Dallas Cowboys versus Minnesota Vikings on Halloween night. Both teams are fresh off a bye, both teams on their own winning streaks, and both have explosive offenses, and both teams would absolutely love to end the night with a victory. The last part goes without saying, but this might just be a measuring stick game for both teams as both were playing good football prior to the bye week off. Each squad will look to see if they can get back into their groove and pull off a win from a tough conference opponent.
The Cowboys come into this game winning three of the last four meetings between the two teams, most recently an Andy Dalton led 31-28 victory that is best remembered as the game CeeDee Lamb made an amazing touchdown catch that was seen as a catapult point for his career. This year’s meeting has a very different feel from a year ago as this Cowboys team is one of the hottest in football with an explosive offense and an opportunistic defense led by one of the best young cornerbacks in the league, Trevon Diggs.
Look for this game to be tight, back and forth, and hard fought for 60 minutes as the Vikings possess a wide array of weapons themselves. Between Dalvin Cook in the backfield, Justin Jefferson and Adam Theilen out wide, coupled with the fact that Kirk Cousins has been playing the quarterback position at a quality level, this offense has the weapons to go toe to toe with the Cowboys how powered offense.
Here are four things to watch this week.
1. How healthy is Dak Prescott?
The assumption by pretty much everybody is that Dak Prescott will be playing on Sunday night, so we’ll assume he is, too. However, the question that we will want to get an answer about early on in this game is just how healthy is he. Dak has the ability to stand back in the pocket, get the ball out quick and play the quick-passing game all day and be successful doing so. Where all eyes will be focused is when the pocket breaks down and he has to get out in space to improvise.
If Dak is able to maneuver in the pocket, be comfortable rolling out and creating time with his legs, the Cowboys should be able to continue to march right on in their offensive attack. The first time the pocket collapses and you see Dak’s natural instincts kick in, that is when we will truly know how much he trusts his calf, and how healthy that it really is.
2. Trevon Diggs vs Justin Jefferson.
Two young players both on their way to absolute NFL stardom squaring off on Halloween night in front of a national stage? Yeah, sign me up for that. No matter which team you root for, this matchup is going to be must see TV. Look for Justin Jefferson to be one of the toughest test Diggs faces all season. That is in no way a shot at all of the stars Diggs has faced and conquered thus far, this is more about Jefferson’s playing style and how it may cause issues for Diggs and his playing strengths.
Jefferson possesses the ability to use his length and leaping ability to win contested balls which is a strength of Diggs himself, and Jefferson has a clean release off the line that he uses to create separation in man coverage that will ensure Diggs will need to be technically sound when he is head up. Beyond technique, Jefferson plays with relentless effort and a high motor which ensures that cornerbacks need to be locked in all game. These are all traits and skills that Diggs has faced and excelled against in prior matchups, so look for these two to duke it out all game long and we will all have the pleasure of sitting back and enjoying the competition.
3. Can the Cowboys disrupt Kirk Cousins?
The Cowboys are very familiar with Kirk Cousins. They know his game and what he is looking to do. Cousins likes to get the ball out quick and he likes to play efficient with the ball. The goal for this Cowboys defense is to disrupt him. Make him feel uncomfortable, get him off his spot, and force him to press and make mistakes that allow for this Cowboys team to continue their opportunistic style of play.
Pressure will need to get home, and whether that be through exotic looks or just old fashion defensive lineman winning their one-on-one matchups, the Cowboys cannot afford to allow Cousins to sit back and pick his spots. This offense has the weapons to score and they can do so quickly, so making sure they attack Cousins and put stress on this beatable offensive line will be a key to this game.
4. Heavy workload for Ezekiel Elliott & Tony Pollard
Your star quarterback is banged up and you are playing a defense that struggles containing the run, put those factors together and the obvious conclusion is that you can expect a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Even if Dak was fully healthy this may have been the plan all along. This defense can be run on and this rushing attack is one of the league’s best.
Protect your quarterback, keep their offense off the field, and control the clock sounds like the Cowboys teams of old, but in this instance it’s more of an attacking style they may see fit for this specific game rather than a need. They have a top five running attack fresh off a bye week, so pound the rock and walk out of Sunday night with a sixth straight win.
We discussed all of these ideas during this week’s preview show on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel (where we operated under the assumption that Dak Prescott will be playing). You can watch it with our discussion, special guest appearance by Minnesota Vikings play-by-play announcer Paul Allen, film room observations, and more right here:
Make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of our videos!