It would be safe to assume that the Cowboys' overtime loss to the Packers served as a gut-punch in more ways than one. Head coach Mike McCarthy came up short in his emotional return to Lambeau Field, the defense saw its season-long struggles to stop the run rear its ugly head again, and then there were the turnovers and blown lead.
It's the NFL, though. No rest for the weary as the Cowboys' next opponent is firing on all cylinders.
Meet the Vikings, a team reincarnated this season under first-year head coach Kevin O'Connell and an offense that boasts one of the best collection of talent in the NFL. With an 8-1 record and a signature win under their belt after completing the comeback on the road against the Bills in overtime last week, the Vikings have an argument as the hottest team in the sport.
"SKOL!" chants await the Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium this Sunday, so strap in for five storylines for each squad heading into the Week 11 clash.
- What was part of the Cowboys' undoing against the Packers could very well be an issue again this weekend against the Vikings. After surrendering over 200 rushing yards to Green Bay, Dallas will be saddled with a tall task in slowing down Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook. Against the Bills, Cook sliced his way to a 119-yard performance, highlighted by an 81-yard touchdown run. For a Cowboys defense that ranks 29th in run defense, it won't be any easier this time.
- The Cowboys decided to play it safe with Ezekiel Elliott and his knee sprain by sitting him for a second consecutive game. After missing the Bears matchup in Week 9, followed with more rest during the bye, Elliott practiced last week but did not play in Green Bay. Meanwhile, Tony Pollard has filled in wonderfully. All that said, it could be very likely that Elliott makes his return to the lineup alongside Pollard in the backfield to complete the 1-2 punch.
- In 16 games last season, Dak Prescott threw 10 interceptions. Through four games this year he has already thrown four picks despite missing five games with a broken thumb. Three have come in the last two games while two of those came against the Packers and led to points. His career-high for interceptions for a season was 13 during the 2018 campaign. More importantly, he will face a Vikings defense that is tied for fifth in interceptions with 10.
- After losing cornerback Jourdan Lewis to a season-ending foot injury against the Lions, the Cowboys saw another corner leave the game early against the Packers when Anthony Brown suffered a concussion. While the injuries have opened up opportunities for rookie DaRon Bland and second-year man Kelvin Joseph, McCarthy said on Monday that, although it is too early in the week to make a decision, he did think Brown "definitely has a chance to play Sunday."
- Perhaps no player has benefited more from the return of Prescott than CeeDee Lamb. Lamb had the Cowboys' first 100-yard receiving game this season against the Packers with 150 yards and two touchdowns. In the three games since Prescott's returned, Lamb has seen his receptions, targets, yards and touchdowns all increase. The Cowboys will need that duo to continue their chemistry to get back on track against the Vikings.
- You probably wouldn't have much pushback if you opined that the Vikings played the game of the season in their overtime thriller against the Bills. Trailing 24-10 at the half, Minnesota rallied back in the fourth quarter to take the lead, thanks to a ridiculous Justin Jefferson one-handed catch and a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown by the defense. Kirk Cousins passed for over 350 yards and one score, along with two interceptions. Jefferson was sensational with 10 catches for almost 200 yards, and Cook ran for almost 120 yards and a touchdown.
- So about that Jefferson guy. He has been one of the best, if not the best receiver in the NFL this season. He has over 100 receiving yards in four of his last five games while ranking second in receiving yards overall this year. The Cowboys did well in neutralizing him in their meeting last season, though, holding him to just two catches for 21 yards.
- Almost every team in the NFL would love to have the collection of offensive talent the Vikings possess. We've mentioned both Jefferson and Cook, but don't forget about Adam Thielen and trade deadline acquisition T.J. Hockenson from the Lions. The Cowboys saw Hockenson back in Week 8 when he had four catches for 48 yards, but he has really found his footing in a Vikings' passing attack that ranks seventh in yards per game and an offense that ranks eighth in points per game. Something to keep your eye on? Cousins has been sacked 20 times this season.
- The Vikings could be without some key defensive players when they take on the Cowboys. Both cornerback Akayleb Evans and linebacker Za'Darius Smith left the Bills game early with a concussion and knee contusion, respectively. Outside of that, offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw left early as well with a concussion.
- For as much attention as the Vikings' high-powered offense has rightfully garnered this season, the defense has done its part, although not without some blemishes. They rank near the bottom in passing yards allowed and are slightly better when it comes to stopping the run. However, they force turnovers at a high rate with 16 takeaways and rank second in turnover differential.