Minnesota Vikings vs. Dallas Cowboys: 3 Keys to the Game

Wow. That’s really all I can say. Almost a week later I am still having a hard time believing what went down in last week’s game. For those of you that are living under a rock, the Minnesota Vikings went into Buffalo and escaped with a narrow victory in what was without a doubt the craziest game I have ever seen. A 33-30 overtime victory moves the Vikings to 8-1 and tied with Philadelphia for the number one seed in the NFC. The next test comes against the 6-3 Dallas Cowboys. Here are three keys for the Minnesota Vikings to overcome being the first-ever (healthy) 8-1 home underdog and come away with their eighth straight victory.

1. Dare the Cowboys to Try to Stop the Run
Dalvin Cook has been having a relatively quiet season by his standards but showed his old self with an explosive 81-yard touchdown run to reignite the offense against the Bills. Justin Jefferson was absolutely dominant (as he often is) against the Buffalo defense, including possibly the best catch I have ever seen. After a performance like that, the Cowboys would be foolish not to pour all their resources into stopping Jefferson. But with that Dalvin Cook should have an opportunity to step up in a big way and feast in the running game. The gameplan should be to run the ball down the throats of the 29th-ranked rushing defense in the first half. Eventually the defense will have to adjust which should allow Justin Jefferson some opportunities one-on-one against Trevon Diggs, a matchup that certainly favors Jefferson.

2. Get Home Against Inexperienced Offensive Linemen
Harrison Phillips is coming off of possibly the best game of his entire career. He was disruptive all day last week against Buffalo and looks to build on that momentum against a Cowboys offensive line that is significantly weaker than previous years. The matchup to pick on should be Phillips against 3rd-year guard Connor McGovern who has struggled mightily to this point in the season. Ever since Dak Prescott suffered a brutal ankle injury in 2020, he has become exclusively a pocket-passer, rarely running the ball except for designed rushes near the goaline. If Phillips, Danielle Hunter, and Za’Darius Smith can consistently break into the backfield, it could be a very long day for Prescott and could help an injury-plagued secondary.

3. Kirk Cousins Needs to React Well Against Pressure
The biggest storyline for me in this game is the battle of these two great defensive lines. Whoever can get home more often could decide who wins this game. Last week against the Bills, Kirk Cousins looked like an entirely different quarterback when it came to avoiding pressure. Some of the throws that Cousins was able to make down the stretch against the Bills were championship-caliber throws and many of them came while facing pressure from the Buffalo defensive line, something he has struggled with in the past. The offensive line is going to have their work cut out for them against a talented Cowboys defensive line with Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence. Potentially missing future All-Pro left tackle Christian Darrisaw could be a big blow and would make it even more likely that Cousins is going to have to continue dealing well with pressure. If he can do that, the Vikings have a really good chance to move to 9-1 on the season.

Prediction: This feels like a game where the Vikings would come out flat and disappoint during the Zimmer-Era, but Kevin O’Connell’s team has shown much more resilience this year. Vikings 31, Cowboys 27
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