Over at Vikings base camp, Craig Peters provides a game preview, including a look at Minnesota’s version of the triplets.
Despite some inconsistencies against the Chiefs, Kirk Cousins has totaled an NFL-best passer rating of 127.1 in the past five games. He ranks second in the NFL with 1,482 yards and 10 touchdowns and fourth in the league with a completion percentage of 78.4 in that span.
Dalvin Cook leads the NFL with 894 rushing yards and is second with 1,232 yards from scrimmage. He needs 106 more yards on the ground to become Minnesota’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Adrian Peterson led the NFL with 1,485 in 2015.
Stefon Diggs ranks seventh in the league with 710 receiving yards after breaking Randy Moss’ franchise record for yards in a three-game stretch with 452 from Week 6 to Week 8. Diggs was limited to one catch for four yards by the Chiefs.
The Cowboys defense knows what they’re up against, and has made stopping Dalvin Cook a priority.
“Rule No. 1 is to take their wheels out,” Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said, via Mitchell Gladstone of the Dallas Morning News. “If they can’t run the ball, what do they have to do? We’ve got to take their leading rusher out and make them one-dimensional.”
Their leading rusher is Dalvin Cook, who has become one of the finest running backs in the league. He’s performed so well this season that even a solid day — 71 yards against the Chiefs — is regarded as a bad day.
“I played against [Cook] at Florida State, so I know he’s got juice,” Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith said, via Gladstone. “But we’re looking forward to the challenge of playing against the guy that’s leading the league in rushing.” Cook has the most yards this year, with 894.
If the Cowboys can indeed put the clamps on Cook, the question becomes whether quarterback Kirk Cousins can get it done. And it’s smart for Dallas to focus on the run and to dare Cousins to beat them. He has shown a hyperawareness of the circumstances of a given game, and he seems to grip the ball a little too tightly and to think a little too much in a big spot.
Are the Vikings a dominant running team or have the just benefited from some soft run defenses?
The Vikings come into this game with the second-ranked running offense. The Cowboys welcome them to Dallas with the eighth-ranked run defense. With that type of success, it would make sense that the Vikings will want to establish the run—which, usually is the case anyway—and then, reversely, the Cowboys will be looking to eliminate that part of the game.
But—but!—is the Vikings’ running attack really that good? In the past five weeks, they have gone up against Kansas City, Washington, Detroit, Philly, and New York (Giants). Other than the Eagles—ranked ninth against the run—the other teams’ run-stopping abilities are at the bottom of the league. So, advantage Cowboys? Or do we accept that the Vikings have exploited these defenses because the likes of Dalvin Cook and company are that good?
15 Cowboys notes: Dak explains why Zeke is NFL’s best RB heading into matchup with league-leading rusher - Jon Machota, The Athletic
Why the Cowboys feel the real leading rusher is the guy carrying the rock for the Cowboys.
2.) Ezekiel Elliott vs. Dalvin Cook.
It’s the NFL’s rushing champ two of the last three seasons going against the league’s current leading rusher. Dak Prescott said this week that he doesn’t think Elliott is any more juiced up for the matchup, but added that other players in the Cowboys locker room are, “especially the defense.”
Prescott was sitting next to defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence in a team meeting this week when Jason Garrett mentioned Cook being the NFL’s leading rusher to the group. Prescott said Lawrence then said to the QB: “Not this week.”
“That’s the fact of us believing in our running back, our running back is the best in the league and the defense be damned if somebody else comes in and, on their clock, tries to make that pitch,” Prescott explained. “I don’t know if Zeke worries about it or cares about it, but I think it speaks to the other guys in this room that we think our back is the best in the league and we don’t want anybody else to come into our place, play us, and think the same.”
The mothership over at Vikings central had a chance to ask David Helman some questions, including what makes Ezekiel Elliott such a super-fantastic running back.
Vikings defenders routinely talk about stopping the run as the first priority for their game plan. That won’t be an easy task against Ezekiel Elliott. For those who don’t see him on a weekly basis, what makes him such an effective runner?
DH: To put it simply, Zeke is a tank. He’s not going to hit a ton of home run balls, but he’s going to steadily churn out yardage on every down — and he’s going to punish the defense while he does it. It’s very rare to see him stopped for less than 2-3 yards, and he pretty much always fights forward. His physicality wears on opponents, and by the fourth quarter those 3-4 yard runs are often turning into 8-12 yard runs. Factor in his impeccable vision for gaps and cutback lanes, and it makes him a tough guy to deal with.
Creating Pressure with Front Four Key to Cowboys Matchup vs Vikings - John Williams, Inside The Star
Generating pressure will always drive success, but can the Cowboys get it done with fewer pass rushers?
It’s imperative that the Dallas Cowboys provide effective pressure on Kirk Cousins on Sunday Night Football. They have to make him move off of his spot on his drop back and disrupt his timing. If the secondary can prevent any easy completions, the pass rush should be able to get to Cousins in time to affect his pass attempts if not bring him down for sacks.
Though he’s played pretty well this year, you can tell that he’s not been perfect when you look at his adjusted QBR from ESPN.com, Cousins is just 14th in the NFL at 54.3. For comparison’s sake, Dak Prescott is second in the NFL at 77.6. Meaning, a lot of Cousins’ success isn’t solely because Cousins has been good, but because the players he’s been throwing too have made things happen after the catch.
And since the Cowboys have one of the best win rates despite their low blitz percentage, that should leave more defenders around to make tackles and prevent the Vikings from turning a small gain into a large one.
Blitz rate (x) by pass rush win rate (y). Top left (low blitz, high win rate) is best so...the Cowboys.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 6, 2019
(ESPN stat, NGS data) pic.twitter.com/YPMiJR7QaK
This Cowboys team leads the league in total yards, but nobody is getting caught up in that.
The Cowboys have not finished a season leading the league in total offense since 1977. They haven’t led in scoring since 1980. They haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 1995 season.
“We haven’t played our best ball,” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said. “You look at the numbers and, ‘Hey we’re No. 1 in offense,’ it’s something we can be proud of, but it not’s the staple. It’s not who we are. It’s not what we’re aiming for. We’re aiming to be a successful team, a successful offense.”
The Cowboys ranked fifth, fourth and fourth in total offense during their three Super Bowl victories in the 1990s. Despite being first in yards this season, the Cowboys rank fifth in points scored and are 5-3. That’s why they aren’t hanging a banner for leading the league in yards.
Vikings at Cowboys: Odds, prediction, key matchups for Week 10 ‘Sunday Night Football’ - Jared Dubin, CBS Sports
The Cowboys offense must strike first and strike hard against the Vikings defense if they are to have success as Minnesota has shown the ability to buckle down as the series progress.
When the Cowboys have the ball
After back to back 37-point games, the Dallas offense appears to be back on track following a midseason dip. Coming into this game, Dallas now ranks first in the NFL in yards per game, fifth in points per game, and first in overall offensive DVOA. They’re currently the only team in the NFL with a top-four unit (by DVOA) both in the air and on the ground. On Sunday night they face a Vikings defense that ranks seventh in yards allowed per game, fourth in points allowed per game, and seventh in defensive DVOA. This is what we call a strength vs. strength matchup.
If Dallas wants to find success against this Minnesota defense, the best way to do so is to do it early. The Vikings rank just 21st in DVOA on first down, but they’re sixth on second downs and fifth on third downs -- the money downs. They become increasingly tougher to beat as you get deeper into your series.
Who are five Vikings players to watch on Sunday night?
Trae Waynes – CB
Trae Waynes is coming off a tough game against the Chiefs. He was paired up with Tyreek Hill and was clearly the loser in that contest. Waynes bit early on breaks Hill was making, allowing the speedster to get open. Speaking of speed, Hill also blazed by Waynes a couple of times that resulted in explosive game-changing plays for the Chiefs. That was especially tough to watch as a lot of Waynes’ game relies on his speed to stick with even the fastest receivers down the field.
For a guy who is in a contract year, Waynes isn’t exactly securing his future with the way he’s played this season. Waynes has been okay overall. This season, he has 34 tackles, seven pass breakups, a forced fumble, and an interception. Still, he tends to give up at least one big play a game and not playing to the standards he’s set for himself coverage wise.
The Vikings will need him at his best this Sunday night. It’s unclear who Waynes will be tasked with guarding. Amari Cooper is a flat-out stud, with his big body, sticky mitts, and good overall speed. Michael Gallup is also a tough draw and has good speed and playmaking ability.
With Dak Prescott being able to create extra time in the pocket with his elusiveness, Waynes will have to stay on his man for an extended period of time. If he can shut down the man he’s covering, that’ll make things that much harder for Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense.
CB Trae Waynes was selected 11th overall in 2015.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) November 9, 2019
CB Byron Jones was selected 27th overall in 2015.
Both are playing under their 5th-year option this season.
One of them is a shutdown corner, and the other one plays for the Vikings. pic.twitter.com/hRLk4lCMum
Film room: 3 mismatches that could turn the tide for the Cowboys against the Vikings - John Owning, Dallas Morning News
DMN’s John Owning identifies three mismatches the Cowboys could exploit, including using Tony Pollard as a receiving weapon.
RB wheel routes vs. Minnesota LBs
The Eagles proved that the Minnesota defense can be susceptible to big plays in the passing game from running backs out of the backfield. Philadelphia created two explosive plays – a 32-yard TD reception and a 45-yard catch – with wheel routes to rookie running back Miles Sanders. The Cowboys would be wise to take a page out of Philadelphia’s book, as Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard possess the skills necessary to be effective on wheel routes. Much like Sanders with the Eagles, Pollard possesses the kind of deep speed that poses a serious issue for the Minnesota linebackers, as it’s tough for any LB to keep up with a back who runs a 4.4.