Not having Linval Joseph to slow down Ezekiel Elliott means the Vikings will be in for an even tougher challenge Sunday night. If the Cowboys’ formidable offensive line can control things up front, Dallas can dictate the terms of the game and win at home.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Trying to bounce back
The Vikings try to avoid their first two-game losing streak. They’ve won just five times in 21 road games against teams with winning records in Mike ZImmer’s six seasons.
Another chance for Cousins
Kirk Cousins, 6-28 against winning teams as a starter, is 1-6 against the Cowboys but has put up some big numbers in AT&T Stadium in the past. He’ll try to do so again without Adam Thielen (hamstring).
Zimmer, Garrett face off
Jason Garrett was the Cowboys’ backup QB when Mike Zimmer started his NFL coaching career in Dallas in 1994. Garrett was hired as offensive coordinator in 2007, when Dallas passed over Zimmer for its head coaching job. Their paths cross for the first time as opposing coaches Sunday, three years after Zimmer had to miss a game against his old team following eye surgery.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings defensive line vs. Cowboys offensive line
Dallas’ group of top draft picks, including five-time Pro Bowler Zack Martin, will test the Vikings’ interior line with Joseph out. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cowboys are allowing pressure on just 5% of Dak Prescott’s dropbacks (which is tied for the best rate in the league), and creating an average of 1.96 rushing yards before contact (the second-best rate in the NFL).
Vikings CB Trae Waynes vs. Cowboys WR Amari Cooper
Both players are questionable, though their respective teams sounded optimistic about their availability. If Waynes plays, he’ll have his hands full when he’s matched up on Cooper, who’s averaging a league-high 2.97 yards per route run as the primary target of Prescott’s downfield shots.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
0-4 Kirk Cousins’ record vs. Dak Prescott.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF...
They can employ their running back (Dalvin Cook) more effectively than the Cowboys can use Elliott, allowing them to keep Cousins out of the third-and-long situations he faced too frequently last Sunday. The Vikings will need their best from a defensive line group dealing with injuries to Joseph and Stephen Weatherly (who’s questionable for the game), both in slowing down Elliott and pressuring Prescott.
THE COWBOYS WILL WIN IF...
They can avoid the slow starts that plagued them in losses to the Packers and Jets in October. That would allow them to use Elliott frequently and keep the Vikings from coming after Prescott, particularly when he’s trying to buy time for the kinds of downfield throws the Chiefs used to great effect.
Prediction: Cowboys, 24-17
Win Probability 45%