Dallas Cowboys (10-1) vs Minnesota Vikings (6-5)
8:25pm ET on NBC
The Cowboys survived a near-perfect 15-minute stretch of football from Redskins QB Kirk Cousins on Thanksgiving to defeat Washington 31-26 on Thanksgiving. Cousins completed 21 of 23 for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns during that stretch, at one point connecting on 15 straight passes, including a 67-yard TD strike to DeSean Jackson, but never catching up with the Cowboys. Dallas twice countered with a touchdown of their, only letting up on the game’s final possession, as they ran out the clock. On the day, Cousins completed 41 of 53 (77.3%) for 449 yards and 3 touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to outshine Dallas’ Glimmer Twins, Dak Prescott (17 of 24, 195 yards, 1 TD pass, 39 yards and 1 TD rushing) and Ezekiel Elliott (20 carries for 97 yards and 2 TDs, 2 catches for 23 yards), who continue to thrive in their rookie seasons. Elliott now leads the league with 1,199 yards rushing, and is second with 11 rushing TDs, while Prescott has been nearly as impressive, completing 67.9% of his passes for 2,835 yards, 18 TDs and just 2 interceptions, while rushing for 180 yards and 5 TDs on 41 carries. Prescott ranks in the top 8 in yards; passer rating; yards per attempt and completion; completion, interception and touchdown percentage; game-winning drives; comebacks; and total offense. He is good at football.
But the Cowboys have yet to face a defense as tough as Minnesota’s which has allowed just 17.5 points per game, second-best in the league, their 307 yards per game and 20 turnovers are both third-best in the league, and their 28 sacks are the sixth-most. Seven Vikings have made an interception this season, led by Xavier Rhodes with 4 for 129 yards and a TD; Danielle Hunter leads the team with 7.5 sacks, followed by Everson Griffen with 6 and Brian Robinson with 5, as they make up the only trio of teammates with 5+ sacks in the NFL. But while the Vikings’ defense has kept up their end of the bargain, the offense has been anemic over the past several games, with the team’s 16-13 Thanksgiving loss to the Lions a shining example of all that’s wrong. Minnesota took a 13-10 lead early in the 4th quarter, but the Lions managed to kick two field goals in the final two minutes, including the gamewinner as the clock ticked down to zero. Minnesota only allowed 308 yards, with Lions QB Matthew Stafford completing just 23 of 40 (57.5%) for 232 yards and 1 TD – most days that kind of defensive effort is enough to win, but not for the Vikings, who could only muster 3 FGs and a touchdown on 306 yards of total offense. It was a huge loss for Minnesota, who fell to the Lions for the second time this season, and ceded to them 1st place in the NFC North. Since starting the season 5-0 by an average score of 23.8-12.6, the Vikings have lost 5 of 6 by an average score of 16.5-21.5. There’s talk of Adrian Peterson coming back from a torn meniscus some time in mid December, but it may be too little too late.
As good as the season totals are for the Minnesota defense, the fact is that after starting out playing at an elite level, they’ve regressed to merely very good, while the offense has gone from good enough to awful. The Cowboys will be way too much for them.
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