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Everyone expecting Emmitt

The Cowboys' strategy against Arizona could come to this: Run Emmitt Smith until the Cardinals surrender.

Smith battered Arizona in two regular-season victories against the Cardinals, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 1982.

In the season opener, Smith carved up the Cardinals for 124 yards on 29 carries in a 38-10 win. On Nov. 15, he ran 26 times for 118 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 35-28 win.

Smith is at a loss to explain why he has had such success against Arizona which ranks 21st against the run. Dallas is No. 8 in the league running the ball.

"It wasn't easy for me in either game and it won't be easy Saturday," Smith said. "They know us and we know them. It's never easy playing a team three times in one season. Now, we're down to a one-shot deal. Lose and you go home."

He added: "There are no guarantees in this league. You have to earn everything you get."

Smith has had eight career 100-yard rushing games against the Cardinals and is coming off a solid season, finishing fifth in the NFL with 1,332 yards. He had seven 100-yard rushing games.

He said not being in the playoffs last year has given the Cowboys plenty of incentive.

"We left Valley Ranch suffering after the way we ended the season last year," Smith said. "But we got our stuff together this year. We don't want to suffer again."

Smith said he thinks the NFC East champion Cowboys, who closed a 10-6 turnaround season with consecutive victories, can be a threat to go all the way.

"I honestly believe we belong in the NFC playoffs along with all those other guys," Smith said. "I feel this team is the most underrated in the playoffs. Nobody can get a gauge on us. We can get the job done."

The last time a Cardinals team won a playoff game was 1947 when Jimmy Conzelman coached the Chicago Cardinals to a 28-21 NFL Championship victory over Philadelphia.

Dallas has been in the playoffs 23 times and won the Super Bowl three times this decade.

Arizona coach Vince Tobin said he knows the Cowboys will try to run at the Cardinals, who beat San Diego on a last-second field goal to finish with a 9-7 record and earn a playoff berth.

"This is the third time around with Dallas," Tobin said. "We know what they're going to try to do. They'll try to run Emmitt. Both teams know each other. There won't be a lot of trickery."