Vikings

3 Things To Know About the Cowboys

Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Although the Minnesota Vikings (8-1) have a better record by two games, the Dallas Cowboys (6-3) opened as two-point favorites, according to VegasInsider. That’s a testament to the talent of the Cowboys. While they are the third-ranked team in the NFC East and have played much of the season with a backup quarterback, Dallas has the fourth-best point differential in the league. They are just as much of a contender as the Vikings are.

This is an important game for both teams. Here are three things that the Vikings need to watch out for if they are going to continue their NFL-best seven-game winning streak.

Defensive Line

If the Vikings lose this game, it will be because the Cowboys were living in the Minnesota backfield. Not only do they lead the league in sacks with 35 and are second in pressure rate at 29.6%, but they are also third in the league in TFLs with 55. Micah Parsons, a do-everything defender with eight sacks and nine TFLs, leads the Cowboys’ defensive unit.

Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw has been playing at a Pro Bowl level this season. He has the best PFF rating of any offensive lineman in 2022. But Darrisaw exited last week’s game with a concussion, and his presence or absence could significantly affect the effectiveness of Dallas’ defense.

Darrisaw didn’t practice on Wednesday, but he could be healthy by Sunday. If he plays, the Vikings can put him on an island like they have all season, allowing the other four linemen to help each other out. If Darrisaw is out, the Vikings won’t be able to forget about Kirk Cousins’ blind side. They will have to commit resources to help out Blake Brandel, who, while serviceable, is no Pro Bowler. That could mean the whole offensive line struggles more than usual in this game.

Run Game

Ezekiel Elliott might miss his third game in a row against the Vikings. That might not be a good thing for Minnesota, though, as backup Tony Pollard has proved that he is more than a worthy starter. Pollard is averaging six YPC and has scored six times on the season. He’s a big-play threat on every snap, so limiting his explosiveness is a must.

Minnesota’s run defense has been middle-of-the-pack, allowing the 17th-most rushing yards per game. It’s not necessarily a weakness, but it’s not a strength, either. Vikings-Cowboys will be an interesting battle, as the game script will likely determine if Dallas can run the ball.

If the Vikings jump out to an early lead, the Cowboys are unlikely to be able to run the ball as much. But if Dallas outscores Minnesota early, their run game could take off, and Pollard may repeatedly gash the Vikings. However, apparently, no lead is safe when the Vikings are involved. This game could become a slippery slope for either team because whoever has the lead can play to their strengths more as the game continues.

Trevon Diggs

Diggs is one of the more unique players in the NFL. He forgoes traditional cornerback tendencies of trying to cling as close as possible to his assignment, instead choosing to go for the big play and get a deflection or a turnover. And he is exceptionally good at it. Diggs has 12 passes defended and three interceptions on the year, tied for second and eighth in the NFL, respectively.

However, it also means that his gambles can turn into big receptions and after-the-catch opportunities. It’s unlikely that the Cowboys will shadow Justin Jefferson with Diggs this week, so Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn’s targets are more likely to turn into interceptions. That said, it leaves the door open for another big Jefferson game.

If the Cowboys match Jefferson up against Diggs, his exceptional after-the-catch ability will be put on full display because Jefferson can turn a short catch into a 50-yard gain. If Diggs is on the other side of the field, it just means a cleaner route for the ball to reach Jefferson’s hands.

Diggs adds much value to a defense by generating incompletions and turnovers. But if Cousins recognizes that and is appropriately aggressive in attacking the Dallas defense, the Vikings’ offense could see a lot of big plays throughout the game. If Cousins takes one too many risks, though, it could mean a game-changing turnover for the Cowboys.

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