There is no better team in the NFL right now than the (10-1) Dallas Cowboys, but even they aren’t immune to the schedule, which has them playing this Thursday against the (6-5) Minnesota Vikings (8.25pm ET on NFLN).
It will be Dallas’ third game in 12 days and even for a team riding a 10-game winning streak, that schedule is no easy task. Perhaps that factor will influence this preview’s betting predictions and picks for the game? Find out at the end.
In the NFC, there’s the Cowboys and then there’s everybody else. After losing their home opener to the (8-3) New York Giants, (something that could come into play depending on what both teams do over the rest of the season), Dallas went on to win each of their next 10 in pretty decisive fashion. It was only against the (5-6) Philadelphia Eagles that the Cowboys found themselves in some trouble, needing overtime to take down their divisional foe.
The Cowboys are the class of the conference and are the best team in the NFL right now but when the season first began, there was another team that held those honors and that of course was the Vikings.
Starting out their season an undefeated 5-0, Minnesota was the biggest surprise of the year. Without their starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings were actually winning games and looked like a well-rounded team. But as the season went on and Minnesota lost their first game and then their second and then their fourth in a row, it became obvious that their defense had been covering up for the holes in the offense. A very weak passing game and almost non-existent rushing attack were masked by what had been one of the best defenses in the league.
As the schedule got harder however and the opposing offenses got better, Minnesota’s defense wasn’t enough for the anemic offense. The Vikings started 5-0 but they are now just 6-5 and currently in second place in the NFC North. There’s even a chance Minnesota misses the playoffs.
Both the Vikings and Cowboys are coming off playing Thanksgiving games a week ago but those games ended in very different results. Dallas defeated the (6-4-1) Washington Redskins at home while Minnesota lost an absolute heartbreak to the first place (7-4) Detroit Lions on the road. That basically makes this a must-win for the Vikings.
The Prescott and Elliott (And the O-Line) Show
It may be a must-win for the Vikings but that doesn’t mean it will be a will-win and that’s largely in part because Dallas boasts the two best rookies in the NFL at the two most important skill positions: QB and RB.
Let’s start with Dak Prescott. From the second he was drafted, Dallas saw something in the young quarterback as their future signal caller. The future came a little sooner than most probably expected however as longtime starter and multiple time pro-bowler Tony Romo went down with an injury prior to the team’s first game. This left the starting job open for Prescott and since that day he has never looked back.
Prescott leads all rookies with 2,835 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and a 108.6 passer rating. He has led Dallas to 10 wins and has been an instrumental part in their success. In fact, Prescott has shown poise in every situation and without him, Dallas might not be in the midst of their best season in years.
Another person who they might not be successful without is Ezekiel Elliott, who is probably the only one who will keep Prescott from winning the Rookie of the Year award. Elliott leads all running backs with his 1,199 rushing yards, which is also already the most by a Cowboys rookie in franchise history. And to think he still has five games left to play.
These two are a phenomenal complement to one another and have made Dallas one of the best offenses in the league. But it doesn’t stop there. I would be remiss to talk about the success of Dak and Zeke without mentioning Dallas’ offensive line, which once again is the best front line the NFL has to offer. Dallas’ O-Line has helped running backs like Zeke and Demarco Murray before him, be the best in the league. That line has been crucial to Romo’s recent success and has no doubt been a blessing to Prescott in his rookie year.
But Can the Vikings Win?
This preview could elaborate all day about the assets the Cowboys have and how they have helped them achieve the heights they have this year, but that doesn’t really answer the question. Dallas is great, but what matters here is “Can the Vikings win?”
Technically speaking, of course they can. On any given Sunday, or in this case Thursday, any team could pull an upset. Despite Dallas being 10-0 in this last 10, Minnesota’s chances are a little better than just an ‘any given Thursday’ mentality.
The Vikings biggest strength is of course their defense, which ranks third in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game. Leading the way is Xavier Rhodes (pictured), who has four interceptions and who is the biggest reason why Minnesota has one of the best turnover margins in the league, currently at plus-12.
Beyond their defense, the Vikings offense, for all of its struggles, has been its best at home, where Thursday’s game will be played. Minnesota is 4-1 at home and Sam Bradford is a much better quarterback in friendly confines. He has thrown for 1,261 yards in those five games with seven touchdowns and most impressively, zero interceptions. His passer rating is 109.2 in Minnesota.
So, can the Vikings win? They really could. They’ll just have to find a way to stop Elliott and hope Bradford has the game of his life. That’s not too much to ask.
Our Preview’s Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings Betting Predictions & Picks
The Cowboys are unsurprisingly road favorites in this one, by three or four points depending which of the American-friendly sportsbooks you look at. I made a case for why the Vikings could win but that doesn’t mean they are my betting pick. You don’t go 10-1 for being a bad team and Dallas has few holes Minnesota could exploit.
Defensively, the Vikings could cause Prescott some trouble, but he has overcome that trouble before and has gone against tough defenses. He is battle tested for a rookie and his success should continue on Thursday night.
- Take the Cowboys to top the spread. The dispute is which spread to take, you can get Dallas -3pts @ -125 betting odds with 5Dimes Sportsbook, Bookmaker or BetOnline. That is the option we are going to recommend. But if you are optimistic and give up a point more (-4pts) then you will get better odds at -110 with Bovada Sportsbook.
- As for the over/under on the total points to be scored of 44, take the under and get -110 with 5Dimes or Bovada. It is under 43.5pts with Bookmaker and BetOnline for -105.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.