The Nemesis: Sean Lee
With all the questions and issues that this Minnesota Vikings offense has had at quarterback this year, their best option could be handing the ball to Adrian Peterson and let him pound on this Cowboys defense that has been up and down in handling the running game. As well as Matthew Stafford played last week throwing the ball against this defense, it was the running of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell that caused a majority of the problems as well. Peterson presents an interesting challenge because of his ability to break tackles. He is explosive, powerful and a finisher. Tackling him one-on-one will be difficult but the one Cowboys defender that can be a difference maker in this area, it is Sean Lee. As much of a downhill player that Peterson is, so is Lee. There are going to be plenty of times in this contest where Peterson and Lee are going to meet at the point of attack. Lee has a nose for the ball along with the ability to beat the block of fullback Jerome Felton to put himself in position to make the tackle on Peterson before he has a chance to get going. If Adrian Peterson is going to be held in check, it will be because of the play of Sean Lee.
The Weapon: Cole Beasley
The Vikings statistically are last in the NFL when it comes to playing 3rd down defense. They are also ranked last in the number of first downs they give up during a game. The Cowboys on the other hand are ranked 24th in the league when it comes to converting on 3rd down which is surprising since the number of play makers they have in their skill positions. When the Vikings get in their nickel defense, they like to move starting cornerback Josh Robinson inside and bring rookie Xavier Rhodes in the game and put him on the outside. Opponents have found ways to attack this Vikings nickel package by going at Robinson who on tape has looked shaky in coverage. Last week against Detroit, was not one of the best games for Cole Beasley when it came to making plays out of the slot. He did not generate the space that we had seen from him in the previous weeks and for the Cowboys to get back on track converting better on 3rd downs, they will need Beasley to find that space and secure those throws. This matchup against Robinson will be a good one for Beasley who should be able to take advantage of his quickness and put a great deal of pressure on Robinson to have to stay with him.
Under The Radar: Jarius Wynn
There were not many things that went right for this Cowboys defense last week against the Lions, but Jarius Wynn played outstanding in the opportunities that he got to play in the game. Caesar Rayford had been here longer with the club but it has been Wynn that has stepped his game up playing at the defensive end and in my mind, passed Rayford for those rotational snaps with the defense. The front office and coaching staff really likes Wynn for his ability to play either at tackle or end which give them that flexibility. Wynn might not give you everything you want as a pass rusher technique wise but when it comes to playing at the point of attack and handling the run, he has more than held his own playing with some power and strength, which has allowed George Selvie to take a break or two during the game. I believe that the Vikings are going to try and run the ball on this Cowboys defense with Adrian Peterson regardless who plays quarterback for them this week. Jarius Wynn can hold up against the Vikings massive right tackle, Phil Loadholt and not give up much there because with this Vikings offense, that ball is going to come downhill and on the edge.
The Nemesis: Greg Jennings
The numbers are not where we are accustom to what we have seen from Greg Jennings from his days in Green Bay but that should not make much of a difference as he gets prepared to play the Cowboys. In his four career games against Dallas, Jennings has 24 catches for 327 yards and two touchdowns. On tape, you still see that talent that he showed with the Packers. What has been his struggles in how poorly these Vikings quarterbacks have played this season. Jennings can still be that dangerous player in terms of route running and making plays down the field but the quarterbacks have to get him the ball. I have also seen some games where these quarterbacks did get him the ball and he has taken some hard, physical shots which a receiver should never have to deal with if the ball is delivered on time and the right spot. There are times after a throw where you can read his body language and you can see the frustration which was something you rarely observed with Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball. Where the Cowboys have to be careful defensively, is not allowing Jennings to get going in this game. He can wear a defense out if he is allowed space to operate, he still has that kind of play making ability.
The Weapon: Adrian Peterson
The Vikings have been struggling on offense but that's not because of the play of Adrian Peterson. The Vikings are 6th in the NFL when it comes to yards per carry and that is because of what they get from Peterson each week. During his career, Peterson has played three game and has only averaged 3.2 yards a carry on 62 rushing attempts. I do not believe that Monte Kiffin and this defensive believe that they could hold Peterson to those numbers because if they do, then they will most likely come away from this game with a win. The last two week, this Cowboys defense has faced running backs that have that ability to score from anywhere on the field in LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush. Petterson brings that same kind of threat in this game. In the first play of the 2013 season against the Lions, Peterson took the ball and went 78 yards for the touchdown. What is so impressive about Peterson and the way he carries the ball is how he finishes those runs. He breaks a lot of tackles along the way and if you are not in good position to make the tackle, he will lower his shoulder and punish you. Would not be one bit surprised if the Vikings try and ram him down the Cowboys throats this week.
Under The Radar: Cordarrelle Patterson
For Rich Bisaccia, this matchup against the Vikings is where the rubber is going to meet the road, in the regard to kickoff coverage. The Vikings are ranked 1st in the NFL when it comes to kickoff returns average and a large part of that is due to the ability of rookie Cordarrelle Patterson. On the year, Patterson has returned 18 balls for 703 yards and 2 touchdowns. What makes Patterson so dangerous is that it doesn't matter how deep the ball is in the end zone because against the Packers last week, he brought one back 109 yards for a score. What I remember about Patterson from his days at Tennessee, was how well he played in space. Current Cowboys wide receiver's coach, Derek Dooley was his head coach in college and they did an outstanding job of creating ways to get the ball in his hands. The Cowboys are currently ranked 7th in the NFL when it comes to kickoff coverage. The best way for Bisaccia and his cover unit to counter Patterson is for Dan Bailey to continue to pump those kicks out of the end zone at every opportunity that he has and limited the number of returns that Patterson will see in this game.