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Cowboys Week 8 opponent preview: The Minnesota Vikings

The bye week was good for the Cowboys but will their preparation be enough to beat the Vikings?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to get a win during your bye week but somehow the Dallas Cowboys were able to get one. That win being more space between themselves and the two closest NFC East teams to them in the standings as both lost. The Cowboys now turn their focus towards the 3-3 Minnesota Vikings, but don’t let their record fool you. This is a very dangerous team with enough weapons to beat the Cowboys on offense and playmakers on defense to slow this Cowboys offense down. What exactly do they have on offense and defense, let’s take a look in this week's opponent preview.

Minnesota Vikings

2020 Record: 7-9

Last Meeting: 11/22/2020 - Cowboys 31 - Vikings 28

Head Coach: Mike Zimmer

Key Additions: DT Dalvin Tomlinson, CB Patrick Peterson, S Xavier Woods, DT Michael Pierce, CB Bashaud Breeland

Key Losses: TE Kyle Rudolph, S Anthony Harris, LB Eric Wilson, OT Riley Reiff, CB Patrick Peterson (IR), TE Irv Smith (IR)

NFL: DEC 06 Jaguars at Vikings

Biggest offensive strengths and weaknesses

The Dallas Cowboys will once again be facing off against the dreaded wide zone offensive scheme. A scheme that has burned them in the past especially with Dalvin Cook at running back for the Vikings. Cook is the oil in this offensive machine that keeps this offense clicking, his presence on the field forces teams to send an extra man into the box to help stop this dominant running back. If teams have to commit help to stopping the running game, Kirk Cousins has the weapons to do damage. Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn have propelled the Vikings passing game into something to be feared. The Cowboys will need to handle the run game without committing a safety to the box so they can sit back and deal with Cousins and his receivers.

The biggest weakness on this Vikings offense is the interior of their offensive line. As a whole, the Vikings aren’t giving up too many sacks but that is also part of their scheme so far this year. They don’t want Cousins holding the ball. If the Cowboys are able to exploit the middle of the line, and use Micah Parsons on some A-gap stunts, they might be able to disrupt the zone running scheme and push Cousins off his spot and force errant throws. This could be a breakout game for the Cowboys defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa.

Minnesota Vikings v Carolina Panthers Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

Biggest defensive strengths and weaknesses

The strength of this Minnesota Vikings defense is still their front line, with the return of Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffin having given this defense an effective pass rush as both of them combined have 10 sacks on the season. The additions of Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce in the middle of this defensive line have made it tougher for teams to run the football against them. The Cowboys offensive line has been hit with a rash of holding penalties over the past few weeks and hopefully it’s been something they have been working on in preparation for this defensive front. The Vikings lead the league in sacks and if the penalties continue, then it’s going to be a long day for this offense, and an even longer one for quarterback Dak Prescott. The Vikings are going to want to test his calf, and they have the personnel up front to put the pressure on.

To combat this effective defensive front the Cowboys are going to need to exploit this weakened secondary by attacking the cornerbacks early and often. Luckily they have the firepower to do so with receivers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Cedrick Wilson. The Vikings corners are a trouble spot with Bashaud Breeland struggling for the early part of the season although he’s had better games recently against lesser quarterbacks. Patrick Peterson is on IR. The Cowboys have the weapons to attack down the field, they just need their offensive line to hold up and give Dak Prescott time.