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In-Depth Prediction, Preview, and Odds

Vikings vs. Cowboys Prediction

Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 8:20pm EST
AT&T Stadium, Arlington

This article covers a past game!

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In-depth Coverage

This is an in-depth analysis of this game, covering every possible detail and angle. Use the table of contents to navigate between each section, or just jump on in!

Have thoughts or feedback? Let us know!

Table of Contents

Last Updated: Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 2:10pm EST

Introduction

If good is the enemy of great, then it can be argued both the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys have had points of intense self-loathing through the first nine weeks of the season.

The two NFC teams, clearly good enough to be playoff-bound but still seeking the consistency to be considered Super Bowl contenders, meet in a Sunday Night Football showdown in Dallas.

The East-leading Cowboys (5-3), who came out of their bye week and used a 21-point fourth quarter to pull away from the New York Giants in a 37-18 victory Monday night, have been installed as 3-point favorites for this game. Dallas has spent the first half of the season being a streaky team -- Jason Garrett's team won its first three games, lost its next three, and is now seeking another three-game run of success.

Minnesota (6-3) currently occupies the second wild-card spot, one game back of Green Bay in the NFC North. The Vikings had a four-game winning streak snapped with a 26-23 loss at Kansas City last Sunday, failing to put away a Chiefs team missing injured and reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes while owning a fourth-quarter lead.

Minnesota Vikings Review

The Vikings have not necessarily been an inconsistent team, but rather one which has yet to make a breakthrough to be considered among the NFC's elite. Before losing at Kansas City, their other two losses came at Green Bay and Chicago -- games where they could have established themselves to be taken seriously.

Hamstrung to a degree as wide receiver Adam Thielen dealt with a hamstring injury, Kirk Cousins still had a solid game with 220 yards passing and three touchdowns. What Cousins was unable to do was connect with Stefan Diggs, who finished with just one catch for four yards after totaling 21 and 452 in the previous three games.

Thielen is currently day-to-day, which leaves Cousins leaning on both Diggs and running back Dalvin Cook. Cook had 71 rushing yards, giving him a league-best 894 on the season, and also chipped in four receptions for 45 yards.

The third-year back is second on the team with 33 catches, totaling 338 yards.

Minnesota's defense had a rare off-day stopping the run as Kansas City churned out 147 yards -- its most allowed on the ground this season. The Vikings are holding teams to 95.8 rushing yards per game, good for ninth in the league, but are facing one of the league's best rushers in Ezekiel Elliott and a Cowboys offensive line that rates highly in run-blocking.

Dallas Cowboys Review

Monday night's win over the Giants encapsulated most everything about the Cowboys season to date. A slow start in which they fell behind 12-3 midway through the second quarter before both Elliott and Dak Prescott found their grooves offensively and a defense that bent but did not break.

Prescott threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns, and it can be posited that had Dallas (5-3) not given the New York Jets their lone win of the season thus far, the Cowboys quarterback would be talked about among potential MVP candidates. Prescott is in the top 10 for both passing yards (2,380) and touchdowns (15) directing an offense that leads the NFL at 436.8 yards per game.

Elliott and the offensive line deserve plenty of credit for that, with the fourth-year running back coming off a season-high 139-yard effort for his third straight 100-yard game and fifth of the season. Elliott is sixth in the league with 741 yards and third among backs who have played eight games.

The last piece of the offensive triangle, Amari Cooper, continued his bid to parlay his walk year into his next big contract. That 45-yard touchdown catch-and-run was part of a four-reception, 80-yard effort as Cooper continued his tormenting of NFC East teams.

The challenge is getting him going against non-division rivals. Cooper has 42 catches for 701 yards and six touchdowns overall but 19 catches for 336 yards and three scores in the four games outside the NFC East.

The Running Game

Minnesota Vikings Running Offense
vs. Dallas Cowboys Running Defense

Minnesota Vikings Running Offense

For the first two seasons of his career, there was no questioning Cook's ability to run the ball, only his durability after having his rookie season cut short by a torn ACL four games in and missing five games in 2018 due to hamstring injury.

This season, however, Cook is not only thriving, he is showing himself more than capable of taking the workload that comes with being the featured back. He has more than 20 rushes in three consecutive games and remained consistent -- Cook has averaged 4.8 yards on carries 16 through 20, and 5.9 yards on the 11 beyond that number without taking a loss in the latter.

Cook is 106 yards from joining Adrian Peterson as the only 1,000-yard rushers in club history, and many have seized on this being a measuring stick game for Cook in terms of being compared to Elliott, who recently set the contract standard for running backs with his 6-year, $90 million extension.

By comparison, Cook will enter the final year of his rookie contract in 2020 that has a base of less than 10 percent the annual worth of Elliott's extension at $1.3 million.

“I’m chasing the game, nothing else but the game,” Cook told The Athletic, not wanting to discuss that potential next deal. “I want to learn as much as I can. I want to be the best player, the best back, the best teammate that I can be for the Vikings. If you’re chasing anything else, you’ll fall short of that. And I’m not trying to fall short.”

Dallas Cowboys Run Defense

Dallas' run defense did well to contain Saquon Barkley this time around, limiting him to 28 yards on 14 carries. The Cowboys gave up 100 rushing yards, but Giants quarterback Daniel Jones accounted for more than half that total (54), and wide receiver Golden Tate had a 16-yard carry.

The change of scenery also did Michael Bennett good as the veteran defensive lineman recorded a sack while helping plug the line of scrimmage. Bennett, who was traded to Dallas by New England after expressing displeasure with how he was being used, also had two tackles for loss in becoming only the 19th player to record at least one sack with five NFL teams.

“It opens up our game, and it opens it up for Rob on the other side,” DeMarcus Lawrence told the Cowboys' official website about Bennett. “They can’t chip forever, and they can’t chip both sides forever and expect to get the ball out in under three seconds.”

Stats

Vikings:

Team Rushing Statistics

Carries — 290 (3rd)

Carries Per game — 32.2 (3rd)

Rushing Yards — 1,377 (2nd)

Rushing Yards Per Game — 153.0 (3rd)

Average Yards Per Carry — 4.75 (9th)

Rushing Touchdowns — 12 (5th)

Individual Rushing Statistics

Dalvin Cook -- 177 carries/894 yards/5.05 yards per carry/9 TDs

Alexander Mattison -- 71/337/4.75/1

Kirk Cousins -- 24/44/1.83/1

Ameer Abdullah -- 7/36/5.14/0

Stefon Diggs -- 3/30/10.00/0

Mike Boone -- 3/28/9.33/0

C.J. Ham -- 1/9/9.00/0

Adam Thielen -- 2/1/0.50/1

Sean Mannion -- 2/-2/-1.00/0

Dallas:

Team Rushing Defense (Opponent Offensive Rank)

Opponent Carries — 184 (T-27th)

Opponent Carries per game — 23.0 (T-23rd)

Opponent Rushing Yards — 778 (24th)

Average Opponent Rushing Yards Per Game — 97.3 (22nd)

Average Opponent Rushing Yards Per Carry — 4.23 (17th)

Opponent Rushing TDs — 7 (T-17th)

Individual Defensive Statistics

Jaylon Smith -- 41 solo tackles/27 assists/68 tackles/1.5 stuff/3 TFL

Leighton Vander Esch -- 33/21/54/1/1

Xavier Woods -- 31/11/42/0.5/0

Chidobe Awuzie -- 25/15/40/1/1

Jeff Heath -- 25/14/39/0.5/0

Sean Lee -- 23/10/33/0.5/1

Byron Jones -- 17/9/26/0/0

DeMarcus Lawrence -- 10 /7/17/2/5

Jourdan Lewis -- 13/4/17/0/1

Anthony Brown -- 11/6/17/0/1

Joe Thomas -- 13/2/15/0/0

Robert Quinn -- 10/3/13/0/6

Maliek Collins -- 8/4/12/1/4

Christian Covington -- 8/3/11/2/2

Who has the Edge?

Bennett adds a wrinkle for the Vikings to deal with since the success of their running game lies more with what Cook does than the offensive line clearing holes for him. He is at his most dangerous when able to bounce outside the tackles -- 19 of Cook's 125 carries have gone for 10 or more yards on such runs.

If the Cowboys can get penetration at the point of attack similar to Monday night against the Giants, they can be successful, but the Vikings also run a steady diet of play-action that can potentially neutralize that aggressiveness.

Advantage: Minnesota Vikings

Dallas Cowboys Running Offense
vs. Minnesota Vikings Running Defense

Dallas Cowboys Running Offense

As Cook is coming into his own for the Vikings at running back, Elliott is already there for the Cowboys. He has already provided plenty of examples to justify his lucrative contract extension and enters this contest coming off his best game of the season.

What is scary is Elliott believing there is plenty more he can do on top of what he has gotten this season after starting slowly following his contract dispute.

"I think there's been running backs that have played better than me this year. ... I don't think it bothers me," Elliott told the Dallas Morning News. "It kind of adds a little fuel to the fire. I've got some more work to do. That's all."

Like Cook, Elliott has found success when he has been able to get outside his tackles, but he also has shown an ability to burst through a hole inside. He has averaged 5.9 yards on 30 carries on runs up the middle, with seven of them resulting in double-digit gains.

Minnesota Vikings Run Defense

That specific split regarding Elliott's runs up the gut is something that should concern the Vikings defense, because it is one area they appear soft based on numbers. Minnesota has yielded 5.4 yards per carry on 45 such rushes this season, though that number is inflated to a degree because of Damien Williams' 91-yard run last week for the Chiefs.

“We misfit it a little bit,” Zimmer told the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the game-changing run. “We had a pressure coming off the outside; we got out of line and missed tackles.”

That touchdown, though, can be convincingly argued as a one-off play since it accounts for more than 10 percent of the rushing yards Minnesota has allowed on the season. The Vikings also have recorded nearly as many tackles for loss (17) as double-digit runs allowed (18).

Minnesota has done well containing good running backs -- the Vikes held Josh Jacobs and the Raiders to 88 yards and Barkley and the Giants to 64. But Elliott is definitely a cut above Jacobs and at worst, slightly above Barkley, and he runs behind a stellar -- and now healthy -- offensive line. This is likely where the game will be decided.

Stats

Dallas:

Team Rushing Statistics

Carries — 239 (10th)

Carries Per game — 29.9 (7th)

Rushing Yards — 1,194 (5th)

Rushing Yards Per Game — 149.3 (4th)

Average Yards Per Carry — 5.00 (4th)

Rushing Touchdowns — 11 (T-6th)

Individual Rushing Statistics

Ezekiel Elliott -- 158 carries/741 yards/4.69 yards per carry/6 TDs

Tony Pollard -- 48/230/4.79/1

Dak Prescott -- 27/175/6.48/3

Tavon Austin -- 3/37/12.33/1

Randall Cobb -- 3/11/3.67/0

Minnesota:

Team Rushing Defense (Opponent Offensive Rank)

Opponent Carries — 199 (22nd)

Opponent Carries per game — 22.1 (26th)

Opponent Rushing Yards — 862 (20th)

Average Opponent Rushing Yards Per Game — 95.8 (24th)

Average Opponent Rushing Yards Per Carry — 4.33 (16th)

Opponent Rushing TDs — 2 (32nd)

Individual Defensive Statistics

Eric Kendricks -- 51 solo tackles/22 assists/73 tackles/2 stuff/3 TFL

Harrison Smith -- 42/11/53/0/1

Danielle Hunter -- 35/7/42/3/10

Anthony Harris -- 26/16/42/0/0

Anthony Barr -- 29/12/41/2.5/4

Xavier Rhodes -- 32/6/38/0/2

Trae Waynes -- 32/2/34/0/2

Linval Joseph -- 19/12/31/2.5/5

Everson Griffen -- 18/9/27/2/8

Eric Wilson -- 11/9/20/1/3

Shamar Stephen -- 12/4/16/0/2

Jayron Kearse -- 11/5/16/0/0

Mike Hughes -- 13/2/15/0/1

Mackensie Alexander -- 10/4/14/0/0

Ben Gedeon -- 6/4/10/0/0

Who has the Edge?

This is a strength-on-strength matchup. So far, only the Saints have been able to truly contain the Cowboys running game, which has racked up 122 or more yards in each of the last four games. In a matchup like this, play-calling becomes the most important variable.

That makes Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore the swing vote, and he has done a good job the last two weeks getting Elliott and company going. Dallas has averaged 5.47 yards in those wins and committed to the ground game with 66 rushes. Elliott is unafraid of getting those hard yards, and should be a difference-maker.

Advantage: Dallas Cowboys

The Passing Game

Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense
vs. Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense

Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense

Now past the halfway point of Cousins' 3-year, fully guaranteed $84 million contract, the burning question asked at the time of his signing remains the burning question in Minnesota.

Can Kirk Cousins win you a football game?

Cousins clearly has the numbers of a winner, throwing for 2,217 yards and 16 touchdowns against only three interceptions with a 68.8 percent completion rate. Yet no quarterback may be as reliant on the success of his team's ground game given coach Mike Zimmer's run-first ethos -- and that is despite having one of the best tandems of receivers in Thielen and Diggs.

Minnesota had a chance to kill off the Chiefs midway through the fourth quarter and went 3-and-out. The Vikings then had a chance to drive down the field for a game-winning field goal with 2:30 to pay and went 3-and-out. These things can't happen to a playoff-caliber team and have the potential to loom large as the fine lines between either being in the postseason or hosting a playoff game.

“The important thing, we don’t look back other than the mistakes we made and how we move forward, and we go from there,” Zimmer told the Vikings' official website.

Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense

Jourdan Lewis' fumble return for a touchdown on the final play of the game put a bow on a solid defensive effort (and for over bettors sweating out the 48.5 over/under) as Dallas held New York to 271 total yards. There was an impressive amount of resiliency shown -- the Giants ran 22 offensive plays in the red zone as the Cowboys allowed just one touchdown on those five possessions.

By and large, the Cowboys were solid in pass defense. Take away Barkley's 65-yard weave and dash on a swing pass, and no other Giants receiver had a catch for more than 17 yards. Dallas also matched a season high with five sacks, another example of Bennett's impact on the line allowing better matchups for Lawrence and Robert Quinn to exploit.

“We want to make a statement every week, not just because of that,” safety Xavier Woods told the team's official website. “We know what we’re all capable of doing. Tonight was a great night to showcase that.”

Stats

Minnesota:

Team Passing Statistics

Passes Attempted — 253 (T-28th)

Passes Completed — 174 (22nd)

Completion Percentage — 68.8 (7th)

Gross Passing Yards — 2,217 (16th)

Net Passing Yards – 2,103 (13th)

Net Passing Yards Per Game — 233.7 (16th)

Average Gain Per Pass Play — 7.82 (2nd)

Yards Per Attempt — 8.76 (1st)

Yards Per Completion — 12.74 (4th)

Passing TDs — 16 (T-8th)

Interceptions — 3 (29th most)

Times Sacked — 16 (T-22nd most)

Passer Rating — 112.0 (2nd)

Individual Passing

Kirk Cousins — 174 completions/253 attempts/68.8 completion percentage/2,217 yards/16 TDs/3 INT/112.0 passer rating

Individual Receiving

Stefon Diggs -- 38 receptions/710 yards/18.7 yards per catch/4 TDs

Dalvin Cook -- 33/338/10.2/0

Adam Thielen -- 27/391/14.5/6

Kyle Rudolph -- 20/170/8.5/2

Irv Smith Jr. -- 19/207/10.9/0

Olabisi Johnson -- 16/165/10.3/2

C.J. Ham -- 8/51/6.4/1

Laquon Treadwell -- 5/74/14.8/0

Ameer Abdullah -- 3/30/10.0/1

Alexander Mattison -- 3/11/3.7/0

Chad Beebe -- 2/70/35.0/0

Dallas:

Team Passing Defense Statistics (Opponent Offensive Rank)

Opponents’ Passes Attempted — 289 (19th)

Opponents’ Passes Completed — 189 (T-17th)

Opponents’ Completing Percentage — 65.4 (13th)

Opponents’ Gross Passing Yards — 1,943 (27th)

Opponents’ Net Passing Yards — 1,767 (28th)

Opponents’ Net Passing Yards Per Game — 220.9 (26th)

Opponents’ Yards Per Attempt — 6.72 (27th)

Opponents’ Yards Per Completion — 10.28 (27th)

Opponents’ Average Gain Per Pass Play — 5.68 (28th)

Opponents’ TD passes — 7 (T–28th)

Interceptions — 4 (T-24th)

Sacks — 22 (T-15th)

Opponents’ Passer Rating — 86.9 (25th)

Individual Defense Sacks and Quarterback Hurries

Robert Quinn -- 6.5 sacks/49.0 yards/8 QBH

DeMarcus Lawrence -- 4.5/20/10

Maliek Collins -- 3.0/26.0/6

Jaylon Smith -- 2.5/31.0/3

Dorance Armstrong -- 2.0/24.0/4

Jourdan Lewis -- 1.0/8.0/1

Michael Bennett -- 1.0/3.0/4

Tyrone Crawford -- 1.0/13.0/2

Leighton Vander Esch -- 0.5/2.0/1

Interceptions and Passes Broken Up

Xavier Woods -- 2 INT/2 PBU

Chidobe Awuzie -- 1/7

Jourdan Lewis -- 1/2

Jeff Heath -- 0/4

Anthony Brown -- 0/4

Who has the Edge?

One wants to believe in the Cowboys secondary, but then one also remembers Sam Darnold threw a 92-yard touchdown pass and finished with 338 yards and two touchdowns with no receivers that come close to the caliber Cousins has in Thielen and Diggs.

In the end, though, this comes down to whether the Cowboys can generate a pass rush without blitzing and whether Cousins can stand in the pocket and deliver when there is pressure. He struggled to do that against the Chiefs and needs to be better in this game to help Cook be effective and give the Vikings a chance to win.

Advantage: Push

Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense
vs. Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense

Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense

While everyone rightly raves about the Prescott-to-Cooper connection, let's take a moment to appreciate 37-year-old tight end Jason Witten. The future Hall of Famer has shown next to no rust following his year in the broadcast booth and is second on the team with 34 catches and third with 321 yards.

"Showing up to work and working with that guy, I'm not going to put any kind of limit on him," Prescott told ESPN about his tight end. "I'll never be the guy who says, 'He's got a year. He's got two years left.' He's a true pro. He takes care of his body and does everything the right way. He controls his destiny. Barring any injuries, he can play as long as he wants. He's impressive."

Witten's seamless re-entry into the offense is just one of many reasons the Cowboys lead the league in yards. Cooper is the primary contributor to that in the passing game, and second-year wideout Michael Gallup has been making steady progress when healthy, evidenced by 100-yard game against Green Bay earlier this season and key touchdown grab versus the Giants on Monday night.

Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense

Pass defense for the Vikings begins with the bookend pass rushing of defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen. Hunter is tied for fourth in the league with 8.5 sacks and tracking to exceed his career high of 14.5 established last season.

Hunter and Cowboys counterpart Quinn are considered the two best young pass rushers in the league -- they rank 1-2 in career sacks for players aged 25 and younger.

Hunter has recorded at least one-half sack in all but one game this season and also leads the Vikings with 14 quarterback hurries and 10 tackles for loss. His matchup with Cowboys right tackle La'el Collins will be one to watch throughout the contest, especially given the diverse range of attack Dallas possesses.

Stats

Dallas

Team Passing Statistics

Passes Attempted — 273 (23rd)

Passes Completed — 190 (15th)

Completion Percentage — 69.6 (6th)

Gross Passing Yards — 2,380 (11th)

Net Passing Yards – 2,300 (8th)

Net Passing Yards Per Game — 287.5 (4th)

Average Gain Per Pass Play — 8.13 (1st)

Yards Per Attempt — 8.72 (2nd)

Yards Per Completion — 12.53 (5th)

Passing TDs — 15 (T-10th)

Interceptions — 8 (T-8th most)

Times Sacked — 10 (30th most)

Passer Rating — 102.5 (8th)

Individual Passing

Dak Prescott — 190 completions/273 attempts/69.6 completion percentage/2,380 yards/15 TDs/8 INT/102.5 passer rating

Individual Receiving

Amari Cooper -- 42 receptions/701 yards/16.7 yards per catch/6 TDs

Jason Witten -- 34/321/9.4/2

Michael Gallup -- 29/454/15.7/2

Randall Cobb -- 25/274/11.0/1

Ezekiel Elliott -- 24/176/7.3/0

Blake Jarwin -- 12/162/13.5/3

Tavon Austin -- 8/90/11.3/0

Devin Smith -- 5/113/22.6/1

Cedrick Wilson -- 5/46/9.2/0

Tony Pollard -- 5/37/7.4/0

Dalton Schultz -- 1/6/6.0/0

Minnesota

Team Passing Defense Statistics (Opponent Offensive Rank)

Opponents’ Passes Attempted — 327 (3rd)

Opponents’ Passes Completed — 223 (4th)

Opponents’ Completing Percentage — 68.2 (8th)

Opponents’ Gross Passing Yards — 2,249 (13th)

Opponents’ Net Passing Yards — 2,026 (18th)

Opponents’ Net Passing Yards Per Game — 225.1 (25th)

Opponents’ Yards Per Attempt — 6.88 (25th)

Opponents’ Yards Per Completion — 10.09 (29th)

Opponents’ Average Gain Per Pass Play — 5.71 (27th)

Opponents’ TD passes — 15 (T–11th)

Interceptions — 8 (T-6th)

Sacks — 28 (6th)

Opponents’ Passer Rating — 92.7 (14th)

Individual Defense Sacks and Quarterback Hurries

Danielle Hunter -- 8.5 sacks/67.5 yards/14 QBH

Everson Griffen -- 5.5/28.0/16

Ifeadi Odenigbo -- 3.0/31.0/4

Eric Wilson -- 2.0/16.0/4

Anthony Barr -- 1.5/13.0/4

Harrison Smith -- 1.0/14.0/0

Shamar Stephen -- 1.0/7.0/1

Stephen Weatherly -- 1.0/11.0/5

Eric Kendricks -- 0.5/4.5/2

Mackensie Alexander -- 0.5/4.5/2

Jaleel Johnson -- 0.5/3.5/1

Interceptions and Passes Broken Up

Anthony Harris -- 3 INT/6 PBU

Everson Griffen -- 1/2

Harrison Smith -- 1/7

Anthony Barr -- 1/4

Mackensie Alexander -- 1/2

Trae Waynes -- 1/7

Eric Kendricks -- 0/10

Mike Hughes -- 0/4

Who has the Edge?

The Vikings do not have a great secondary -- they have totaled just eight interceptions on the season -- which makes Hunter and Griffen winning their battles vital to any chance Minnesota has of slowing down Dallas' passing game.

Minnesota re-signed safety Andrew Sendejo, who was released by Philadelphia on Tuesday, to bolster the depth in the secondary, but it will take everyone to slow down Cooper, Witten, et al.

Advantage: Dallas Cowboys

Intangibles

Minnesota Vikings

Former Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey has been reliable, making 25 of 27 extra points and 13 of 15 field goals. He has made both of his attempts from 50 or more yards and been steady on kickoffs with a touchback rate just over 75 percent.

Minnesota's coverage units have gotten the job done, and punter Britton Colquitt has put 10 of his 32 efforts inside the opponents' 20-yard line without a touchback while averaging 46.0 yards gross and 42.5 net.

In terms of the vibe around the team, there is a sense where it feels like the Vikings are waiting for something good to happen to them as opposed to creating their own fortune. The latter is something that has be found within them in order to reach the level of success Minnesota is capable of attaining.

There is enough quality throughout the roster to be a playoff team and perhaps an elite team when things click on both sides of the ball. Zimmer has to instill that belief in the Vikings to realize it.

Dallas Cowboys

Brett Maher continues to be one of the most interesting kickers in the league as he booted a field goal of at least 52 yards for the third straight game. He also missed one from 54 but still finished 3 of 4 against the Giants and is perfect on 26 PATs.

When asked to pin opponents, Chris Jones has been good at that job -- 11 of his 24 punts have been inside the opposing 20 against one touchback -- yet the coverage unit has not always been up to snuff with Dallas yielding 8.5 yards per return.

The Cowboys, though, appear to be in good spirits -- winning does that for a team, and a sweep of your archrivals always helps improve the mood. When Dallas is in sync, there are few teams in the NFC better, the challenge for coach Jason Garrett is sustaining that type of play from week to week.

Who has the Edge?

To borrow a sports cliche, "We're going to learn a lot about these two teams this week." Both are good teams trying to be great, but one senses the gap is far smaller for Dallas to realize than Minnesota. Winning helps to that end, but there is a sense of calm on the Cowboys in contrast to the Vikings, who look more like the duck that is calm above the surface while pedaling furiously in the water.

There is still a degree of skepticism about the Cowboys making in-game adjustments, but that also holds true about the Vikings delivering when the going gets tough. The Cowboys kickers past and present could have a foot in deciding this, with Maher getting the slight edge with his range.

Advantage: Dallas Cowboys

Final Outlook

This still feels close enough where the Cowboys win but do not cover, even with the 3-point spread as of writing late morning Thursday. Dallas finds ways to win, and Minnesota -- when it comes to this level of competition -- does not. Yet a scenario in which the Cowboys' last drive is a go-ahead one for the victory is absolutely plausible.

The Cowboys win in a close one, with the Vikings getting the cover.

Latest Updates, Injury Reports, and Line Movements

The Cowboys are a definite pick on the money line, and the spread pick is flipping to Dallas as it should be able to exploit a key absences on each side of the ball for Minnesota with Thielen and Linval Joseph both ruled out.

Prediction: Cowboys -3 (-120)

Second Opinion on this pick from StatSalt.com

Additional Insiders' Best Bets

Full-game Total Bet

Insiders Status:

Rating:

The feeling is the offenses are going to outperform the defenses, though Thielen's absence prevents an aggressive play here. Minnesota's key defensive strength can be neutralized if Dallas' offensive line is in sync, and if the Vikings establish Cook early, their play-action becomes lethal.

Diggs should be primed for a bounce-back effort after the loss to the Chiefs, and it would not be surprising to see one or both quarterbacks have a 300-yard, 3-TD performance. Prescott, though, is now the odds-on favorite of the two QBs to put that combination together.

Prediction: OVER 48 points (-110)

Full-game Prop Bet

Insiders Status:

Rating:

This is the teaser of least resistance, slightly better than extending the over/under to 54.5 points. But Thielen and Joseph's absences should prove too much to overcome for the Vikings, with the Cowboys potentially getting near 30 points to do most of the heavy lifting to clear this number.

Prop Plays This Space Likes:

Elliott OVER 87.5 rushing yards (-114)

Gallup OVER 54.5 receiving yards (-114)

Ezekiel should be able to find plenty of chances to hit the second level and pick up yards with Joseph sidelined. The feeling is also Gallup is a slightly better play than Cooper at 78.5 yards given Minnessota's struggling secondary.

Prediction: Cowboys +3 and OVER 41.5 points (-110)

Half-time Side Bet

Insiders Status:

Rating:

The advice is to jump on this before it kicks up to three points, with the Vikings struggling to contain good offenses in the first half on the road this season. Dallas has led by double digits at halftime in two of its four home games, and the 17-0 deficit to Green Bay feels more like the exception and not the norm.

Prediction: Cowboys -2.5 (-121)

Half-time Total Bet

Insiders Status:

Rating:

This will likely come down to the wire given the total is a flat TD+FG total, but there is confidence in both offenses to deliver at least two scores to help carry this number.

Prediction: OVER 24 points (-105)

Half-time Prop Bet

Insiders Status:

Rating:

A solid play given the Vikings rank third in the NFL with 138 first-half points. Minnesota has scored 10 or more first-half points in four of its five road games, including two instances of 18 or more.

Prediction: Vikings 10+ first half (-137)
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Written By Chris Altruda

A 1994 graduate of Marquette University when they were known as the Warriors and Brooklyn native, Chris Altruda is based in Chicago. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiner, he worked at three major U.S. wire services and also has prior experience in sports handicapping and daily fantasy roster building. Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, he holds out hope the Jets will win a Super Bowl before he dies. Follow Chris daily right here at W&W and on Twitter at @AlTruda73. You won’t be disappointed.