The Dallas Cowboys are back atop the NFC East, rebounding from a three-game losing streak to post lopsided victories over a pair of division opponents. But things get tougher this weekend as the Cowboys welcome the Minnesota Vikings to town.
The Vikings, who trail the Packers by a game in the NFC North, will look to bounce back after having their four game winning snapped in Kansas City last week. From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, we break down the best ways to wager the odds for the Sunday nighter.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS AT DALLAS COWBOYS (+3, 48)
The Cowboys Offense has been impressive this season, ranking first in the NFL in DVOA. But it does take them a little while to get rolling, as they rank just 14th when it comes to first quarter scoring at just 4.6 points per contest. Additionally, the two other times they faced top 10 teams according to DVOA (New Orleans and Green Bay) the Cowboys managed just three points combined in those two opening quarters.
Meanwhile, the Vikings average just 3.4 first quarter points per game when playing on the road this season. With two solid defenses and two teams that will want to establish the run early, we like the first quarter to be a low-scoring one.
Pick: Under 9.5 First Quarter Total
FIRST HALF BET
Like we mentioned, this is game will be a battle of great running backs. Ezekiel Elliott is the back in this matchup who has all the dough, but it’s Dalvin Cook who’s been the more effective back at this point in the season. Cook has an NFL-leading 894 yards this season and he gets to go up against a Cowboys rush defense that ranks 15th In DVOA. And the second quarter is when the Vikings Offense gets going. They rank fourth in the NFL at 9.7 points per contest.
Zeke himself has been no slouch this season, rushing for 741 yards and six scores. Both of these teams know they are most successful when they pound the rock and both rank in the top six teams in terms of rushing play percentage. The style of this game has us thinking this will be a close one heading into the break.
Pick: Vikings +2.5
Speaking off Cook, we definitely think he’ll have a chance for a big game. As mentioned, the Cowboys have a mediocre rush defense, and while star linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is expected to return after missing last week with a neck issue, he could still be limited, making things even tougher for them.
But where we think he has the most value in the prop market is through the air. Cook also has 338 receiving yards this season, that works out to 38 yards per game. And what his receiving yard total for this one? You guessed it. 37.5! While the Cowboys give up about 47 receiving yards per game to running backs.
With Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen missing this game with a hamstring injury there are even more targets for Cook to nab up. Take him to go Over his receiving yards in this one.
Pick: Dalvin Cook Over 37.5 Receiving Yards
FULL GAME TOTAL
Dak Prescott is averaging 297.5 yards and completing 69.6 percent of his passes -- both career highs -- as he presides over an offense that tops the NFL with 436.8 yards per contest. Amari Cooper, the team leader with 701 yards and six touchdown receptions, was diagnosed with a bruised knee that prevented him from practicing Thursday, but he is expected to play Sunday. While the Vikings Defense is definitely one of the better in the league, the Cowboys are still a dangerous offense.
Despite the loss last week, Kirk Cousins continued his mid-season turnaround. Cousins has thrown for 1,481 yards on 71.4 percent passing with 13 touchdowns compared to just one interception over his last five games. And while the Cowboys’ defense has the potential to be very good, they just aren’t right now. Take the Over.
Pick: Over 48.5
FULL GAME SIDE
The Cowboys most be a frustrating team to be a fan of. They lead their division at 5-3, but those five wins have come against teams with a combined record of 10-34. Four of those five wins came against teams that rank 27th, 29th and 32nd in DVOA and they have a loss against the 31st ranked team. That ain’t good. They just look completely different against good teams and that is exactly what the Vikings are.
While the Cowboys have had to rely heavily on their offense this season, the Vikings might be the most balanced team in the NFL. Their offense ranks 7th in passing DVOA and 8th in rushing DVOA, while their defense ranks 9th in passing rushing DVOA. With the way Cousins is playing right now (He has a 123.5 passer rating in his last three road games, throwing nine TDs and zero picks), and the edge on defense, we are siding with the road dogs in this one.
Pick: Vikings +3
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