Daniel House points out the areas which need to be perfect for the Vikings to shock the Cowboys at Jones Mahal in Dallas. He talks about all of this and more in his preview post.
The Vikings have struggled the first seven weeks of the season and have been taken to the cleaners in their last five matchups. Fans are losing their patience, players are trying to remain focused, and the coaching staff is searching for the answers to the complicated problems. Both the Cowboys and the Vikings have displayed their fair share of poor performances and losses this season. The difference is how explosive the Cowboys offense has been this season, en route to becoming one of the highest scoring groups in the league. Josh Freeman will be a healthy scratch and the Vikings didn't pull the trigger to announce Christian Ponder was the starting quarterback until Friday. With a 1-6 record, the Vikings are playing for mere pride and will look to finally spread positivity in a road matchup at Jones Mahal. How do the Vikings shock Jerry Jones and the Cowboys this week?
Television: FOX (Channel 9 in Minneapolis)
Play-by-Play: Joe Buck Analyst: Troy Aikman
Sideline Reporter: Pam Oliver
KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporter: Greg Coleman
Pre-Game Show: Mike Mussman -10:00 a.m. CT
The Vikings and Cowboys have met 28 times, splitting the series 14-14. The last regular season meeting took place on 10/17/10, a 24-21 Vikings win. The two teams have met 7 times in the postseason, with the Cowboys holding a 3-4 lead. The Vikings have won 7 out of the last 8 meetings between the two teams. This will be the first meeting between the teams at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. A win would give the Vikings their 3rd consecutive victory over the Cowboys dating back to 1/17/10. Also it would provide Leslie Frazier with his first win over Dallas as head coach of the Vikings. The Vikings will look to win at Dallas for the first time since 11/23/00.
The Primary Focus:
The Cowboys defense has struggled as much as the Vikings and the group is allowing a league-worst 422.5 yards per game, while Minnesota ranks 30th at 401.6 yards. Both teams are hot off of their worst defensive performances of the season last week. Dallas allowed the Lions to accumulate 623 yards in a 31-30 loss at Detroit (the 11th highest total in NFL history), including the second highest single game receiving performance (329 yards) by Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The Dallas defense will be without starting safety J.J. Wilcox and cornerback Morris Claiborne, which will provide a strain on their defense. Christian Ponder had his opportunity to make a splash last week versus Green Bay, but failed to do so under the big lights of Sunday Night Football. The Vikings passing game ranks 30th in the league and with an terrible quarterback ranking of 69.6, this team won't win many ballgames. Adrian Peterson has been corralled by opposing defenses and others teams are scheming with the thought of making the Vikings pass. Ponder needs to complete passes against a Cowboys defense that has struggled to defend teams through the air, which in turn will open the lanes for Adrian Peterson to do what he does best. This seems like a huge task, but given the Cowboys recent struggles, the offense may be able to see some much needed production this week.
On the Defensive:
The Vikings defense is steaming after being completely embarrassed in primetime by the rival Green Bay Packers last week. The frustration level is also high in Dallas and it seemed to spill over to the rest of the team as Dez Bryant found himself in a shouting match with his teammates and coaches on the sidelines after Matthew Stafford sealed a Lions victory last week. Tony Romo is completing less than 50 percent of his passes for the first time since 2009, but he threw for three touchdowns as the Cowboys scored 30 points for the fifth time this season. Key Vikings defensive leaders have not been shy about how bad the team's defense has played and are looking to rally this group for the remainder of the season. The group has plenty of work to do and will look to improve their third down defense, which has been the worst in the league. Opponents are converting a league-high 51% of the time on third down against the Vikings and Green Bay went 13 for 18 on third down conversions last week. The defense allowed a season-high 182 rushing yards last week and every Packers possession ended with a score except for the final drive of the game, which was in kneel-down time. The Cowboys rushing game should improve this week with the return of DeMarco Murray to the lineup, after he missed two games with a sprained knee. The Vikings have allowed nine rushing touchdowns, which is currently the second most allowed in the NFC. Before injury, Murray scored in three of his four games and it will be key for the Vikings to stop the Cowboys run game. Ultimately, this defense needs to create stops and get off the field if they will have any chance to compete in Dallas this week.
Special Teams Primer:
The special teams kick return team has played very well and has led Cordarrelle Patterson to a league-high 709 return yards and two return touchdowns, which is tops in the NFL. The coverage unit has left little to be desired and the punt return team made Packers cornerback Micah Hyde look like a champion last week. If the Vikings are going to win games, the coverage team can't provide the defense with a short field, because it is merely a recipe for disaster.
Injury Report (via NFL.com):
|Name||Position||Injury||Practice Status||Game Status|
|Matt Asiata||RB||Shoulder||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Rhett Ellison||TE||Ankle||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Greg Jennings||WR||Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Fred Evans||DT||Knee||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Phil Loadholt||T||Illness||Limited Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Adrian Peterson||RB||Not Injury Related||Did Not Participate In Practice||Probable|
|Blair Walsh||K||left Hamstring||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Chris Cook||CB||Hip||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Kevin Williams||DT||Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|A.J. Jefferson||CB||Ankle||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Chad Greenway||LB||Wrist||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Jamarca Sanford||S||Groin||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Rodney Smith||WR||Hip||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Miles Austin||WR||Hamstring||Did Not Participate In Practice||Doubtful|
|DeMarcus Ware||DE||Thigh||Did Not Participate In Practice||Doubtful|
|Morris Claiborne||CB||Hamstring||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|George Selvie||DE||Shoulder||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Brian Waters||G||Elbow||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|J.J. Wilcox||S||Knee||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|DeVonte Holloman||LB||Neck||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Marvin Austin||DT||Back||Limited Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Barry Church||S||Hamstring||Limited Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Dwayne Harris||WR||Hip||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Danny McCray||S||Hip||Limited Participation in Practice||Questionable|
|DeMarco Murray||RB||Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Jason Hatcher||DT||Neck||Limited Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Lance Dunbar||RB||Hamstring||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
The Vikings have declared five players as out, including starters Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford this week. Both of these players have been very susceptible to injury in their careers and it doesn't bode well for their status. Mistral Raymond will replace Sanford and the Vikings have yet to announce who will see Chris Cook's minutes today.
From a Dallas standpoint, starters Morris Claiborne, Brian Waters, and J.J. Wilcox have all been ruled out for today's game.
Final Keys to Victory:
The Vikings need to pass the ball, which in turn will open rushing lanes for Adrian Peterson. Stopping the run will be key and getting off the field on defense will be crucial for this team to have a chance today. There are a ton of variables needed for this team to be successful and right now it seems as they are miles away from some of them, but this is the NFL and anything can happen on any given Sunday.