Off their last couple of efforts, it would appear the Dallas Cowboys are coming into Sunday night’s NFL action with some momentum working in their favor. But is that really the case? The Cowboys are in the lead in the NFC East. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings are going to find themselves in a potentially much tougher position in the NFC North if they can’t come away from AT&T Stadium with a victory.
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This might be a rare NFL matchup in that it comes between two teams who are looking to establish the run first. And they have very capable guys to do it with, when you consider Ezekiel Elliott, who has the third-highest per-game rushing average in league history, and Dalvin Cook, who currently leads the NFL in rushing and has 106 yards to go before he reaches 1000.
We already know about the Dallas offensive line as one of the best in the league. But perhaps the Minnesota line hasn’t been talked about as much. The Vikings brought aboard Gary Kubiak as an “advisor” for the offense, and his major theme was to help being back the running game, which, because of injuries (to Cook in particular) was close to non-existent last year. So what he did was initiate zone blocking, which took a little while to get used to, but has been absorbed by now, we can assure you.
In this day and age, when teams are gravitating more and more toward the pass, Minnesota is one of only three teams in the league which has run the ball more than half the time. Head coach Mike Zimmer wanted to make sure his team was going to be assertive on the ground, and he did it to the point of perhaps getting too conservative, and that brought objection from the likes of Kirk Cousins and his receivers.
There has also been an effort to get Cousins to move out of the pocket a little more, and they have seen some positive results from this. His numbers aren’t bad; he’s about a 69% passer with a 16-3 ratio of TD’s to interceptions.
In the Sunday night NFL odds posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports (and with reduced juice), the Cowboys are the favorites at home:
Dallas Cowboys -3 (-120)
Minnesota Vikings +3 (+110)
Over 48.5 points (-102)
Under 48.5 points (-108)
Dak Prescott has demonstrated that he can do a few things independently of Elliott this season. And his 8.9 yards -per attempt average is pretty strong. What has the potential to frustrate Minnesota here is the ability to of Prescott’s linemen to protect him, coupled with his own ability to move around and buy time. The Cowboys have the second-best “sacked percentage” in the league. That is the percentage of passing plays on which the quarterback is sacked.
And if you can take away a lot of the pressure Minnesota can exert, you’re going to have a much better result working downfield against this secondary. The jury is still out on Randall Cobb as a third wide receiver, but the combo of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup has been awfully good, even though Cooper has dropped more than he should.
You’ll see some advance “mock” drafts out there that have the Vikings drafting a wide receiver in the first round. That’s because, once you get past Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, it’s a crew that is pretty thin. And you need three of them in the NFL these days. But Thielen sits this one out with a hamstring injury, and since he would be at the top of the list as far as “possession” receivers are concerned, that is not an inconsequential absence. In beating The Vikes last week without Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs did their best to take Diggs out of the game, holding him to one catch for four yards.
So Cousins’ options will be limited. And don’t count on a lot of late-game heroics from him; he hasn’t led too many fourth-quarter comebacks – in fact, none, in eleven attempts.
We attribute a number of little advantages to the Cowboys, who aren’t hearing much about the pending doom of coach Jason Garrett lately and are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight home games. Lay it.
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