Game Scout: Vikings-Cowboys

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Minnesota Vikings (1-6) at Dallas Cowboys (4-4)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
*Keys to the game: The return of RB DeMarco Murray could help balance Dallas' offense, but losing physical tone-setter Brian Waters at guard has a ripple effect the team won't be able to accurate gauge until Sunday. Murray is averaging 4.7 yards per carry but was under 15 carries in all four of six starts before his knee injury. QB Tony Romo has a 101.7 passer rating (18 TDs, five INTs) and should be able to victimize the Vikings' challenged secondary without breaking a sweat. WRs Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Miles Austin could all give the Vikings problems in man coverage, and TE Jason Witten's chain-moving work underneath is a major worry for the NFL's worst third-down defense. To keep their defense from tongue-lagging before halftime, the Vikings need a revival from RB Adrian Peterson, who has only 150 yards on 33 carries the past three weeks. Slowing the tempo with Peterson is the Vikings' only path to an upset. If Minnesota can control the game with its running attack and QBs Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman don't give the ball away, the Vikings still must find a way to convert in the red zone.
*Matchup to watch - Vikings CB A.J. Jefferson vs. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant: With Chris Cook (hip) less than 100 percent, Jefferson could replace him in the base defense. Jefferson has regressed during an injury-marred season after showing some promise a year ago. Bryant is faster, more physical and determined to make an impact for his underachieving team.
*Player spotlight - Cowboys MLB Sean Lee: Vikings quarterbacks have been undone by turnovers. Lee leads the Cowboys with 99 tackles and is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with four. Lee, who has two interception returns for touchdowns this season including one in last week's loss to Detroit, is instinctive and at the heart of the Dallas game plan.
*Fast facts: The Vikings will use the same five starting offensive linemen for a 25th consecutive game. ... The Cowboys have played an NFL-high 16 games decided by seven points the past two seasons (8-8).
Tony Romo and the Cowboys air it out to deflate the hapless Vikings' game plan of playing it safe by loading up RB Adrian Peterson.
*Our pick: Cowboys 34-23

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