Big Picture: 5 Storylines For Cowboys & Vikings

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The Cowboys are coming off a big win against the Giants to get to 5-3 and will play host to the Vikings, who bring some familiar faces and a 6-3 record into AT&T Stadium.

Here are five quick storylines for each team to get us ready for the matchup.

Vikings

  • The Vikings have the NFL’s leading rusher in Dalvin Cook, who has 894 yards through nine games. Cook also has nine rushing touchdowns, including a 75-yarder. Cook battled injuries his first two seasons, including playing only four games as a rookie in 2017, but at full strength this year, he is showing why he’s one of the NFL’s elite backs. Cook also has 33 catches and his 1,232 all-purpose yards ranks second in the NFL behind only Christian McCaffrey (1,244).
  • The Vikings have been without Pro Bowl receiver Adam Thielen for most of the last two games and there is a chance he could miss Sunday’s game with the Cowboys because of a hamstring injury. Thielen was initially hurt in Minnesota’s Oct. 20 game against the Lions. He missed all of the next game against the Redskins on a short week but tried to come back last Sunday against Kansas City. Instead, he reaggravated the injury in the first quarter against the Chiefs. Without Thielen, the Vikings will rely on Stefon Diggs, who ranks seventh in the NFL with 710 yards (Amari Cooper is eighth at 701) in nine games. Look for former first-round pick Josh Doctson to be considered this week. Doctson, a former Redskins pick out of TCU, could be making a homecoming trip to face the Cowboys. The former Mansfield, Texas, product was moved off of IR this week and is eligible to play.
  • The Vikings were hurt badly by big plays against the Chiefs last week, including a 91-yard touchdown run by Damien Williams. Head coach Mike Zimmer, a former defensive coordinator in Dallas and longtime assistant for the Cowboys, was disappointed in not only giving up the long score, but also in the fact that three of his top defenders – Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith – were all out of position to make the play. The Chiefs also got the Vikings on two other 40-yard receptions to Tyreek Hill.
  • Dan Bailey, arguably the greatest kicker in Cowboys history, is having a solid season with the Vikings. After it appeared he might be on his way out last year with Minnesota, Bailey not only survived the season but has returned in 2019 even better. He’s made 13 of 15 field goal attempts, but has missed a pair of extra points. The Cowboys cut Bailey before the 2018 season in favor of Brett Maher, who is 13 of 18 on field goals, but has made two from over 60 yards.
  • Sunday’s game will feature two of the nine quarterbacks that have a passer rating over 100. Kirk Cousins is third in the NFL with a 112.0 rating and has thrown only three interceptions this year, along with 16 touchdowns. Dak Prescott ranks eighth in the NFL with a 102.5 QB rating. Cousins, however, has not had great luck against the Cowboys. He’s just 1-6 as a starter while with the Redskins. This will be his first game against Dallas with the Vikings.

Cowboys

  • The injury concerns for the Cowboys start with linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who was a game-time decision last Monday and did not play because of a stinger/neck injury. LVE should be able to work himself into practice to play this week. That also seems to be the case for safety Jeff Heath, who received 12 stitches in his knee after suffering a laceration in the game last week. Swing tackle Cam Fleming is still battling a calf injury and his status is questionable this week. Rookie Brandon Knight would serve as the backup to the left and right tackle spots if Fleming can’t go.
  • After the Cowboys spent part of the previous week reportedly interested in acquiring Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams from the Jets, they ended up getting a career-game from Xavier Woods. The starting safety was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his two-turnover game against the Giants. Woods had an interception and recovered a fumble, earning the first Player of the Week honor by a Cowboys safety since George Teague in 1996.
  • One player the Cowboys did get before the trade deadline passed was veteran pass-rusher Michael Bennett. And his first game with the Cowboys was indeed a success. Bennett rushed the quarterback from both the end and tackle spots and had a sack, three tackles and four quarterback pressures. He became the 19th player in NFL history to record a sack with five different teams. Bennett’s presence seemed to help the entire rush as the Cowboys recorded five sacks against the Giants.
  • While the Vikings will bring in the NFL’s leading rusher in Cook, the Cowboys have the reigning rushing champ in Ezekiel Elliott, who has won the rushing title in two of his three years. He’s not far behind Cook, who has played nine games and has 894 yards (99.3 yards per game). Zeke has rushed for 741 yards in eight games (92.6) and is currently sixth in the NFL. He’s also been rather hot of late, rushing for over 100 yards in three straight games, including a season-high 139 yards on Monday night against the Giants.
  • The Cowboys need this game to stay a full game ahead of the Eagles in the NFC East standings. Since losing to Dallas two weeks ago, Philadelphia has won two straight and is 5-4 heading into its bye this weekend. If the Cowboys fall to the Vikings and drop to 5-4, they still would technically be first in the division standings with the head-to-head tiebreaker, but a win would give them some needed cushion. Both the Eagles and Cowboys face the Patriots this month.

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