Vikings fans are still catching their breath after last week’s gripping game against the Buffalo Bills. Justin Jefferson’s catch was all I could see online, and Paul Allen’s play-by-play was all I could hear online. It was, by all accounts, a glorious week after a win. Now, the Vikings host Dallas, and I hope the encore performance is a win, for sure, but a boring win, please. Here are some “boring” keys to victory for the Vikes on Sunday.
Let Dalvin Cook
The running game has to be present on Sunday afternoon. This Dallas Cowboys’ defense is quite good, but the Packers’ relentless run game was quite effective in their Week Ten win at Lambeau. Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon combined for over 200 yards and nearly 5.6 yards per carry.
While I respect both Jones and Dillon, I think Dalvin is the better talent. His 81-yard touchdown last week revived the Vikings’ offense and proved he still has enough break-away speed to hit the big one. However, this one run was the majority of his total 119 total rushing yards. This seems to be a trend, where he is not a huge factor for most of a game, and then a late, long run salvages his box score. He only ran 14 times against the Bills, and I would like to see him hit at least 20 carries this week against Dallas.
Fluster Dak Prescott
Against the Packers, Dak Prescott was releasing the ball very quickly, and the Packers managed just two sacks and six quarterback hits. But even this was enough to make Prescott look uncomfortable at times. When I went back and watched parts of the Packers-Cowboys game, I saw a Dak Prescott that doesn’t seem back to his top form.
He wasn’t bad, but it looked like he had happy feet. This may have been due to facing the Packers’ vaunted secondary, but he just did not look like the Dak Prescott of a couple of years ago. I think the Za’Darius Smith/Danielle Hunter combo can really go off on Sunday. They each had a sack in last week’s win in Buffalo, and there was one occasion where they truly “met at the quarterback.” I think they are just what we need to force the Cowboys to punt away drives.
Our Defense Is Hitting Its Stride
We can talk all we want about how the Bills gained so many yards against our defense, but I’m not going to hold it against our guys too much. With the talent and size that Josh Allen has, it was unlikely the Vikings were going to shut them down. Josh Allen ran for 84 yards on just six carries last week, and the Vikings did not have an answer for that, but I would venture to guess that few teams do.
Instead, I want to focus on the timely plays our defense has continued to get, especially from our more experienced guys. Eric Kendricks will always be remembered for that fumble recovery, but he is consistently making big plays. Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson are also showing up in big moments. As my colleague Eli mentioned, the back half of our defense is aging well. Patrick Peterson, in addition to some recent interceptions, is also tied for second in the league with 12 passes defensed. Earlier in the year, the defense looked like a liability at times. Now? They still aren’t perfect, but definitely not a liability.
Speaking Of Liabilities
When discussing this Vikings team, there is an unfortunately all-too-familiar liability that participates on our special teams unit. Kicker Greg Joseph missed another extra point last week, and as per usual, missed extra points are extremely costly.
I still do not know what the fix is here, but as a fan, I have to give this issue some credence. I do not think it’s completely wise to find a free-agent kicker to bring in for competition this late in the season, so I have to hope and assume that Kevin O’Connell and his coaching staff feel confident in Joseph. I mentioned in my Commanders’ preview that I needed to see a perfect game from Greg Joseph. I need to see that again, but this time, I need to see him go on a consistent run. Regardless of how the Vikings do over the next few weeks, Greg Joseph needs to be perfect.
A Quick Look At The Injury Report
The Vikings’ final injury report Friday gave us news that both CB Akayleb Evans and DT Dalvin Tomlinson have been ruled out. This will be Tomlinson’s third straight game missed, but the Vikings have fared decently without him. They both need to focus on getting fully healthy before returning. The best news was that Justin Jefferson, who had popped up the injury list with a toe injury, has no designation and is expected to start.
For the Cowboys, the following players are all listed as questionable, and being a limited participant or DNP at Friday’s practice: RB Ezekiel Elliot, DE Demarcus Lawrence, LB Anthony Barr, DT Quinton Bohanna, and P Bryan Anger. Normally, I would say Elliot is the one to watch here, but I actually think RB Tony Pollard is the running back I’m most worried about regardless.
The Cowboys’ WR Number One
The Cowboys have a good team overall, but typically it has been their defense getting all of the headlines this season. Rightfully so, players like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs have developed a persona feared by the league. However, much like the Packers did last week, I think this defense can be neutralized if we commit to the run and if they are on the field too long.
The Vikings should be most worried about WR Ceedee Lamb on Sunday afternoon. He is a receiver capable of making big plays from a variety of positions on the field and is coming off of a monster game. He had 11 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns last week at Lambeau. The Vikings have to keep him contained because the Cowboys are going to force him the ball. He was targeted 15 times last week. For the Vikings’ defense to get off the field, they will need to blanket Ceedee Lamb.
Remember I Said I Want “Boring?”
I put it in quotes because I don’t mean a low-scoring, no-action type of game. Rather, I just want the Vikings in the driver’s seat all afternoon. If you go back and look at my keys to the game, you’ll notice I’m not exactly coming up with hot takes.
I simply believe it’s the week where we’ll see our guys assert themselves as the dominant team. This should be the game where the Vikings leave no doubt, and that’s why I’m predicting a 27 – 12 victory for the purple. I know there will be plenty more drama as the regular season winds down, especially so in the playoffs. But let’s get a “boring” one right now. We can head to 9-1 and get this division locked up pronto. SKOL!