Since we’re getting close to game time at U.S. Bank Stadium, it’s time to call your shot for tonight’s contest between the Minnesota Vikings and the Dallas Cowboys. As always, we have our prediction widget available from the folks at The Crowd’s Line for you to put your guesses in on and see how you’ve done over the course of the season.
I’ve got to be totally honest with you, folks. I hate feeling this way about games involving our favorite football team, but the last time I was this pessimistic about a Vikings’ game was the last time they played on a Thursday night. . .when they went into Arizona on a short week and without Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, and Linval Joseph. I thought that the Vikings were doomed in that one, and I’m pretty sure I predicted that they were going to lose by about 30. I guess it wasn’t all bad, considering that they wound up having a chance to tie or go ahead at the end of that game, but I have the same sort of sinking feeling about this game tonight.
Yes, save for the occasional lapse, the Minnesota defense is still playing at a high level, but tonight they’re facing a very good offense led by two young players that are getting hype not only for the Rookie of the Year Award, but for the Most Valuable Player Award as well. Running back Ezekiel Elliott is leading the NFL in rushing, and quarterback Dak Prescott is playing like a guy that’s been in the league for ten years. Of course, a lot of that can be credited to the Cowboys’ incredible offensive line, which is the best in the league in the eyes of most.
Honestly, the way to slow this offense down for the Vikings might be to load up and attempt to stop Elliott and trust the secondary in coverage against the Cowboys’ receivers. Xavier Rhodes should be following Dez Bryant around all night long, and Harrison Smith and company will have their hands full with the ageless Jason Witten, but overall I think this is a matchup the Vikings’ secondary should be able to handle, particularly with Terence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn getting back to full strength. While this might be the best offense the Vikings have seen this season, the Vikings are likely the best defense that the Cowboys have seen this season. With all due respect to Prescott, if the Vikings want to slow Dallas down, the key is going to be keeping Elliott in check.
Of course, none of it is going to matter if the Vikings don’t do significantly more on offense than they’ve done over the past couple of weeks. They’re (likely) not going to get multiple defensive and special teams touchdowns this evening, so it’s incumbent on Sam Bradford and company to get things done offensively. The return of Stefon Diggs will certainly help in that regard, but this Minnesota offense is going to have to try to force a couple of things deep in order to keep the Dallas defense from playing everyone within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. Dallas’ defense hasn’t been great this season, and they’re missing a key component in cornerback Morris Claiborne. If the offensive line can do anything that remotely resembles blocking the Dallas defense, Minnesota might have some opportunities to make things happen.
If this turns into a shootout, the Vikings are in big trouble. . .or even bigger trouble, I suppose, because I think they’re in a fair amount of trouble already. Yes, Dallas has won ten in a row and is probably “due” for a stumble eventually, but unless the Vikings dramatically expand the playbook from what we saw last week in Detroit, I don’t know if they actually have a chance to be the ones to do it. Like I said in the opening, I’ve got a fairly bad feeling about this one. . .I’m not going to predict another 30-point loss, but I can’t realistically predict a win in this one, either.
Cowboys 24, Vikings 20. Because, hey, if you’re going to have your backs up against the wall for the stretch run, you could just as well make sure they’re all the way back, right? As always, whenever I predict a loss for our favorite football team, I would be more than happy to be wrong.
That’s my take on this one, ladies and gentlemen. Who have you got this evening?