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Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys: Preview and Pick
Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys: Preview and Pick
The Dallas Cowboys are once again a team in disarray. After some big wins against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins to grab sole possession in the horrid NFC East, the Cowboys stumbled in a game they should have won against the Detroit Lions. Dez Brant exploded off the field and the Cowboys defense exploded on the field. Now they will have to regroup and get ready to take on the Minnesota Vikings in a big game this week that the Cowboys will need to win.
Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys Odds
The NFL opening point spread for the game shows that the Cowboys are a huge favorite as it opened with the home team as double digit favorites. The Cowboys are (-10.5) point favorites and that line is scheduled to only go higher and higher as over 70 percent of the betting public is backing the home team. This line should be looked at before placing a wager so make sure to check your online sportsbook.
The Vikings need to start running the ball. Adrian Peterson has recorded 13 or fewer rushes in 3 straight games, tied for the longest streak in his career; also recorded 13 or fewer rushes in Week 11, 15, and 16 in 2011. ** Please note: In 2011 Week 11, Peterson left the game in the 2nd quarter with an ankle injury and did not play again until Week 15). The Cowboys will have to protect their quarterback.
Tony Romo wasn't sacked Sunday, but he was put under duress on 38% of his total dropbacks. That's the highest pressure rate for Romo in a game this season (season average: 22% of dropbacks). If they can keep Romo up they should win this game.
The latest football betting trends for this game reveals that both teams have some negative trends entering this game. The Vikings are 1-4 against the spread (ATS) in their last 5 games after scoring more than 30 points in their previous game, 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 350 total yards in their previous game and 1-5 ATS in their last 6 against the NFC. The Cowboys are 4-12 ATS in their last 16 games after allowing more than 350 total yards in their previous game, 2-7 ATS in their last 9 home games against a team with a losing road record and 1-5 ATS when playing a team with a losing record.
Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys Pick
With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
The Cowboys are still reeling from the Lions game, but they need to get ready for another NFC North team in the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings are having a very bad year, they're 1-6 and can't find a quarterback they can stick with. This week it looks like the Cowboys will get Christian Ponder.
Christian Ponder started the first three games, then he got hurt and in entered Matt Cassel, who made two starts before the Vikings signed Josh Freeman and started him immediately in a 23-7 loss to the Giants. Then back came Ponder, who passed for 145 yards in a loss to the Packers. In the end, the 1-6 Vikings are left looking for a lot of answered offensively, beginning with the quarterback spot.
Regardless of who is playing QB, the one real threat from the Vikings is All-World running back Adrian Peterson.
But it doesn’t matter who’s taking the snaps — whether it’s Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman or Matt Cassel. The only Viking with the ball in his hands who matters is Adrian Peterson. Peterson ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing this season with 571 yards and six touchdowns. But since their bye on the fifth weekend of the season, the Vikings have de-emphasized the NFL rushing champion. Peterson hasn’t carried the ball more than 13 times in any of the last three games, all losses. He hasn’t gained 100 yards in any of those games and has scored only one touchdown in that stretch. The Vikings need to get Peterson rolling to become competitive again, and this weekend would be the ideal time to start. Peterson returns home to Texas to face the NFL’s worst defense.
The Cowboys defense is bad, but so is the Vikings defense. One area they have struggled with is third-down defense. If they can't get the Cowboys off the field on that down, then just maybe we'll see a revival of the Dallas offense.
There isn’t a worse team in the NFC at preventing third-down conversions than the Vikings. Offenses have converted an eye-opening 51 percent of their third-downs against the Vikings.
"We’re so bad right now on third down on defense," Frazier said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
There are several reasons why the Vikings are off to a 1-6 start, but the defensive struggles at critical parts of the game is certainly a factor. The Packers completed 13 of 18 third-down chances Sunday, and it won’t get any easier for the Vikings as they will face seven of the top 11 highest-scoring teams in the final nine weeks.
While Adrian Peterson is the Vikings main threat, the Cowboys can't sleep on special teams. Dallas has a major threat with Dwayne Harris, and the Vikings have one in Cordarrelle Patterson.
Last game: Patterson had two catches for 26 yards and returned five kickoffs for 228 yards, including a 109-yard touchdown, tying the longest return in NFL history, in the Vikings’ 44-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Who has to stop him? The Vikings rank first in the NFL in average drive start after a kickoff with a 26.1-yard average, but the Cowboys defensively are second in drive start as the kicking team averages opponents starting on the 20.0-yard line. Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey is tied for second in the NFL with 34 touchbacks on 48 kickoffs. The Vikings had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown two weeks ago against the New York Giants as Marcus Sherels scored the team’s only points in that loss.
Patterson leads the league in kickoff return yards.
Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier says he will decide later this week whether Josh Freeman or Christian Ponder will start at quarterback against Dallas on Sunday.
The Vikings have changed quarterbacks for four consecutive games while looking for some consistency and playmaking at the position. The only one to win a game this season for them is veteran Matt Cassel, who beat Pittsburgh in London three games ago.
Frazier says he believes Freeman or Ponder give the Vikings the best chance to win. Freeman was signed earlier this month and started against the New York Giants two weeks ago. But he suffered a concussion and forced Ponder back into the game against Green Bay on Sunday night.
These numbers are significant because they're unprecedented. It's the first time in NFL history a team has given up that many 400-yard passing games in a season, and its only half-over. The Cowboys could double up the old record with the Saints' Drew Brees and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers on the upcoming schedule.
The defense is also wildly inconsistent, playing well against the pass in the other four games against passers that aren't as accomplished:
Those numbers are acceptable, but far outweighed by the big numbers. And because of that, the Cowboys are on pace to give up 5,060 passing yards this year. That would be another NFL all-time worst.
When you're give up historically-bad passing numbers, the first finger of blame points at the secondary. And while there's certainly plenty of guilt to go around there, consider the lack of pressure up front as another culprit.
In the four 400-plus-passing-yard games the Cowboys have allowed, Dallas has averaged a little more than one sack -- 1.25 per game to be exact. In the four others, they racked up nearly four sacks a game -- 3.75 per game.
"We just gotta keep working," said defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. "It's not over. It's far from over. You wish you could roll back the hands of time, but you can't."
The plan for defensive improvement this season was built on staying healthy and implementing defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's 4-3 scheme. Halfway through the season, according to the numbers at least, the plan needs some serious re-working.
Vulnerable defenses have plagued the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, with especially poor showings leading to losses for both clubs last week.
Sunday's meeting in Dallas appears to favor the Cowboys, who have compensated with one of the league's highest-scoring offenses. In contrast, Minnesota isn't sure who will be under center to try and improve an ineffective attack.
Neither team has had much success stopping opponents, with Dallas' 422.5 yards allowed per game ranking last and Minnesota 30th at 401.6. Both teams failed to provide reason for encouragement with their worst defensive performances of the season Sunday.
Dallas (4-4) surrendered 623 yards in a 31-30 loss at Detroit - the 11th-highest total in NFL history - including the second-highest single-game receiving yardage total to Calvin Johnson (329). The Cowboys gave up a six-play, 80-yard drive in 50 seconds, capped by Matthew Stafford's winning one-yard touchdown run with 12 seconds left.
A number of injures in the secondary didn't help. Starting safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox were out, though Church is expected to play Sunday. Cornerback Morris Claiborne, however, could miss time after suffering a hamstring injury against the Lions.
The Cowboys have some fine-tuning to do on offense, too, with Tony Romo completing less than 50 percent of his passes for the first time since 2009 last week. However, he threw for three touchdowns as Dallas scored at least 30 for the fifth time this season.
Frustration from the defense's late collapse seemed to spill over to the rest of the team, with receiver Dez Bryant finding himself in a shouting match with various teammates and coaches on the sideline shortly after Stafford's decisive score. Coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones have since downplayed the significance of Bryant's outburst.
"When you put your guts out there for three hours, collectively, sometimes it's hard to swallow those kinds of defeats," Garrett said. "What we need to do as a football team is learn from what just happened and find a way, in all three phases, to win this kind of game, and do what we need to do to win the game."
The Vikings (1-6) are in considerably more dire straits, matching their loss total of last year with a 44-31 defeat to Green Bay last week. Minnesota gave up a season-high 182 rushing yards and every Packers possession ended with points except for their last drive, which concluded in the victory formation.
Opponents are converting a league-high 51.0 percent of the time on third downs against the Vikings after Green Bay went 13 for 18.
"You've got to look at how we're doing it, what we're doing schematically, and also the people that you're asking to do certain things," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Can they get it done? Do we need to be doing something different based on the people that we're asking to execute the defense?"
Frazier will at least have the services of one of the league's best defensive ends with Jared Allen staying put after speculation that he would be moved prior to the trade deadline Tuesday.
Frazier hasn't decided between Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman as his starting quarterback, though he eliminated Matt Cassel from consideration. Ponder was 14 of 21 for 145 yards against Green Bay with Freeman sidelined due to a concussion.
"I don't know if there's any one thing I can point to and say why it's Christian and Josh in this determination," Frazier said.
Whoever starts may want to target Greg Jennings, who has caught 24 passes for 327 yards and two TDs in four career games against Dallas.
An abysmal passing game that ranks 30th with a 69.6 rating has limited opportunities for Adrian Peterson, who has 150 yards on just 36 carries over his last three games. Opponents have been able to key on the star running back with little fear of being beaten deep.
The Cowboys hope to get their own running game going with the expected return of DeMarco Murray, who has missed two contests with a sprained left knee. Murray, who had run for scores in three of his last four games, faces a Vikings team that has allowed nine rushing TDs - second most in the NFC.
Dallas is 11-0 all-time when Murray gets 18 or more carries.
Minnesota holds an 11-10 series edge while winning five of six, the most recent of which was a 24-21 home victory Oct. 17, 2010.
Romo is 1-1 in two starts against the Vikings, completing 77.5 percent of his passes for 497 yards, four TDs and two picks.
Christian Ponder will start at quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made the announcement on Friday. Frazier has tabbed Ponder over Josh Freeman in a somewhat surprising decision.
After spending three games on the sideline, Ponder returned to the starting lineup last weekend against the Green Bay Packers while Freeman sat out with a concussion. But he did little to inspire confidence that he was capable of being the long-term answer at the position. He threw for 145 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in a 44-31 loss to the Packers. Most thought Frazier would go back to Freeman against the Cowboys. But Frazier says Ponder gives the team the best chance to win.
You may think that Leslie Frazier is a big fan of duck, duck, goose but he's really just a desperate NFL coach grasping at straws.
Early indications are that the ineffective Christian Ponder is the goose this week and will remain under center for the 1-6 Minnesota Vikings as the try to stop an ugly three-game skid against a Dallas Cowboys team coming off its own crushing loss in Detroit.
The Vikings have been outscored 102-48 during their current losing streak and have used three different quarterbacks -- veteran backup Matt Cassel against Carolina, newly acquired Josh Freeman versus the New York Giants, and Ponder last Sunday night in a 44-31 drubbing at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Ponder, who is 0-4 as a starter this season, was his usual ineffective self against the Pack, completing 14-of-21 passes for just 145 yards. Adrian Peterson ran for 60 yards and a score on 13 carries, while also adding three receptions for 23 yards for Minnesota.
The bigger problem was the defense, however. Rodgers and the Packers converted on 13-of-18 third-down attempts and were two-for-two on fourth down as Green Bay never punted and scored on all seven drives that didn't end either the half or the game.
And understand the Packers did all of that without the services of receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones -- two of their top three receivers who were lost to injury against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 13 -- along with dynamic tight end Jermichael Finley, who suffered a scary neck injury during a win over Cleveland.
"We couldn't find a way to get off the field on third down, and it really came back to haunt us," Frazier understated.
The Cowboys are also coming off a disappointing setback, albeit one in which they were far more competitive.
The Lions' Matthew Stafford lunged for a touchdown in the finals seconds to give Detroit a 31-30 victory over Dallas in a thriller at Ford Field last Sunday.
Detroit trailed by six points with 1:02 left and started the winning drive at its own 20. A 17-yard catch from Calvin Johnson was followed by Stafford's toss down the left sideline for Kris Durham for 40 yards. Stafford then went back to Johnson for 22 yards down to the Dallas 1 and raced to set up a spike.
However, Stafford leaped after the snap and just got the ball over the goal line. After a review determined he had crossed the plane, David Akers kicked the extra point and the Lions had a 31-30 lead with 12 seconds to play.
Dallas had one shot after the kickoff, but didn't get anywhere with a catch and laterals as time ran out.
Stafford finished the game with 488 yards passing and Johnson set a career- high with 329 yards on 14 catches with a score for the Lions, coming just seven yards short of the NFL record for most receiving yards in one game, set by Flipper Anderson.
Tony Romo was 14-for-30 for 206 yards and three touchdown passes, with Dez Bryant catching three balls for 72 yards and two scores for the Cowboys, who had won two straight coming in and still lead the dismal NFC East by one game over Philadelphia despite being at .500.
"We didn't do what we needed to do to win the ball game, period," said Dallas head coach Jason Garrett. "They did, we didn't and we have to live with that. It starts with me, then the coaching staff, and then the players. We had opportunities to end the game, and we didn't."
Minnesota leads the all-time series with a slim 11-10 advantage and has won five of six from the Cowboys
That last thing the Cowboys did….was awful. And again, all eyes should swing towards Monte Kiffin. Because of Jerry Jones, there’s a lot more “they don’t have the personnel” stuff around than you ordinarily see and this is true and right. But plenty of teams don’t have the personnel and basically nobody has ever given up that many yards through the air to one guy, and they have given up the most yards through the air period this season…
And my god, when you’re up 6 with a minute to go…I mean would a literal box around CJ at all times have been too much to ask?
As for whoever’s calling the plays. I don’t know if it’s Garrett, Callahan or that sneaky Garallahan, but look. It doesn’t matter what 15th century “handbooke of footballe” running the ball three times with a small lead and 1:24 to go crawled out of. When you look at your actual personnel, which is Joseph Randle and Philip Tanner in the RB slot, Tony Romo, Dez and T-Will in the “through the air” slot and more or less a swift puff of air (think Glaucoma test) where a secondary should be maybe don’t do that when the most likely possibility is exactly what turned out to happen, a loss of 4 total yards and 22 seconds to take a still less-than-one-TD lead.
There is a huge difference, at this point between—I know, it’s painful, sorry—5 and 3, a 2 win lead on Philly, 3 on WAS and NYG, and all the tiebreaks halfway through the season, and 4-4 and etc. etc. And even a halfway competent plan on either side of the ball would have gotten it done, at the end there.
So we’ve, unfortunately, reached that point in the season, with that bitter taste of Cowboys despair in our mouths. But it took longer than usual, didn’t it?
The good news is, the Vikings are, as they have been for many other teams, very probably the cure for what ails you.
It’s not exactly definite. Somehow or another, despite the fact that they can’t pass (27th in yards through the air), and despite the fact, even with AP, that they’re not in the top half of the NFL in rushing yards, the Vikings have hung some points on some people. They’ve scored 24 or more 5 times this season, which isn’t great news for a team who can’t stop anybody doing anything.
But, on the other hand, they’re really pretty awful. 1-6, and it’s getting worse. Before last week’s offensive “explosion” against the Packers, they’d managed just 17 total points against those well-known juggernauts, the Carolina Panthers and the New York Giants. Granted, the Panthers defense is actually pretty immense.
As for the Cowboys, they should get DeMarco Murray back, which, no offense to Joseph Randle who did his best, makes a huge difference. They are also once again facing a team with a hellaciously bad pass defense and should, once again, be able to tee off. The good news is, for once it’s not a team with a bad pass defense AND a great passing game to even it out.
From the department of weird stats, the Cowboys opponents have included 3 of the top 5 worst pass defenses in the league in terms of yardage, which, since the Cowboys are the worst, is actually 3 of 4. And additionally, every single team they’ve played besides St. Louis (19) and Kansas City (8) is in the bottom 8 in that category. Meanwhile, they’ve also played 5 of the top 10 passing offenses in the league, including Denver and Detroit, numbers one and two. Then you’ve got Washington at 12, leaving, once again, St. Louis (19) and KC (22) as the outliers. It’s pretty weird.
Meanwhile the Vikings have the 30th best passing offense and, yes, Tony Romo’s 2,216 yards and 18 TDs look a little better than Ponder’s 836 yards, 2 TDs. That’s just math. Okay, sure, Ponder’s split some snaps with Matt Cassell, but when you think about that, it doesn’t make his numbers look better. Obviously, the O-Line is going to have its hands full with Jared Allen, everybody does.
Regardless, if the Cowboys aren’t better than the Vikings then this season is pretty different than we figured it was.
The Vikings will be without running back Matt Asiata (shoulder), cornerback Chris Cook (hip), tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle), defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee) and safety Jamarca Sanford (groin).
The Cowboys will definitely be without cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring), linebacker DeVonte Holloman (neck), guard Brian Waters (elbow) and safety J.J. Wilcox (knee). They’ll probably be without defensive end DeMarcus Ware (quad) and wide receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), both of whom are listed as doubtful.