Here we go.
After four and a half months, the NFL playoffs are upon us. Up first for the Cowboys is old rival San Francisco. Can this 2022 battle reach the heights of those legendary matchups in the 1970s and 1990s? As always, though, there’s more to keep an eye on than that. Here’s what I’m watching this week.
Friday, 1/14: Mavericks at Grizzlies—9:00 p.m., Bally Sports Southwest
The Mavs are currently trailing four teams in the Western Conference. First-place Golden State makes sense: they’re arguably the most talented team in the league, and Steph Curry is back to his MVP best. Phoenix and Utah make sense, too, as they were last year’s top two seeds. But no one expected Memphis in fourth place, much less a whopping five games ahead of Dallas in the standings. These two teams split their previous two meetings this season, and Friday represents a crucial chance for the Mavs to gain ground in the Southwest race.
Saturday, 1/15: WNBA Free Agency opens—Midnight, the Internet
When we last checked in on the Wings, they were getting bounced from the WNBA playoffs by eventual champions Chicago. That was quite alright given Dallas’ status as the youngest team in the W at the time. But, as our Dorothy J. Gentry wrote the next day, now it’s time for further growth, and their first crack at it begins this weekend as the WNBA offseason gets underway. Dallas has a full roster, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make some moves if the right veteran is available either on the open market or via trade. Dorothy will have more later this week.
Sunday, 1/16: Dak Prescott versus Jimmy Garoppolo—3:30 p.m., CBS
Oh, wow, I’m watching the two quarterbacks. So original. Here’s the thing: when I use this space to home in on a particular matchup, I never do it with the sole intention of getting cute. It really is what I believe could have the biggest impact on the outcome, and on Sunday, it’s hard not to make this about the guys under center.
There’s Prescott, who is great and more often played like it in the regular season, too … except when the offense seemingly ground to a halt all too often in the second half. And there’s Garoppolo, who piloted San Francisco to a Super Bowl loss in what feels like an eternity ago (it was actually in 2020, which is seven and a half years ago in pandemic time) yet has to defend his job against Trey Lance, the third overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft. Prescott is playing to build a legacy in Dallas; Garoppolo, an impending free agent, is playing for a soft landing somewhere outside San Francisco this offseason.
My gut says that if Prescott plays anywhere close to his standard, Dallas wins without too much of a struggle. But while it doesn’t happen as often as it should, the 49ers are scary when they’re playing well because of Garoppolo not in spite of him. And if both are on? This could be a barn burner.