The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a brutal overtime loss in Week 10, a game in which they held a 14-point lead heading into fourth quarter. It’s a tough one to swallow, but the Cowboys need to get right back up and face an 8-1 Minnesota Vikings coming off one of the best wins on the season (on the road over Buffalo).
Dallas needs to forget about what happened the week prior and focus their energy. It’s another road game and in one of the more difficult places to play in the league. A new week brings another chance to prove the Cowboys belong in the conversation with the top teams in the league. A win against the Vikings would ease some of the sting, so in preparation here are six things to know about them.
Riding a seven-game win streak
The Cowboys lost to a Packers team riding a five-game losing streak, but in Week 11 Dallas gets the hottest team in the league. The Vikings have won seven straight and their only loss was to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2. Just as the Packers were due to play well, hopefully the Vikings are due for a stinker.
The Vikings are also coming off a huge win on the road against the Buffalo Bills, who are considered one of the league’s best. Minnesota was down 10 points in the fourth quarter and were poised to go down even further until an interception turned the game around.
There were a handful of twists and turns in the comeback, and the Vikings eventually won in overtime.
The Viking’s resume also includes wins against the Packers, at the Miami Dolphins and also at the Washington Commanders where they trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter as well. There’s no quit in these Vikings, who are riding high through 10 weeks of the NFL season.
Dalvin Cook is a problem...
Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
The Cowboys are coming off a game where they allowed 203 rushing yards to the Packers and their top two running backs. If last week were an anomaly, perhaps the Dallas defense would feel better about going up against Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who is one of the best runners in the game.
However, Dan Quinn’s defense has now allowed back-to-back 200+ yard efforts on the ground and remains a problem.
Cook is seventh in the league in rushing with 727 yards and is averaging five yards per attempt. Against the Bills, Cook broke a long touchdown run of 81-yards and has six rushing scores on the year. Cook has more speed than Dillon or Jones, so if he gets creases like the Packers did last week, the Cowboys are in trouble.
.@DalvinCook goes 81 YARDS!!!
— NFL (@NFL) November 13, 2022
As a team, the Vikings run it for 107 yards a game, but Cook is responsible for almost 81 yards of their rushing total. Cook is the biggest piece of the running puzzle, if the Cowboys want to slow the ground game for the Vikings, they need to limit his success.
... but Justin Jefferson is a bigger one
(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
As dangerous as Cook is, the best offensive player on the Vikings is unquestionably their third-year WR. Last week Jefferson lit up a good Bills secondary for 10 catches, 193 yards and a touchdown. Jefferson’s biggest play was on fourth-and-18 in the fourth quarter, where he went up and grabbed the ball out of a defender’s hands to keep the Vikings alive in a game they eventually won.
Justin Jefferson caught this pic.twitter.com/9bRScbA0iO
— Matt Anderson (@MattAnderson_8) November 13, 2022
The type of game Jefferson had isn’t uncommon. On the season, Jefferson is second in receiving yards (1,060), and is just one of two players to have eclipsed 1,000 yards on the year. Jefferson also already has six 100-yard receiving games in 2022.
There aren’t many WRs in the league in Jefferson’s class and the Cowboys are coming off a game where they were torched by a rookie receiver for 107 yards and three scores. Most of that damage was done on the fourth and fifth cornerbacks for the Cowboys, and they hope to get starting CB Anthony Brown back, but the Vikings will be sure to get Jefferson some targets on someone other than All-Pro CB Trevon Diggs.
The Cowboys must stop Jefferson from dominating in this game to give themselves a change to win. Easier said than done against one of the game’s top receivers.
Za'Darius Smith is a game-wrecker
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
In the offseason, the Cowboys were looking to upgrade their pass rushing group and linebacker Za’Darius Smith was someone the team had their sights set on. The veteran pass rusher had back surgery at the beginning of the 2021 season and was released by the Packers to become a free agent in March.
The Cowboys met with Smith but couldn’t finish the job and allowed him to sign with the Vikings. Dallas’ loss was Minnesota’s gain.
Smith is currently second in the NFL with 9.5 sacks on the season and is finding his groove. In the last four games, Smith picked up six of those sacks and is looking like the All-Pro he was in the 2020 season. Smith is on pace to shatter his career-high of 13.5 sacks in 2019.
The Vikings list Smith as questionable with a knee contusion, but if he plays, the offensive line will need to keep him away from quarterback Dak Prescott. Smith has the ability to wreck the game plan for the Cowboys on offense.
Kirk Cousins will give the defense a chance at turnovers
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings have eight wins on the season, and their quarterback has thrown eight interceptions. Cousins’ eight picks is tied for the third most tossed on the year, so he’ll give the Cowboys defense an opportunity with a few turnover worthy throws, they just have to be ready to make the plays.
Cousins is a good quarterback, but he’ll take some chances when pressured. The 11-year veteran has a knack of faltering in big games even though he helped the Vikings comeback to beat the Bills. On the season, Cousins has five comeback drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.
However, those types of games haven’t been the norm for Cousins over his career. He lacks the consistency to win primetime matchups.
The Cowboys need to rattle Cousins and force him into mistakes. When that eventually happens, the defense needs to cash in on those miscues. Cousins threw three interceptions against the Eagles earlier this season, and two last week against the Bills, so he’s prone to turning the ball over.
If the Dallas defense makes Cousins pay for his mistakes, the Cowboys will have a better chance at winning the game.
Team at home and favored has lost last three matchups
(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
The Cowboys and Vikings seem to have an annual matchup, this will be the fourth straight season they will play each other. In the last three games, the road team, and underdog, has won each time.
In 2019, the Cowboys played host to the Vikings and were favored to win on Sunday Night Football. Behind a huge effort from Cook, who had 183 total yards and a score, the Vikings beat the Cowboys.
During the 2020 season, the Cowboys were without Prescott and Andy Dalton got the start at quarterback. Minnesota was a heavy favorite, but the Dallas defense forced two turnovers and Dalton hit tight end Dalton Schultz for the score late to win the game. This was also the game where wide receiver CeeDee Lamb made his acrobatic touchdown catch.
Last year, the Vikings were favored and playing against another backup QB, this time it was Cooper Rush. The Cowboys were down at halftime, but Rush’s 75-yard touchdown pass to Cedrick Wilson tied the contest and Rush then won it with a game-winning drive. The clinching score was a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Amari Cooper with under a minute to play.
The Cowboys are currently favored to win this game in Minnesota, we’ll find out which trend continues.