IRVING, Texas - With a monster contract, a sexy girlfriend, and all the other perks of being the star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo has a life most would envy.
Except this weekend.
The Cowboys' playoff game today against the New York Giants is as much for a spot in the NFC Championship game as it is a fork in the road for Romo's reputation.
Get the win and it'll be the first of his postseason career, the best medicine for the sting of last year's loss in Seattle, when he bungled the hold of a chip-shot field goal. A playoff win also would be a first for coach Wade Phillips, validating Jerry Jones's decision to hire him.
Most of all, a win would be the Cowboys' first in the postseason since Dec. 28, 1996. Ending that drought would make Jones feel even better about the $68.5 million contract he gave Romo a few months ago.
If Dallas loses, Romo will be 0-2 in the playoffs, Phillips will be 0-4, and the franchise-worst postseason skid will drag to 12 seasons and counting. The Cowboys' 13-3 regular season will have been nothing but a tease.
"It's all for naught if you lose," Terence Newman said.
A loss would make Jones hiss - and that'd be tame compared to what the critics say about Romo's south-of-the-border beach bash with his sweetie, Jessica Simpson, and some teammates last weekend.
Romo knows the deal and welcomes it. He loves being challenged, couldn't care less about perception, and is eager to see if his best is good enough.
"It's going to be a lot of fun just because it's the playoffs," he said. "This is why you play."
And history favors Dallas.
The NFC's No. 1 seed has won 17 straight Division-round games and teams that have swept two regular-season meetings are 11-6 the third time.
New York's strength is a pass rush that produced an NFL-best 53 sacks, yet the Giants got to Romo only twice in two games. He also threw for 592 yards and eight touchdowns.
Dallas comes in rested and healthy, with the notable exception of Terrell Owens's high ankle sprain. He's still expected to start. Even if Owens is not at full strength, Terry Glenn is ready to go after two knee operations. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett might pull out plays he hasn't called all season.
"I'm excited about the possibilities," Romo said.
The Cowboys still have some things to prove after going 2-2 in December, failing to score a touchdown in the losses, and narrowly beating teams with losing records. Romo struggled and Dallas seemed to forget how to run the football.
Phillips spent the bye week with basic practices, then gave players last weekend off.