NFL Picks: Vikings' Solid Defense & Cowboys' Offensive Struggles Point to Low-Scoring Game

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 5:17 PM UTC

Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 5:17 PM UTC

The Dallas Cowboys have failed to win in their first three NFL Preseason games this Summer while the Minnesota Vikings are an unbeaten 2-0 heading into this Saturday night Preseason Week 3 date.

With the Cowboys looking so bad, Head Coach Jason Garrett will definitely want to help give QB Tony Romo and the Dallas Offense some confidence before the Regular Season kicks off in just three weeks while assessing talent, attempting to win the game and trying not to get anyone injured. Let’s analyze this Preseason game from the Lone Star State which has a couple of angles and come up with a couple of NFL picks, with a wary eye on the reality of how predictable NFL Preseason games and mindsets really are.


Odds Overview
Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys [Saturday 23:00] (CBS 11 (Texas), KMSP (Minnesota); 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT): AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas is the site of this NFL Preseason Week 3 game between the host Dallas Cowboys (0-2, 13 PF-40 PA) and the Minnesota Vikings (3-0, 60 GF-31 GA) on Saturday night. Oddsmakers here in Las Vegas have opened up the host Cowboys as 3-point favorites (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) over the Vikings with the Total set at 42 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook). On the Money Line, Dallas has been made +160 NFL odds favorites (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) with Minnesota priced as +140 underdogs for this second-to-last Preseason game for both teams. The Dallas Cowboys Total Team Points have been set at 23 for this game (BetVictor, Over/Under -125) with the Minnesota Vikings at 20 (BetVictor, Over/Under -125).


Minnesota Vikings
In Preseason so far, the Minnesota Vikings (7-9 SU in 2014, 325 PF-343 PA) have been impressive enough to get three Wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 (14-3); against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (26-12) in Week 2; and, again last Saturday in Week 3 over the penalty-addicted Oakland Raiders (20-12). But all three of those games were played at Home in the friendly confines of TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, so this should be a test for the Vikings although you know Minnesota (50/1 to win Super Bowl, William Hill) and Head Coach Mike Zimmer could now look to go unbeaten in the Preseason now that they’ve started 3-0. The good news for the Purple? Second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater looks great for the amount of action he’s had—22/28, 218 yards, 3-0 record—and the 0 Turnovers has impressed many. And WR Charles Johnson had a nice game (4 receptions, 40 yards, TD) against the Raiders and could be targeted more in the Regular Season. The bad news? Starting RT Phil Loadholt tore his Achilles’ tendon in the Buccaneers game and could be gone for good so Rookie TJ Clemmings (Pittsburgh) will be and has been thrown into the fire sooner than he and the Vikings anticipated. Also, doubts about K Blair Walsh have cropped up after the 35-year old missed all 3 of his FG attempts as well as an XP on Saturday, although there reportedly were consistent winds of 18+ mph blowing during the weather-delayed game, so, some slack should be cut and remember the distance on XP’s has changed. And Rookie CB Trae Waynes (Michigan State) reportedly hasn’t looked so good to start the Preseason but it’s still august and he’s playing in the NFL now and not the Big Ten.

Vikings star RB Adrian Peterson has been sitting out—wisely preferring not to let him get battered and injured this Preseason like some other NFL Rookies and players—while OL John Sullivan (Back spasms) rested on Saturday against the Raiders and LB Anthony Barr (Knee inflammation) returned to see some action. Here against Dallas, expect Bridgewater to get some more cautious playing time with backup QBs Shaun Hill, Mike Kafka and Taylor Heinicke likely seeing the bulk of the snaps with skill Offensive guys like the aforementioned WR Johnson, new Free Agent signee WR Mike Wallace (Dolphins), WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Kyle Rudolph, RB Jerick McKinnon and RB Matt Asiata all getting their fair share some valuable targets and carries in this game. All that translates to a Vikings team content to keep looking at players while trying to win, but really not caring if they lose and the later we get in Preseason, the more teams will treat these Week 3 and Week 4 games like scrimmages, seemingly good for a bunch of boring football games and maybe some Unders.


Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys (12-4 in 2104, 467 PF-352 PA last season) really need a Win and need to get the Offense in gear after two straight Losses—the San Diego Chargers in Week 1 (17-7) and the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 (23-6)—and scoring a grand total of 13 points and just 2 TDs in their 8 quarters of NFL Preseason football this Summer. Yee-haw. But Dallas (18/1 to win Super Bowl, bet365) did play both of those games on the Road and this return Home o-n Saturday to AT&T Stadium and Jerry World will be much important for the Cowboys for the needed Win for their heads and to get the Offense going than it will be to the Vikings who have to be happy where they’re at right now and looking to keep Bridgewater and Peterson happy and healthy for the real season. So is this a perceived advantage for bettors to try to take of? Possibly, but again, this is Preseason and there is much going on besides ghostlike football games. Rust. Players not playing (two of Dallas’s starting OL sat Saturday). Third-, fourth- and even fifth-string guys getting looks. New formations being experimented with. Plenty. For Dallas (4-4 Home in 2014), getting Romo (26-37 ATS Home in Regular Season) into some kind of a groove and the Offense scoring some points will be imperative as losing soundly, 23-6 to a team (49ers) everyone has mocked for all they have lost this Offseason can’t be sitting well with Owner Jerry Jones and the Cowboys faithful. Expect RBs Darren McFadden (Free Agent, Raiders), Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle to get some carries as the Rushing attack has looked anemic in the first two games and losing star DeMarco Murray to the Philadelphia Eagles has created a vacuum. And who knows how much Head Coach Jason Garrett will play Romo, who threw just 1 pass last weekend, or WR Dez Bryant who didn’t even play. So, Dallas’s backup QBs will see many snaps, right? Not so quick, pigskin breath as backup Brandon Weeden (Concussion) was injured in the weekend loss to San Francisco and likely won’t return to practice until Friday, meaning Romo will likely get more (cautious) snaps and third-stringer Dustin Vaughan and even fourth-stringer Jameill Showers should be used heavily. Again, all of this seems good for a low-scoring, safe, Preseason NFL football game. And maybe one better bet on than actually watched.


Realistic Preseason Expectations
Any series records or Trends are simply irrelevant here as there are just too many variable with this being a Preseason Week 3 game. The simple thought would be that taking the Vikings and the 3 points would be smart—or maybe even Minnesota on the Money Line at +140—with the team Minnesota undefeated this Preseason and feeling good about themselves and the Cowboys winless. But maybe that’s all a byproduct of the fact the Vikings played all 3 of their games at Home in Minneapolis while Dallas played their first 2 Preseason games on the Road. And, do these Cowboys even care about winning in the Preseason? Last year, Dallas went 0-4 in the Preseason and then proceeded to go 12-4 and win the NFC East. With Romo likely being used in a tentative way in the 1st and maybe 2nd quarters and Weeden (Concussion) now injured, third-stringer Vaughan and fourth-stringer Showers should see a bunch of playing time. Against the Niners, the two combined to throw 3 Interceptions, were sacked 3 times and had 1 TD pass, so, against the Vikings—who have allowed an average of a little over 10 ppg and haven’t lost yet—Vaughan and Showers could be in some trouble. And with the Cowboys having scored just 13 points in their first two games, expect them to press and HC Garrett will likely (safely) start Romo in hopes of some flow, confidence and maybe a TD- or FG-drive or two and then give way to the backup QBs, knowing Uncle Jerry would lose his mind if Romo got hurt with Dez Bryant resting (and squawking) and 1,8450-yard rusher Murray gone to the City of Brotherly Love. Expect safety and tentativeness to win out at AT&T Stadium on Saturday evening in Arlington and the Cowboys to be just as nervous when this one is over.

Predicted Final Score: Minnesota Vikings 17 Dallas Cowboys 16

NFL Pick: Under 42 -110 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

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