The Vikings appear to be a better team than the Cowboys right now, and get to face a backup quarterback in Andy Dalton, but matchups are often the key to NFL results. Here's what I'm watching for today?

-Kirk Cousins has thrown one interception in the Vikings' four victories and 10 interceptions in their five losses. And the one interception he threw in a victory - on Monday night at Chicago - wasn't his fault. Adam Thielen bobbled an accurate pass into Khalil Mack's arms.

Cousins' ability to operate the offense without turning over the ball is the most important factor today.

-The Cowboys and Vikings defenses aren't much different statistically. The Vikings' defense appears to have improved without pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue - not because Ngakoue isn't talented, but because he sold out to get to the quarterback, sometimes opening holes in the line that could be exploited.

Now the Vikings' defensive line is less talented but more disciplined.

Can they get enough of a rush on Dalton to prevent him from having a big day throwing to three outstanding receivers? If the rush doesn't bother Dalton can the Vikings' young cornerback group handle those three?

-Dalvin Cook is the Vikings' best and most important player. Can he continue to handle a heavy load without getting hurt or worn down? The Vikings could use a blowout that allows them to give Cook a breather.

-Watch New Orleans today. If the NFL stays at seven playoff teams per conference, the Vikings will have to pass a quality team to get into the postseason.

If Taysom Hill isn't up to the tast of making the Saints' offense go, the Vikings might be in position to catch or pass New Orleans by the time they play them on Christmas Day.

We have our full Vikings team covering today's game, plus photographers Jerry Holt, Carlos Gonzalez and Anthony Souffle. They're excellent, which is why buying the Monday paper is a good idea - to see their photographs in our full layout.

@Souhanstrib

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