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Keys to Victory

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Keys to Victory: Cowboys Need Balance To Win


The Vikings are playing better as of late, especially behind the NFL's leading rusher – Dalvin Cook.

The Cowboys are seemingly playing better as well, but still haven't won a game in over a month and are 0-4 since Dak Prescott went down.

Can they turn the tide in Minnesota? Let's find out what needs to happen for the Cowboys and Vikings to get the win.

The Vikings will win if…

The Vikings are an old school football team building around a dominating running game and a suffocating defense under Mike Zimmer. Although the team has gotten off to a slow start in 2020, the squad is beginning to come together with a bunch of youngsters and newcomers settling into their roles. Offensively, the Dalvin Cook Show determines the success of the unit. The Vikings' RB1 leads the league in rush yards per game and his natural fit as a one-cut runner makes the team's zone-based scheme a nightmare to defend. If he gets into a rhythm early, he will set the table for a run-centric game plan that will enable to Vikings to dictate the terms from the opening kick. In addition, Cook's success on the ground will help Kirk Cousins create big plays in the passing game with pinpoint throws to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen on the perimeter. If either of the Vikings' pass-catchers top the 100-yard mark with Cook splitting the defense between the tackles, it is going to be a long day for the Cowboys.

Defensively, the Vikings will make a concerted effort to slow down Ezekiel Elliott. Zimmer will load the box with eight or nine defenders and challenge Andy Dalton to make enough plays in the passing game to win. If the young secondary keeps the ball in front of the defense, the Vikings will keep the game under control and wait for the Cowboys to make a fatal mistake. This approach has worked for the team in recent weeks, and Zimmer will see if the Cowboys are disciplined enough to play a clean game against a hard-hitting team.

The Cowboys will win if…

The Cowboys seemingly found their identity a few weeks ago but the Vikings will test their commitment to playing as a blue-collar squad. Mike McCarthy and Co. must commit to playing a complementary style of football that enables the offense to support the defense and special teams with their efforts. With Andy Dalton installed as the Cowboys' QB1, the team needs a solid effort on the ground from Elliott and Tony Pollard to prevent the Vikings from selling out with an all-out blitz assault on the veteran quarterback. If the Cowboys are able to run the ball early, it will enable Dalton to exploit some favorable match-ups on the outside in the passing game. Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup should win their one-on-one match-ups but Dalton will need enough time to target them on downfield throws. If the Cowboys connect on three or more explosives (20-plus yards), the Vikings will need to remove defenders out of the box and concede some rushing yards to Elliott and Pollard.

Defensively, the Cowboys must play their most physical game of the year to slow down the Vikings' running game. The defensive line must control the line of scrimmage while staying in their assigned gaps to prevent No.33 from squirting through a seam. Jaylon Smith and LVE must own the tackle-to-tackle box and keep Cook from getting to the second level. This will test the overall discipline of the front seven but a coordinated effort can help the Cowboys put the game back onto Cousins' shoulders. Despite the Vikings' success throwing the ball in recent week, the much-maligned quarterback struggled with turnovers early in the season and he is prone to critical mistakes in the clutch. If the Cowboys can make the Vikings throw on obvious passing downs, the turnovers could come in bunches.

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