Vikings vs. Cowboys Odds & Picks: How To Fade Dallas On Sunday
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Dalvin Cook.
Vikings vs. Cowboys Odds
This was supposed to be a marquee game before the season, but the Cowboys and Vikings have been two of the most disappointing teams in the NFL.
The Cowboys are 2-7 and have been miserable all season. They last won a game over a month ago and have scored only 41 points since. The good news — maybe? — is that Andy Dalton is back healthy.
Minnesota started even worse than Dallas at 1-5, but unlike the Cowboys, the Vikings appear to have righted the ship. Minnesota has won three straight and looks like the better team here, and the Vikings are favored by a touchdown at home. Has Minnesota improved enough to deserve their status as a seven-point favorite?
Dallas has been littered with injuries up and down its roster. Early on, the Cowboys were at least competitive and relatively fun to watch. They played with great pace on offense, and Dak Prescott piled up yardage to his talented receivers while the Dallas defense allowed pretty much anything the opponent wanted.
The defense has tightened up some as the pace has slowed down, but the offense has gone MIA since Prescott’s devastating injury.
Dallas is just 2-7 coming out of its bye, and those two wins have come by just one and three points against bad Falcons and Giants teams. Put another way, the Cowboys are six points away from matching the putrid New York Jets at 0-9.
The Cowboys defense has not allowed more than 25 points in four games, so that’s something. Of course, they haven’t scored more than 19 in five games, and the offense has averaged 10.3 points per game in their four games without Prescott. Dalton’s return may not even be a boost. He’s been downright terrible in limited time.
Dallas’ offense is not good, and the truth is that it never was this season.
Even when the Cowboys were scoring more, a lot of that was due to pace. The offense itself was more average than good, and it’s only gotten worse as the injuries have piled up. The defense hasn’t improved as much as it looks, either. They’re benefiting from a slowed-down game and from a stretch of games against weaker offenses.
The Cowboys are not good. The question is whether Minnesota is good enough now to punish them.
The Vikings started 1-5 but were never quite as bad as their record looked. They lost by one to good Tennessee and Seattle teams and very well could have won both for a 3-3 start. Kirk Cousins has had some real clunkers, like always, but Minnesota’s run game has been dominant as usual with Dalvin Cook.
The Vikings have the No. 3 rushing attack per Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Minnesota’s offense as a whole ranks inside the top 10. In fact, so does their defense. The Vikings have moved up to 13th overall in DVOA. They’re as good as they’ve looked these last few weeks.
The real story there is the defense. Minnesota’s defense has always been very good under Mike Zimmer but looked almost as bad as Dallas’ early. The Vikings have been hurt by the loss of their best two pass rushers for the season in Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr, and the secondary remains banged-up.
But Zimmer knows how to coach up defense, and the Vikings’ defense has gotten better and better as the season has gone on. They’ve allowed only 18.3 points per game in three weeks since Minnesota’s bye, and — not coincidentally — the Vikings have won all three.
If Minnesota’s defense plays well enough to keep them in the game, the Vikings can run, run, run to their heart’s desire. When the game stays on script, Minnesota looks good.
This feels like a mismatch and a game the Vikings certainly should win with relative ease. Cook and the rushing attack are running all over opponents, and the Cowboys have a bottom-five run defense.
Minnesota’s improving defense should surely be able to handle this decrepit Dallas attack, too. Dalton’s return may not even help, as bad as he’s been, and Ezekiel Elliott is nursing a sore hamstring. It would have been hard to believe six weeks ago, but Dallas should have a seriously difficult time moving the ball or scoring on this Vikings defense.
The Cowboys total is at 20.5 points, and it’s hard to see them breaching that number. Dallas has averaged 10.3 points in games without Prescott, remember, and the Cowboys have scored exactly two touchdowns in those four games — one of them deep into garbage time. They’re getting field goals, but without two touchdowns, it takes a whole lot of three-point drives to get to 21.
You never know when Kirk Cousins might lay an egg, but playing at home with a solid defense and run attack against a bad team leaves no particular reason to worry.
The Vikings should win by double digits, though it would sure feel better betting a 6.5-point cover if the line budged. The Vikings are a prime teaser candidate as things stand, perhaps with a Chiefs team coming out of a bye and looking for revenge on a similar line.
If I’m playing a side in this one, I’d go with a Vikings cover, even at -7 or -7.5. But the better play is a Minnesota tease, then grabbing a piece of that Dallas under 20.5. If the Vikings does find a way to blow this, it’s more likely to be because of the offense stalling than the Cowboys magically finding theirs.
PICK: Cowboys Under 20.5