EDEN PRAIRIE -- The Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings both see Sunday's wild-card matchup as a chance at vindication for a regular season that didn't meet their lofty expectations.
''Their season has been pretty much like ours, up and down,'' Vikings middle linebacker Ed McDaniel said.
The Cowboys enter the playoffs at just 8-8 after a rocky regular season in which they lost Michael Irvin to a neck injury and sputtered under Chan Gailey's offensive schemes.
The Cowboys and Detroit Lions are the fourth and fifth teams in league history to enter the playoffs at 8-8. The others are the 1985 Cleveland Browns, the 1990 New Orleans Saints and the 1991 New York Jets, all of whom lost in the first round.
The Vikings won their last three games to finish 10-6 but they, too, had their troubles from the very start, going 2-4 under Randall Cunningham. They turned the ball over an incredible 40 times, the most by any playoff team.
But none of that matters now.
''I don't think any owner in this league really cares what happens in the regular season,'' Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said. ''The regular season, in my opinion, is just a prelude to the playoffs. You get 16 games to see if you're going to get into the playoffs and how exactly you're going to be going in and where you're going to be playing those games. And that's all the regular season means.
''Right now, the whole reason that we went through the offseason and minicamps and played 16 games was to get into this position,'' Aikman said. ''And for those teams that aren't in it, then they weren't successful this year. And ultimately there's only going to be one team that's completely satisfied.''
Vikings wideout Cris Carter echoed those sentiments.
''I plan on playing great, that's what I plan on,'' Carter said. ''I worked out all offseason, and I've been through the preseason and the regular season just for this.
''I'm looking forward to it and I think it's a tremendous opportunity. I can't wait to get to the dome on Sunday and put my uniform on, get all the questions out of the way and just go out there and play some football.''
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