It has been a rough few weeks for Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton, playing in relief of the injured Dak Prescott, suffered a concussion on October 25 on a vicious hit by Washington’s John Bostic. Then, Dalton contracted COVID-19, which “hit him hard” following the concussion. As of midweek, Dalton looks like he will be able to return under center after missing just one game.
That one game was another heartbreaker for Dallas. Garrett Gilbert threw for 243 yards and tossed a touchdown to Ceedee Lamb, while Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard combined to rush for 105 yards against the league’s best rush defense. The Cowboys led 19-9 going into the fourth quarter, but the Steelers scored two touchdowns and a field goal in the game’s final quarter to secure the victory. That loss was Dallas’s fourth consecutive loss.
Minnesota, meanwhile, is looking for its fourth win in a row after defeating Chicago 19-13 last Sunday at Soldier Field. Kirk Cousins hooked up with Adam Thielen for two touchdowns, and Justin Jefferson continued his historic rookie campaign by hauling in eight catches for 135 yards. That was almost more than the entire Bears’ offensive output (144 total yards, 41 rushing). It was the best showing by the Vikings defense, which has been suspect all season long.
This game features two very good offenses going against two defenses that rank in the bottom third of the league. This game could come down to turnovers. Minnesota is -5 on the season, but Dallas is -13 courtesy of 12 lost fumbles and eight interceptions.
Cowboys Need to Take Care of Ball, Fix Defense to Break StreakIf there was any good news to their last loss, it is that Dallas has an offense good enough to go toe-to-toe with the league’s best. The bad news is that the defense continues to struggle to finish off games. The Cowboys defense has given up 391.4 yards per game this season, but has been very poor on third down. Opponents are converting third downs at a 48.3% rate. To make matters worse, CB Trevon Diggs is out, and DE DeMarcus Lawrence did not practice on Thursday. He is currently listed as questionable, but a loss here would really hurt the defensive line.
Offensively, Andy Dalton looks to return as signal caller after sitting out because of a concussion and COVID. Dalton has completed 61.2% of his passes this season for 452 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Dalton has a pair of receivers in Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb that are a handful to defend. Cooper has caught 59 passes for 655 yards and two touchdowns. Lamb has hauled in 44 passes for 595 yards and three touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliot is Dalton’s security blanket. Elliot has rushed for 572 yards and five touchdowns, but has been fumble prone this season.
Vikings Starting to Hit on All CylindersThe biggest issues for the Vikings in the early part of 2020 were turnovers and a porous defense. Quarterback Kirk Cousins (66.1%, 2147 yards, 17 TDs, 11 Int) has dialed back his frequency of throwing interceptions, and the defense is coming off its best performance against the offensively challenged Chicago Bears. The Cowboys offense will present a much tougher matchup on the perimeter and at running back. After turning the Bears over twice last week, the Vikings defense will be hunting for opportunities against a turnover prone Dallas offense.
Cousins has developed quite the rapport with rookie sensation Justin Jefferson. Jefferson leads all rookies with 42 catches for 762 yards and three touchdowns, and is on pace to shatter rookie receiving records for receptions and yards. Adam Thielen remains a dangerous weapon for the offense, having caught 41 passes for 523 yards and nine touchdowns.
Dalvin Cook is no slouch at running back either. Cook has averaged 5.5 yards per carry and 119.3 yards per game, and has scored 12 touchdowns in 2020. And, the Cowboys defense is surrendering 157 rushing yards per game.
- Minnesota: Vikings are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall.
- Minnesota: Vikings are 5-2 ATS vs. a team with a losing record.
- Dallas: Cowboys are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 games overall.
- Dallas: Cowboys are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 road games.