Ochocinco can come up trumps for them downfield.

Mark Sanchez on the other hand may not provide the steady hand necessary for big aerial yardage, however the Jets' penchant for keeping the ball on the ground could be good enough against a side lacking confidence.

Either way I think you can forget the chances of another Jets blow-out with a close low-scoring affair looking a near certainty, I just fancy Palmer's experience to trump Thomas Jones' rush at the end of the day.

The Bengals have to overcome -2.5 points on the spread, I won't be risking that though with the 10/13 about Cincinnati on the money line tempting enough for me.




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