One man’s prediction: The Cowboys are coming off a late-game meltdown against the Detroit Lions, but Tony Romo and his receivers have a decisive edge going against the depleted Vikings secondary. This game features two of the worst defenses in the NFL, so expect a lot of points.
Remarkably, the Cowboys rank below the Vikings in pass defense. The Cowboys are dead last in the NFL while the Vikings are 29th. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson torched Dallas for 329 receiving yards. The Vikings secondary already was without safety Harrison Smith and now two other starters — cornerback Chris Cook and safety Jamarca Sanford — won’t play because of injuries.
Can’t get off the field
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said his defensive staff would re-evaluate their plan on third down after the Packers converted 13 of 18 opportunities last week. That performance dropped the Vikings to last in the league in third-down defense. The Cowboys are 24th in third-down offense, but the Vikings secondary has to tackle better and not give up big plays down the field to Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, who is averaging 17.1 yards per catch.
The Vikings offense is designed to control the ball with Adrian Peterson’s running, but that approach has been absent the past three games. Peterson has carried the ball only 36 times total in that span. The Vikings can’t continue to fall behind by double digits because they are simply not built to play catch-up. “We’ll put the emphasis on the run and not to get frustrated,” Peterson said. “I’m not worried about yards. I’m worried about getting a win.”
MANO-A-MANO: MATCHUP TO WATCH
Vikings MLB Erin Henderson vs. Cowboys TE Jason Witten
As the middle linebacker, Henderson is responsible for the deep middle of the field in the nickel package. He leads the team in tackles (96) and is tied for team-lead with two interceptions.
He remains one of the most effective pass-catching tight ends in the league. Witten has caught 37 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns. He has caught at least 60 passes nine consecutive seasons.
Who has the edge?
Since 2003, only Tony Gonzalez has accounted for more catches and receiving yards among tight ends. Of Witten’s 37 catches this season, 21 have resulted in first downs. This will be another tough matchup for Henderson and the Vikings linebackers.
THE BIG NUMBER
36.5 The Cowboys’ scoring average at home this season. Overall, Dallas ranks fourth in the NFL in scoring at 28.8 points per game.
Jared Allen, Vikings: The Pro Bowl defensive end was on the trading block this week. Allen said he understood the business aspect of it and harbors no ill feelings toward his team. Allen has only 4½ sacks in seven games, but he sounded particularly motivated this week to raise his level of play.