The loser of Sunday's Cowboys-Vikings game can pretty much forget about the playoffs.
Since the NFL expanded the playoffs to 12 teams in 1990, there have been only five clubs that have started 1-4 and made the postseason: the 1992 Chargers, the '93 Oilers, the '02 Titans, the '02 Jets and the '04 Packers. That's five out of 240 playoff teams over that stretch, or just about two percent.
In other words, you can forget about it happening again most likely.
Compounding both team's already poor chances to come back from 1-4 is the fact that the Cowboys and Vikings each enter their toughest parts of the schedules now: after this game, the Cowboys have the NFC East-leading Giants twice, the upstart Jaguars and a trip to Green Bay. The Vikings have it tougher: four of the next five come against the Packers (twice), plus the Patriots and Bears, with three of those five games on the road.
Little has gone right for either team, a stunning fall from where they were in January. Both quarterbacks, Brett Favre and Tony Romo, were playing lights out. Both defenses were at exceptional levels entering the playoff game. And each could run it effectively, too.
So who is in better shape to win this game? Hard to say.
The Cowboys have been moving the ball but not scoring. They keep teams down in terms of yardage but don't play great red-zone defense and have forced only three turnovers all season. Penalties have been a killer. Mental mistakes, too.
The Vikings are trying to find an identity on offense. Getting Randy Moss certainly helps, but not if it comes at the expense of RB Adrian Peterson, clearly their best player. Defensively, the run defense has had its moments of slippage and the sacks are way down. Special teams seem to make at least one big gaffe per game.
The reason the Vikings gain the smallest of advantages coming in: home field. That's about it. They showed signs of life Monday and could be dangerous if they put together three or four quarters of what we saw against the Jets in the second half. But they remain as much of an unknown as any team right now.
What is known: They can't lose Sunday. Same goes for the Cowboys. For the loser, it really might be lights out, and not how Favre meant it prior to Monday.