The Dallas Cowboys (6-3) take on the first place Minnesota Vikings (8-1) in what could potentially be an NFC playoff preview.
Minnesota is coming off an overtime thriller against the Buffalo Bills that resulted in a win, while Dallas is doing the same but for a loss to the Green Bay Packers.
There’s a reason the Cowboys are a mere 1.5-favorite. It’s essentially a ‘pick em’ game. Both teams are stacked with noteworthy players, despite glaring deficiencies.
For the Cowboys to win, most eyes will be on Pro Bowl RB Dalvin Cook. While Cook is rushing the for the lowest rush yards per game (80.8) since the 2018 season, the Cowboys defense which has allowed 200+ yards on the ground in consecutive games has Vikings fans chomping at the bit to make it three straight.
The only thing that could stand in that way is the enormous threat of All-Pro Justin Jefferson on the outside. Even playing through injury.
#Vikings superstar WR Justin Jefferson is dealing with mild turf toe, which limited his practice reps this week, and the team will have to manage it going forward. But Jefferson told me the injury will restrict him “not at all” today against the #Cowboys. https://t.co/tQq5N4Dt0x— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 20, 2022
In all likelihood, the Vikings saw the Cowboys film and saw just where they are weakest. Running the outside zone to the side opposite of DeMarcus Lawrence, or down the middle near the 3-tech defensive tackle.
Often, the Cowboys linebackers have been late to the running back, giving up an extra yard beyond the line of scrimmage.
The defense is allowing nearly two yards on the ground before contact. Meaning opposing offenses on average already have a two yard gain before a defender has even touched the runner.
Make no mistake about it. The Vikings want to and will run the football.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to expect it, but they have been anticipating the run in recent weeks and it has not resulted in stops.
It’s a cliche at this point to say that controlling the line of scrimmage is the key to this game, but it’s so abundantly clear. Whether it’s a slowed down version of Justin Jefferson, or a Cowboys defensive line with minimal consistent run defenders.
The stars are aligning and they are pointing towards the trenches.
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports