It’s the clash of the overtime warriors this week, as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys failed to grasp victory in an overtime clash against the Green Bay Packers, but the Vikings managed to pull off one of the craziest wins in recent memory in extra time over the Buffalo Bills. A back-and-forth win for Minnesota that was not far removed from the Minneapolis Miracle game against the New Orleans Saints back in 2018.
In the last ten games between the Cowboys and Vikings, they have split with five wins each. Although the Cowboys have won three of the last four matchups, the Vikings are on a hot streak right now after the huge win against the Buffalo Bills. They sit atop of the NFC North with eight wins.
So how does each offensive position fare in a head-to-head battle?
Dak Prescott vs Kirk Cousins
Stylistically these two quarterbacks are very different. Both are accurate passers of the ball, but Cousins has much better ball placement. All you need to do is to go watch any throw Cousins has made this year to Justin Jefferson. But under pressure and versus the blitz, Prescott is rock solid, and actually performs better when he’s under pressure as apposed to being kept clean. Cousins, if he gets an ounce of pressure, will throw the ball away, and he leads the league in throwaways this year. Concentration can get the better of Cousins, which has been seen plenty in the past, and even in the win last week he made some poor calculations, leading to playing from behind until the fourth quarter.
But all of Cowboys Nation was left disappointed after watching Dak’s performance last week. It’s true not all the blame can be placed on Dak, but he made mistakes that lead to a stalling offense, and that high level he was playing at the week before just seemed to be lacking. In terms of passing accuracy, touchdown to interception ratio, and passer rating, these two quarterbacks aren’t that far apart. Pressure between these two quarterbacks is key, where one handles it better than the other. And also one puts less self pressure on himself than the other. For Cousins though, the connection and chemistry he has right now with his leading receiver is something no stat sheet can define.
Between these two quarterbacks, the difference was seen last week. Both teams needed their quarterbacks to step up and take control of the game to win in overtime. Cousins managed to do that, Dak failed.
Elliott/Pollard vs Cook/Mattison
Will the Cowboys get Elliott back this week? The addition for the offense would be nice. Both Tony Pollard and Dalvin Cook have managed to score six times this season on the ground. Pollard has a hefty six yards per carry average, as opposed to Cook’s very decent five yard average. But Cook has the most rushing yards this season among the two team’s running backs. What makes Cook so scary this week is his insane burst from the line. Cook possesses rare acceleration and initial burst, and against a defense that has allowed nearly 450 rushing yards in the last two games, you have to think the plan will be to give Cook some extra attempts.
Zeke is hopeful to return so watch that practice report for his name this week, If he is back the return to gap power and making those hard earned yards will find its way back to the field. But don’t forget the Vikings also have Alexander Mattison, who is a great and reliable back up to Cook when he needs the break.
Lamb/Gallup/Brown vs Jefferson/Thielen/Osborn
We maybe looking at the next Randy Moss the way Justin Jefferson is playing right now. No wide receiver the Cowboys will face, or has faced, will compare to the level Jefferson is at in the league today. The spectacular catches, the level of concentration, and the strength and athletic ability he shows on routes and at the catch point are phenomenal. During the NFL draft, he was available to the Cowboys, so the discussion will always be the Jefferson vs Lamb topic. But last week against the Bills may be Jefferson’s best game, and one of the best receiver performances you will ever witness. Adam Thielen is getting long in the tooth now, but remains effective, averaging 51 receiving yards per game, but he’s certainly slowing down.
CeeDee Lamb had a career game last week. When given the chance, what we saw against the Packers is what Lamb can produce. Lamb went for 150 yards and added two touchdowns. He was targeted at a healthy WR1 rate of fifteen times. Adding to Lamb’s impressive game was 43 yards after the catch, but what was also inspiring was his catches under pressure. Just a shame the referee’s failed to call an important pass interference against Lamb by the Packers. Yes he had a dropped pass, but Lamb has four dropped passes on the year, which is one less than Jefferson. One negative for Lamb is his understanding of route concepts, which was apparent on a Dak interception in the game. The concern here with Lamb is that at this stage you wonder if he can read the defense, and see the field the same way that Dak does.
Michael Gallup made some very important first-down catches that helped maintain drives. But his issue last week was the Packers clearly felt unafraid by him, and he did struggle to get separation consistently. Let’s see if they use Gallup more on some deep crosses and 9-routes this week against the Vikings safeties, the place he finds most success. The Cowboys also get a little closer to James Washington returning from injury news.
Dalton Schultz vs T.J. Hockenson
It’s like Groundhog Day talking about Hockenson. This will be the second time the Cowboys face Hockenson this season. The last time Hockenson played the Cowboys, when he played for the Lions in Week 7, he went for 48 yards, and they will look to continue that trend again. Hopefully Jayron Kearse can step up and get back to his tight end killer role. But with Hockenson sitting on an 80-yard game last week, he will be playing with great confidence for this week.
Dalton Schultz looked a little more like pre-injury Schultz which is positive to see. He made some mistakes, mostly he looked like he was out of position on some timing routes, but generally he was a reliable outlet that Dak likes to check down to.
One of the issues Cousins has, and why he throws away passes a lot, is his pass protection. The Vikings offensive line ranks sixth worst in sacks allowed, and sixth worst in pressures allowed. Rookie offensive guard Ed Ingram holds the team record for most sacks and pressures allowed, and right behind him is the other guard Ezra Cleveland. Their best lineman is Christian Darrisaw, but check his availability this week, as he awaits clearance from concussion protocol.
On the Cowboys side, this offensive line stays solid in its pass protection duties. But the weakness here is penalties. Conner McGovern and Tyler Smith both got calls against them last week, but it’s not the call itself, it’s the timing of the call. The result of their holding calls killed drives, and they happened at times when the offense was trying to get into scoring position and get the game momentum back in their favor, or end the game. This line is among the best in sacks allowed this season. And the combination of Terence Steele with Zack Martin in run blocking is proving to be extremely effective on the right side of the line.
Which team has the better offense?
This poll is closed