The Dallas Cowboys are coming off of their bye week and will be facing off against the Minnesota Vikings, who are on a three-game win streak after a hard fought victory on Monday night against their division rivals, the Chicago Bears. They will have a short week to get ready for a rested Cowboys team that still has to decide who will be their starting quarterback this week. We may not find out until game day to keep the Vikings guessing. Either way it will be a tough game for the Cowboys. Just how tough? Let’s take a look at this Vikings team and find out.
2019 Record: 10-6
Last Meeting: 11/10/2019 Vikings 28, Cowboys 24
Head Coach: Mike Zimmer
Offensive Ranking: 15th of 32
Defensive Ranking: 23rd of 32
Key Additions: DT Michael Pierce, WR Justin Jefferson (Drafted), DE Anthony Zettel, CB Jeff Gladney (Drafted), DE Yannick Ngakoue
Key Losses: CB Xavier Rhodes, DE Everson Griffen, S Andrew Sendejo, CB Mackensie Alexander, S Jayron Kearse, DT Linval Joseph, CB Trae Waynes, WR Stefon Diggs, DE Stephen Weatherly
Key Injuries: DE Danielle Hunter (IR), DE Anthony Barr (IR), CB Mike Hughes (neck), CB Cameron Dantzler (concussion), TE Irv Smith (groin)
Biggest offensive strengths and weaknesses
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Vikings offense is their running game led by Dalvin Cook who leads the NFL in rushing yards with 954 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Cowboys will know that after last season’s loss to the Vikings where they ran the ball 36 times for 153 yards and a touchdown. That strong running game is what helps to open up their passing game as teams are looking to stop the run first and deal with their passing game later. The Vikings passing game is led by quarterback Kirk Cousins. If the Cowboys want a chance to win they are going to have to stop that running game that is averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
When looking for a weakness on this offense, at certain points in the season the Vikings offensive line has issues pass blocking, especially along the interior. While they are a strong group when they are run blocking, they aren’t the best group when it comes to pass blocking. So far this season they have given up 17 sacks, a number that could be more but quarterback Kirk Cousins has been able to evade defenders keeping plays alive to hit receivers Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and tight end Kyle Rudolph, for large gains down the field. If the Cowboys defensive line can disrupt their timing and confuse the offensive linemen they will get into Cousins head and throw him off his game. The more bodies he has around him means more chances he will make a mistake or get sacked.
Biggest defensive strengths and weaknesses
This Vikings defense lost a lot of players this offseason to injuries and it’s showing as they’ve fallen from the fifth ranked overall defense last season to 23rd ranked defense this season. But with all of those losses they still have two constants on this defense - safety Harrison Smith manning the middle of the field and linebacker Eric Kendricks making plays in the running game. The Cowboys are going to have to make sure that these two players don’t beat them, Smith with his ability to make plays on the football (three interceptions and six passes defended) while it’s in the air and Kendricks’ ability to decipher running plays and get to the ball carrier to make a stop (87 tackles). If the Cowboys can keep these two guessing they should be able to move the ball on this defense.
The biggest weakness on this defense has to be their pass rush which has only generated 18 sacks. And now with their two best pass rushers Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr out for the season they are extremely limited in the ability to get to the quarterback. That in turn has given opposing teams the time to attack the Vikings young cornerbacks. Good news for a Cowboys team down both of their starting offensive tackles. If they can hold up against this weakened pass rush the Cowboys talented trio of receivers can take advantage of these young corners.
On offense, the biggest x-factor that will determine the Cowboys success will be their ability to handle the blitzes from this aggressive Vikings defense.
On defense, it will be stopping Dalvin Cook in the running game and passing game. He is their main weapon.