Who exactly are the Dallas Cowboys facing on Sunday? We know it’s the Minnesota Vikings, of course. But they’re quite tough to figure out.
You can’t ignore the elephant in the room, an 8-1 record that’s second to none in the NFL. Yet they rank 19th in the NFL in both offensive and defensive DVOA. And they rank around league average in just about any statistical category you can think of.
They gain 5.4 yards per play (16th) and allow 5.9 (28th). They score 25.1 points per game (8th) and allow 21 (14th). What exactly has made them so special?
Well, they’re second in the NFL in turnover differential (+8) and they get in the red zone (2nd most red zone trips per game). They’ve been lucky here and there, too. If you’re looking for an example don’t look any further than Josh Allen’s QB sneak fumble last Sunday that resulted in a touchdown for Minnesota.
But Cowboys’ head coach Mike McCarthy knows better than to chalk it up to good ol’ luck. The fact of the matter is the Vikings have some capital-letter DUDES on offense.
“(The Vikings’) offense is extremely balanced,” McCarthy told reporters at Thursday’s press conference.
The Cowboys’ coach recognized the top three pass-catchers for Kirk Cousins, including tight end T.J. Hockenson. This will be the second time Hockenson plays Dallas as the former Detroit Lion lost at AT&T Stadium before being traded. He had four catches for 48 yards on that one.
“(Adam) Thielen has obviously been there forever. Just such high respect for him because you talk about doing all the little things,” said McCarthy. “Jefferson is premier as far as the top receivers of the game. And T.J. is obviously a really good addition for them too.”
The Cowboys’ head coach summed up the unique challenge that Dan Quinn’s defense faces this weekend by counting how many scary players the Vikings have on offense.
“When I look at offensive personnel, I always look at the perimeter players. And how many do they have that really make you nervous and you’ve got to focus on? Most teams have three or four, some have five.”
Including the quarterback and running back Dalvin Cook, the Vikings have five per McCarthy.
The Cowboys know exactly what’s coming after back-to-back rough weeks for the run defense.
“We understand that it’s going to be outside zone getting off the bus. As soon as I said that, they’re going to take a shot.”
The Vikings’ offense runs the football quite well and is one of the units that use the most play-action every week. Dalvin Cook is among the NFL readers in explosive runs and broken tackles.
Do the Cowboys want to be more disciplined and physical versus the run? Well, they’ll put that to the test on the road against the 10th-best rushing offense per DVOA.
Featured image via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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