The Cowboys have finally found a quarterback that can help them compete in the wake of Dak Prescott’s injury, but still, remain winless without their star. They will face one of the hotter teams in the league in the Minnesota Vikings, whose playoff hopes are back alive after taking down the Bears last week.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, November 22, 2020 – 04:25 PM EDT at U.S. Bank Stadium
Finally, a Quarterback
Most of America has been following the Cowboys’ quarterback drama this season. Dak Prescott’s injury sent the team into a tailspin, which caused them to turn to the capable hands of veteran Andy Dalton, only to see him lost to a concussion. Rookie seventh-rounder Ben DiNucci was then trotted out, but he looked so absolutely dreadful in a loss to the Eagles that he was immediately benched in favor of 2014 sixth-rounder Garrett Gilbert.
Surely, Gilbert — the fourth-string quarterback — would not be able to take down the league’s only undefeated team, right? Well, against the NFL odds, he almost did. Gilbert wasn’t great, but he was good enough to keep the Cowboys in the game, finding the talented pass-catchers Dallas currently employs for 243 yards and a touchdown. Best of all, he only turned the ball over once! Against one of the league’s top defenses, this can only be seen as an overwhelming positive.
The likes of Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb seemed to be withering away in this offense but were suddenly rejuvenated by accurate passes. There’s no getting around the fact that this team has talent, it’s just a matter of whether or not the Cowboys have a quarterback that can successfully place the ball into the hands of the team’s capable playmakers without making errors. So far, so good on that front.
Things will get easier for Gilbert on Sunday against one of the weaker secondaries in football. The Vikings are allowing a whopping 267.9 yards per game and 7.2 yards per pass — both sixth-worst in the NFL. This should allow Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the league’s most talented back, more room to operate against an elite front seven and afford Dallas the ability to score. The only thing that can get in the Cowboys’ way on Sunday, given Gilbert plays as he did against Pittsburgh, will be the defense. Dallas has allowed a league-high 32.2 points per game and ranks last in turnover margin.
What Happened to This Defense?
Just a year ago, Minnesota’s defense ranked in the top five in defensive DVOA according to Football Outsiders, and returned most of the players that made the unit great, including star safety Harrison Smith and leading tackler Eric Kendricks. They now sit 24th in the league in yards allowed per game at 383.6, and they have been particularly dreadful against the pass, ranking 27th with an average of 267.9 yards allowed.
It’s hard to say that Nick Foles throwing for 106 yards is a step in the right direction, for this defense considering that it’s Nick Foles, but there are certainly a lot of positives surrounding this team right now, defense aside. What once seemed like a lost season for Mike Zimmer’s squad suddenly looks salvageable; the Vikings have reeled off three wins in a row after beginning 1-5. The wins didn’t come against easy opponents, either. Green Bay remains one of the top teams in the NFC, and the Vikings handled them rather easily, and Chicago’s defense has been stout all year round.
Things are trending up thanks to Dalvin Cook’s monster season. The superstar back out of Florida State managed 96 yards against one of the league’s best run defenses last week, and prior to that racked up 269 total on the ground alone in wins over the Packers and Lions. Dallas shouldn’t be able to hold him down, even though its rushing defense is stronger than its passing defense by comparison. The Cowboys are allowing a whopping 32.2 points per game — dead last in football — and Cook’s ability to carve up defenses in the passing game will work to his advantage against a soft secondary.
The Vikings are a respectable 4-5 against NFL spreads this year, and the Cowboys a dreadful 2-7, yet it’s Dallas that I’ll be backing here. Both are coming off covers, Dallas against the league’s last undefeated team, so I’m willing to throw the records out the window and take what the best sportsbooks are giving us here.
This line opened at +10 and is only going to creep lower as kickoff approaches. Garrett Gilbert has shown me enough to have faith, and it’s not like Dallas isn’t playing for a playoff spot either. The NFC East is wide open at the moment, even a two-win team can dream about finishing on top.