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Jim Souhan

Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene

Souhan: Can the Vikings do without prime players tonight at Dallas?

Feels strange to be covering a big Vikings game, knowing it has no chance of being the most important Minnesota football game of the weekend. But it should be interesting.

What I’ll be watching for tonight when the Vikings play the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium:

-Without nose tackle Linval Joseph, can a Vikings defensive line otherwise built for speed handle the power rushing of the Cowboys? Joseph is an exceptional run-blocker who frequently occupies multiple blockers. With him out, the Vikings may have trouble against a massive offensive line and a power runner in Ezekiel Elliott. If they do, this could be a long night for the Vikings because…

-Without receiver Adam Thielen, who, like Joseph, will miss this game with an injury, the Vikings’ ability to pass the ball is in question. Last week, Kirk Cousins, coming off the best month of his career, was erratic early and that kept the Vikings from being able to sustain drives and get their running game moving. Cousins may have even less margin for error against Dallas.

-Amari Cooper vs. the Vikings’ corners. The Vikings have cornerback depth, but they lack cornerback excellence right now. Xavier Rhodes is not having a good season. Trae Wayne has been up and down. Cooper is an excellent technician with more than enough speed. Can the Vikings’ defense gear up to stop the run and commit enough manpower to stop Cooper?

-Stefon Diggs hasn’t caused problems since...he was causing problems. What happens if, with Thielen out, Diggs is constantly double-teamed or doesn’t get the ball for other reasons on national television?

-Kirk Cousins. Yes, he needs to win this kind of game for the Vikings to come close to being a championship-caliber team. He’ll need help, but if he gets enough help he has to prove he can make big throws in an important game.

The Star Tribune sportswriters covering the game tonight: Ben Goessling, Andrew Krammer, Mark Craig and myself.

You can find my podcasts at TalkNorth.com or on your favorite podcast app. 

Souhan pregame: Washington rookie McLaurin will be a handful for Vikings defense

Here’s what I’m watching for tonight, as the Star Tribune blanket-covers the Washington-Vikings game tonight at U.S. Bank Stadium:

Washington’s defense is not bad. Ryan Kerrigan, Josh Norman and Landon Collins are quality players and the defense is not what got Jay Gruden fired.

On offense, though, Washington is limited. Coach BIll Callahan loves running the ball and tonight he is likely to rely on a banged-up Adrian Peterson. Can a thirst for revenge overcome bad ankles? I doubt it, but I’m not surprised that Peterson will try to prove that it’s possible.

Case Keenum has returned to the form he’s shown in every season except 2017.

So what do the Vikings have to worry about?

Terry McLaurin. If the Vikings handle him, Washington is unlikely to threaten their defense.

McLaurin is the rookie third-round pick out of Ohio State, and like Mike Thomas before him he has adapted quickly to the NFL.

In six games with a dysfunctional offense he’s caught 24 passes for 419 yards and five touchdowns. Only two receivers have more touchdowns - Adam Thielen and Chris Godwin.

McLaurin runs excellent routes and will catch the ball over the middle. It will be interesting to see whether the Vikings regularly double-team him, or have Xavier Rhodes follow him.

If the Vikings handle McLaurin, they could be in for an easy victory.

You can find my podasts at TalkNorth.com