It's the third game in a 12-day stretch for the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. What will be the difference in the Week 13 matchup on Thursday Night Football?
The Cowboys (10-1) are looking to extend their franchise-record season winning streak to 11 games, and they're looking for their first victory in Minneapolis since 1995 in their first-ever visit to new U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings (6-5) are looking to keep pace in the NFC North race.
The DallasCowboys.com staff gives their gut feelings for Thursday's game:
Bryan Broaddus: The Minnesota Vikings on average allow opponents 63 offensive snaps a game. The Dallas Cowboys on average run 65 snaps a game. Four times this season, they have had 70-plus snaps. As difficult as this Vikings defense has been on opponents to move the ball, my gut feeling is that Scott Linehan loads up the running game and controls this game on the ground. Offensively, the Cowboys hit the magic number of 70 plays, and by not having to take many chances against the Vikings secondary, win going away 24-13.
Rob Phillips:I covered the Cowboys' 34-3 Divisional Round loss at the Metrodome in January 2010. The Minnesota noise was deafening and the Vikings' pass rush was unstoppable. Six years later, these teams are completely different, but the 2016 Cowboys will have to deal with two similar issues: a loud, brand-new U.S. Bank Stadium, and an outstanding Vikings defense. I expect some challenging drives for Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys' offense – and I don't expect them to reach their 28.7 season scoring average. I'm guessing this will be a fairly low-scoring game in the 20s, but the Cowboys have shown tremendous resolve in the second half of games, and I think eventually the running game will find some cracks in that talented Minnesota front. The key will be staying ahead of the chains – Prescott needs to be in as few third-and-long situations as possible – and no extra possessions for a Vikings offense averaging just under 20 points per game.
Nick Eatman: Yeah, I think this will be a tough game for the Cowboys. And it's probably tougher because the Vikings are 6-5 and fighting for their playoff lives. This time of year, good defenses tend to find ways to keep its team in the game and I don't discount that happening here Thursday night. But, I'm not picking against the Cowboys until they give me a reason to do so. We've gone two full months now without seeing a loss by this team and I'm not really expecting that to change just because the calendar does. I see the Cowboys having some issues running the ball, but nothing too terrible. Ezekiel Elliott will get over 100 yards again and I expect him to make some plays in the passing game. I've got touchdowns by Brice Butler and another rushing score from Dak. On defense, I think the Cowboys break their turnover streak and get two interceptions – one of them by Sean Lee. Overall, the Cowboys will wear down the Vikings as the better team and will grind out a 27-22 win to get to 11-1.
David Helman: Another week, another tough challenge for the Cowboys. Of course, all of the last three games have looked tough on paper -- and the Cowboys have aced those tests with flying colors. If I'm being honest, the Vikings don't worry much quite as much as the Steelers, Ravens or Redskins. Yes, Minnesota has the best secondary Dak Prescott has faced all season. They're going to make him work for his yardage, and it's going to be on him to limit the turnovers. But the Vikings are average against the run, allowing 100 yards per game on the ground. Stop me if this sounds familiar, but I trust that the Cowboys can lean on Ezekiel Elliott and the ground game for 130 rushing yards, if not more. On the flip side, this Minnesota offense just doesn't scare me much. That's not necessarily their fault. The Vikings have lost Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson and half of their offensive line to injury this season. But I just don't think Sam Bradford can take full advantage of the Cowboys' shaky defense with Stefon Diggs and a handful of role players. I think this is going to look a lot like the Green Bay game. The Vikings won't be able to keep pace, and they'll fall behind. With Bradford having to throw them back into the game, the Cowboys will get some long-awaited takeaways and pull away for the win -- something like 31-16.