We are back for a second straight week to watch the Dallas Cowboys in a primetime slot, this time hosting the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys come into this game riding a short two-game winning streak. The Vikings, on the other hand, were just handed their first loss in over a month on a last-second field goal by the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend.
Cowboys Offense vs. Vikings Defense
Both of these teams have relatively similar offensive philosophies, but they are not really the same team. Both feature elite workhorse running backs, a controversial quarterback, and an elite receiver or two. Speaking of elite receivers, Amari Cooper was listed as questionable leading into this game, but an MRI on Thursday afternoon confirmed that his knee injury was just a bruise, meaning that the Cowboys expect to have Amari back for Sunday night’s game.
The Cowboys started the season on fire, then stumbled really hard after seemingly losing their offensive identity. They started the season with a somewhat limited Ezekiel Elliott because of his holdout that lasted into the final week of the preseason. With Elliott limited, this team leaned heavily on the play-action pass and dominated teams through the air for a few weeks.
Once Zeke was back to a full workload, they seemed to completely lose this aspect of their offense, and they quickly struggled to move the ball early in games. This lack of offense led to trailing for most of the game, which led to a lot of bad passes downfield from Dak Prescott in obvious passing situations.
This has since been fixed a bit in their last two games, where I think that they have looked more like the team that began the season. The question for me is, can this team still play well while trailing, because they have struggled mightily while trailing all season.
As a first-year play-caller, Kellen Moore has seemed to panic a bit early, and it has caused this offense to struggle after losing the lead. I expect this to eventually be ironed out, but we cannot be sure that has happened yet.
While the Vikings defense is relatively talented, I don’t expect them to truly alter the game a ton. They have shown that they can be beaten in different ways, and their last two games against competent offenses this season have resulted in allowing 30 points to the Lions and 26 to the Matt Moore-led Chiefs.
Vikings Offense vs. Cowboys Defense
The Cowboys have been disruptive at times on defense, and they have the talent to be an elite defensive unit with a shutdown corner in Byron Jones, a dominant edge rusher in Demarcus Lawrence, and two really versatile linebackers in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. However, this defense has been a bit hit or miss to start the season, and I think that the first quarter or so will tell us a lot about the rest of the game on this side of the ball.
The Vikings are another team that wants to be frontrunning, with Dalvin Cook shouldering the load. The difference is that after the start to their season that consisted of basically no passing yards, the Vikings have clearly adjusted offensively, and they have finally gotten the ball to both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen more often.
The issue for this offense right now is that Thielen is looking unlikely to play in this game, and that means that Jones will almost definitely shadow Diggs all over the field. This will put a lot more pressure on the secondary options of the Vikings passing game, especially if the Cowboys take an early lead.
I like the Cowboys here -3 at home. This line suggests that this is a pick ’em on a neutral site, and I just do not see that with these two teams. Assuming Cooper is 100 percent and Thielen sits, I think that the Cowboys have more stars on both sides of the ball, and they have a better overall roster too. I like the Cowboys to put up a big number and cover easily.