The Cowboys have yet to lose consecutive games this year, but that record will be put to the test this week as they travel to Minnesota to take on the 8-1 Vikings. Only the Eagles have beaten this team, though the Vikings have largely benefited from one of the easier schedules of the season.
Several Cowboys players have already likened this game to a playoff game of sorts, and it’s easy to see why. Minnesota is tied for the best record in the league, and Dallas needs to win this one if they have any hopes of keeping pace in the division. Do our writers think they can rise to the occasion?
When Minnesota has the ball
Contain Justin Jefferson
Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson has been having a phenomenal year, and currently sits in the top five in nearly every major receiving statistic right now. Naturally, quarterback Kirk Cousins is having a great season too. But this Vikings passing attack is heavily dependent on Jefferson; Cousins has a 100.4 passer rating when throwing to Jefferson, but that number drops to 74.6 when targeting anyone else.
This Dallas secondary was tested last week. Rookie DaRon Bland, now a starter after Jourdan Lewis was lost for the year, had a bumpy game while Kelvin Joseph was shaky taking over after Anthony Brown got injured. While Brown has a chance to play, this might be a game where Dallas needs Trevon Diggs to shadow Jefferson and prevent him from wrecking the game. If Diggs can come through, that will check off the biggest task in affecting this offense.
When Dallas has the ball
Hold onto the ball
The Cowboys offense has been significantly better since Dak Prescott returned. For starters, they’ve scored 24 points or more in each game since, something they did just once prior to Prescott’s return. Additionally, the Cowboys are fifth in offensive EPA/play in the last month; they were 25th before then.
Now they face a Vikings defense that’s giving up the third most yards per play, but this group is also second in takeaways. The Cowboys have turned it over at least once in each of their last three games; one was a fumble as Noah Brown landed on his head, but the other three were interceptions that stemmed from miscommunication between Prescott and his receivers. Based on what we’ve seen lately, the Cowboys shouldn’t have a problem moving the ball against this defense, but they’ll need everyone to be on the same page to avoid getting taken advantage of by a very opportunistic unit.
Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...
Tom Ryle (5-4):
It’s a tough one for the Cowboys after they stumbled badly against the Packers. Kirk Cousins is good, but not the cold blooded killer Aaron Rodgers becomes whenever he plays Dallas. The Vikings have a more limited run game, consisting of Dalvin Cook and not much else. How the Cowboys respond coming off the loss will tell us a lot about their chances.
I think they rise to the task and win, 27-20.
Tony Catalina (4-5):
This is a “tell all” stretch for this Cowboys team. We’re going to learn everything we need to know about the legitimacy of this Cowboys teams in the next week and a half. How they respond to an emotional OT loss against a Minnesota team and division rival on Thanksgiving will go a long way in shaping this teams prospects this year.
The Cowboys rise to the challenge this week and beat a good Vikings team to prove they are a real deal and last week was more of an exception that the rule.
Matt Holleran (4-5):
We’re going to find out a lot about the 2022 Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Personally, I think Dallas’ defense is going to look a lot better in Minnesota than they did a week ago in Green Bay. The Cowboys slow down the Vikings’ rushing attack enough to force Kirk Cousins into some third and longs, giving their pass rush a chance to go to work. The game comes down to a Cowboys drive on offense, but the Vikings defense does what it has done best this season, forcing a crucial turnover.
Give me the Vikings, 23-20.
Brandon Loree (6-3):
There’s no time to dwell on last week’s letdown because the Cowboys travel north again and take on the Minnesota Vikings, who are right behind the Eagles for the No. 1 spot in the NFC. The Vikings have a great run game with their two lead backs, Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. The saving grace for the Cowboys is that they know Kirk Cousins from his time in Washington.
There will be plenty of film on how they’ve exploited his weak spots in the past. When the Cowboys played Minnesota last season with Cooper Rush, Dallas limited Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen to under 100 yards and one touchdown. They need to do the same this week to have any shot of winning. I would feel more confident in picking the Cowboys if I knew the game status of Anthony Brown and DeMarcus Lawrence.
With those key players being as uncertain as the run defense, I’ll have to pick the Vikings 24-21 until I’m proven otherwise about Dallas stopping the run. I hope I’m wrong.
Matthew Arizzi (5-4):
The Vikings are playing some of the best football across the league right now. They just went into Buffalo and beat the Super Bowl favorite Bills. Looking at the betting line, why are the Cowboys favored in Minnesota coming off a bad loss off their bye?
The preamble to that question, to me, is alarming, which means one thing: the Cowboys win this game. Kirk Cousins got sacked four times and threw two interceptions last week. If the Cowboys defense can replicate some semblance of that, the offensive game-plan should simply be to limit mistakes. If they do that, I truly think the Cowboys win here.
Cowboys 20, Vikings 17.
Mike Poland (6-2):
Both these teams are closely matched in terms of roster strength. The last six meetings between these two teams, has ended in the winning team never winning no more than by four points. I expect this one to be the same and be no more than a field goal that separates the score. If the pass rush can fluster Cousins enough, the run game figures to stop Cook, and the Dallas offense gets an early lead, the Cowboys win.
Cowboys win 24-21.
Brian Martin (6-3):
After last week’s disappointing overtime loss to the Packers my gut is telling me the Cowboys will once again come up short against the Vikings in Week 11, however, the optimist in me is hoping that slap in the face is a wake-up call for them. I can honestly see it going either way, but I think I’m going go with the latter this week. Give me the Cowboys in a close one.
RJ Ochoa (5-4):
Last week was tough in a lot of ways, but something that seems a bit lost in the fold of it all is that the Dallas Cowboys established a 14-point lead over the Green Bay Packers that they had when the fourth quarter began (they obviously blew that lead).
Similarly the Minnesota Vikings (who I do believe in as an aside) overcame a 27-10 deficit in impressive fashion against the Buffalo Bills.
The point here is that Dallas was in a strong position while Minnesota was in a trailing one just a week ago. We do not have to butterfly effect things a long ways to put both of these teams at 7-2. Give me the Cowboys.
David Howman (6-3):
The Cowboys were clearly the better team last week, but they played with their food and got burned because of it. It was a bit of a shock because this year’s team has generally been the opposite of that, which is why I think they’ll have learned their lesson and take out some frustrations on the Vikings.
I think we see a much more focused offense, a defense that’s allowed to get after the quarterback again, and a splash play or two from the special teams unit (Turpin time?). I think Dallas builds an early lead, the Vikings start to mount a comeback, but then the Cowboys slam the door shut to atone for the loss last week.
Cowboys win 38-20.