This is the third straight year the Dallas Cowboys will face off against the Vikings on the road with a third different quarterback. Except this time, it is their franchise quarterback, Dak Prescott, who will face off against a Vikings team that has the look of a true playoff contender.
This will be an interesting game to watch for various reasons. How will the Dallas Cowboys respond after wetting the bed last Sunday? Will Dak Prescott struggle again? Will the defense fix their issues with stopping the run? Will the lack of discipline continue to plague them?
If the Dallas Cowboys do not have answers to these questions. They will lose. The fallout will be high. More questions will be asked and the pressure will mount. I will address more of this on Monday in my post game report.
If the Dallas Cowboys want to walk away victorious in Minnesota, it’ll be up to these four things
Right now, let’s spotlight the keys to victory…
1. Dak Prescott
The Dallas Cowboys will only go as far as Dak Prescott can lead them. This is year 7 and he must be the stabilizing presence on the field. He doesn’t have to win the games by himself but he can’t add to the problems on the field, either.
While, sideline with a hand injury earlier this year, the Cowboys unlocked a identity. A power running game. It served the team well as they posted a 4-1 record while waiting for Dak to heal.
Last Sunday, that rushing attacked gained 133 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, on 27 carries from their running backs, but for whatever reasons, unknown to many but the collective offensive brain trust in Dallas. Dak threw the ball 46 times? Half a dozen poor thorws and two INTs, as well.
There are two sides of the debate with the interceptions. One side is the wide receiver was at fault because of the poor route running. No question the route was poorly ran, but on the other side of the coin is the quarterback has to know the risk vs reward.
The middle of the field is where things can get risky. Risky enough that you only need to make one critical mistake to flip the game and breathe life into an inferior opponent.
The quarterback has to know better than to fire the ball away into the end zone. People have focused on the two interceptions but there were at least eight more throws I saw that were poor. A bad day at the office or a sign of things to come? I am going to go with the former rather than the latter.
This Sunday, Dak Prescott can’t have these similar struggles. He has to be in full command for his team to get the dub in Minnesota.
2. The Defense
The run defense by the Dallas Cowboys have been poor since week one but it has been masked at times because of an elite pass rushing attack. That attack was just good last and not great. Two sacks will not get it done against a Vikings team that is loaded with weapons.
The run defense has come under fire and righty so but the pass defense against the Packers were equally poor. A Green Bay team that scored 10 points against the New York Jets and 9 points against the Detroit Lions.
The possibility that Cowboys would allow the Packers offense to gain 415-yards and score 31 points were outright silly talk.
They had no answers for the Packers ground game or their air attack. The Vikings are better in both areas.
Dan Quinn may want to deploy zone this Sunday. Lessen the damage because Justin Jefferson is special but even special players can be taken out the game with the proper game plan.
He should be the primary focus but Devin Cook is averaging 5 yards per carry. Do you risk allow him to get more touches than Jefferson?
And to make matters worse the Vikings added premium tight end T.J. Hockenson before the trade deadline. Another game changer.
3. Terence Steele and Tyler Smith
Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith are a pair of elite edge rushers that can do a multitude of damage to opposing offensive schemes. They have combined for 15 1/2 sacks this season and they both look to be back to peak form.
It is going to deafening in Minnesota. The noise in that can be like the horn of resounding. A small note, per PPF, Za’Darius Smith has 10 more QB pressures than any other player in the NFL. Let that sink in.
Terence Steele and Tyler Smith will have to be at their absolute best. If Dallas decided to fall in love with the passing game this week and Dak decides 40 plus passing attempts is the key to victory it will be an ugly and painful day at the office.
4. Mental Focus
Block out the noise. Will the Dallas Cowboys play loose, fast and mad? Or will they allow the mental pressure and expectations wear them down? The talk from the defense was close to calling teammates out?
The defense has a whole was poor last week. Some players were worse than others and the lack of effort and the inability to carry out defensive responsibility was seen on tape. The penalties, the drop passes, miscommunication, and the blown defensive assignments were alarming.
The loss against the Packers is troubling but winning cures all of this.
I will finish this like I started.
This will be an interesting game to watch. Will Dallas bounce and chalk up last week’s bizarre loss to Green Bay as just a bad day at the office or will they rise up against the Vikings?
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If they are who I believe they can are than they will handle the Vikings.
Give me Dallas 24-21