The recipe for a win on Sunday looks pretty similar for both teams. Running the ball will be key for the Cowboys and Vikings, but figuring out a way to get and/or stay balanced is vital.
Football analyst Bucky Brooks, a former NFL player and scout who now works for NFL Network and serves as an analyst for DallasCowboys.com, gives his weekly keys to the game Sunday, providing specific points of emphasis for both the Cowboys and Vikings.
The Vikings will win if…
The Vikings have emerged as one of the top teams in the NFC due to their ability to make winning plays in the clutch. Kevin O'Connell's squad does not flinch in close games and their poise has helped them win seven one-score games this season. Against the Cowboys, the Vikings need to utilize a balanced offensive approach that forces the defense to hold up against the run while also keeping Justin Jefferson in the mix as the No.1 option in the passing game. Given the Cowboys' problems defending the run, the Vikings' game plan could tilt heavily toward the running game.
Defensively, the Vikings must find a way to contain Tony Pollard as a playmaker. The Cowboys' change of pace back has given the offense a jolt as a big play weapon with the speed and explosiveness to take it the distance from anywhere on the field. Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell will mix in some "plus-one" defensive looks with an occasional double team on CeeDee Lamb to keep the WR1 in check. If the Vikings take care of the ball and bring their A-game, it could be hard for the Cowboys to knock off the Purple People Eaters.
The Cowboys will win if…
The Cowboys need to get back on track by re-committing to a balanced offensive plan and improving their run defense. Despite Dak Prescott's presence as a franchise quarterback, the Cowboys are at their best when the running game is the focal point of the game plan. Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott (if healthy) are a dangerous combination at running back with a set of complementary skills (Pollard is an outside runner; Elliott is a grinder) that tests the discipline and toughness of their opponents. Moreover, the dynamic duo sets the table for a play-action passing game that features CeeDee Lamb running free across the field. If the Cowboys are able to stick to a 50-50 approach and force the Vikings to defend the run and pass, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore could have some fun dialing up big plays in key moments.
On defense, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has to squash the Vikings' running game early to discourage Kevin O'Connell from feeding Dalvin Cook. The standout runner can single-handedly take over a game if he gets it going and the Cowboys must keep him in check without bringing extra defenders into the box due to the Justin Jefferson factor. With the running game under control, Quinn can unleash his pass rush while maintaining double coverage on Jefferson. If the Cowboys are able to dictate the terms by winning early downs, the defense can put the game on Kirk Cousins and force the turnover-prone veteran to make a critical error in the clutch.