This game just feels important. Fresh off a tough overtime loss, the Cowboys really do not want to fall to 6-4 and be on a two game losing streak heading into a Thanksgiving clash with the New York Giants. It is a tough time to roll into Minnesota and face the leagues hottest team, but that is exactly what the Cowboys are tasked with this week.
The Cowboys struggles have been well documented. They have really struggled to stop the run, and teams across the league understand now how to attack this otherwise athletic and talented defense. If the Cowboys do not find a way to tighten up their run defense teams will simply keep attacking them until they do so. Simple answer with a not so simple solution.
These two individuals, one a Cowboy, one a member of the Vikings, will have the biggest impact on Sunday’s game.
Dallas Cowboys X-factor: DaRon Bland
To put it nicely, Daron Bland did not have his best game on Sunday in Green Bay. Bland, and the Cowboys, will look to shake last week off and move forward because, simply put, the Cowboys need Bland to be successful for this team to continue down the road they wish to travel. Bland has shown promise, and although he has taken his lumps like many rookies do, this week will be important for him to have a bounce-back game.
Dallas as a team will square off against Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, a duo widely respected and who are having an outstanding season together. Bland may see Jefferson or Thielen at times as the Vikings will try to scheme to get those players on Bland much like we saw Rodgers do last week. He needs to be ready for that moment and Dallas will do what they can to avoid those matchups, but inevitably it may happen at times and Bland must be ready to answer the bell when so.
There are many layers to this Cowboys defense that need to be better, but with the emphasis already on stopping the run, guys like Daron Bland on the back end will be crucial to the team’s success on Sunday night.
Minnesota Vikings X-factor: Dalvin Cook
Daron Bland and the secondary will be important to the team securing a victory as we mentioned, but we all know the main problem for this Cowboys defense lies within their inability to stop the run. Dalvin Cook is one of the leagues premier running backs and it will take all hands on deck to stop him from taking over the game on Sunday night. Cook is having a stellar season and is benefiting from the playmakers around him as he is able to run against lighter boxes due to the passing threat Jefferson and company pose. Couple that with the fact that the word is out that the Cowboys cannot stop the run, and we can all be sure to see a heavy dose of Cook on Sunday.
The NFL is littered with star running backs, so the Cowboys will have a hard time looking for relief when it comes to formidable backfields going forward. This week is a call to action for the Cowboys defense. How this team responds this week will tell us a lot about the make up and attitude of this team as a whole. If the Cowboys want to get rid of the bad taste in their mouth from a tough Packers game, they will need to find a way to dominate the line of scrimmage and stop Dalvin Cook from sending them to their second consecutive loss.