Cowboys vs. Vikings Odds, Picks, Predictions: How To Bet Sunday Night Football Based On Dak Prescott’s Status
Getty Images. Pictured: Ezekiel Elliott and Justin Jefferson
- How should Dak Prescott's final status impact how you bet Sunday Night Football?
- Our expert analyzes the Cowboys vs. Vikings odds and matchup to reveal his picks for whether Prescott is in or out.
|Time||8:20 p.m. ET|
It’s an NFC showdown between two high-flying offenses that we could see in the postseason come January.
Dallas comes into Week 8 on a five-game winning streak after dropping its opener on the road against last year’s Super Bowl champs. The Cowboys, who built a 3.5-game lead in the NFC East before the calendar even turned to November, remain the only team in the NFL that has covered every game this year at 6-0 ATS. Oddly enough, they actually started out 0-8 ATS last season. Quite a turn around at the window for America’s team.
The Cowboys will try to become only the seventh team in the past 20 years to start 7-0 ATS, joining:
Meanwhile, Minnesota — also coming off of a bye like Dallas — has won two straight to even up its record at 3-3 on the year. With the Packers winning their seventh straight on Thursday night to get to 7-1, it looks like wild card or bust for the Vikings, who would’ve snagged the No. 7 seed if the season ended after last week.
Getting a win over Dallas will go a long way in helping their postseason chances. A loss and things start to look pretty bleak with their next three games coming against the Ravens, Chargers and Packers.
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Cowboys vs. Vikings Injury Report
- QB Dak Prescott (calf): Questionable
- OT Tyron Smith (ankle): Questionable
- DE Dorance Armstrong (ankle): Questionable
- TE Ben Ellefson (knee/foot): Out
- WR Patrick Jones II (knee): Out
- DT Michael Pierce (elbow): Out
- WR Dede Westbrook (ankle): questionable
Cowboys vs. Vikings Matchup
|Cowboys Offense||DVOA Rank||Vikings Defense|
|Cowboys Defense||DVOA Rank||Vikings Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Cowboys Defense is Just Good Enough
The Cowboys are a legit Super Bowl contender because of their explosive and efficient, well-oiled machine of an offense. There really is no weaknesses on that unit when everybody is healthy. From the offensive line, to quarterback play, to the two-headed monster in the backfield and a wide receiver group that is as dangerous as any in the league, the offense is elite and can carry Dallas a long way. It’s a pretty good sign when you lead the league in Early Down Success Rate and Explosiveness.
However, the offense could be a bit constrained this weekend due to an injury to Dak Prescott’s calf. He is questionable as of now but rumors have swirled he could miss this week, which shifted the line quickly from Dallas -1.5 to Minnesota -3 (check real-time NFL odds here).
The Cowboys have bigger plans and are in complete control of the NFC East, so it wouldn’t shock me to see them err on the side of caution with their franchise QB.
So, how much is Prescott worth to the spread? Well, when evaluating how much any player is worth, you have to look at the drop-off to their replacement. In this case, the Cowboys would turn to Cooper Rush, who I rate as six points worse than Prescott.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys defense has been quite a surprise under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. To his credit, Quinn took a long look at his schematic tendencies and has evolved. He’s no longer just a basic heavy Cover 3 guy, and he’s now mixing in many different looks to try to confuse opposing offenses and compensate for some of the defensive roster deficiencies.
For the season, the Cowboys rank eighth in EPA per play, which is a scary thought when you consider they have one of the best offenses in the entire league.
But not so fast…
They have benefited from an extreme amount of turnover luck (unsustainable) and rank only 15th in Success Rate. If you strip out turnovers, this is an average to slightly-below-average defense. Now, look, that’s all Dallas needs to make a deep run, but there is major regression coming from this unit in the turnover department.
Overall, it’s a much improved unit compared to last year. There are some things to really like, including the pass-rushing prowess of rookie Micah Parsons and safety Jayron Kearse — not to mention the development of Trevon Diggs, who’s turning into one of the leagues best corners on the outside.
The run defense and pockets in the secondary remain vulnerable. Plus, injuries haven’t helped a unit that really misses star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. If Randy Gregory can continue playing at a very high level off of one edge, this defense will have a much higher upside and more flexibility with Parsons once Lawrence returns.
Vikings Possess Explosive Aerial Assault
Minnesota is just 3-3 on the season, but it easily could have a 5-1 record if not for a pair of excruciating losses to open the season on the road against teams currently in first place. The Vikings lost to the Bengals in Week 1 in overtime on a very questionable fumble call and then missed a game-winning, chip-shot field goal the next week in Arizona.
Offensively, Kirk Cousins is playing at a top-five level at the quarterback position. It helps when you have one of the best wide receiver duos in the entire NFL with Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. Similar to Dallas, Minnesota has one of the most efficient and explosive aerial attacks in the NFC.
Cousins hasn’t received much help from a rushing attack that ranks 31st in Success Rate and 28th in EPA per rush. The offensive line just hasn’t gotten the job done in the run-blocking department. While Minnesota’s offensive line ranks No. 1 in Adjusted Sack, it ranks 25th and 32nd in Line Yards and Stuff Rate, respectively.
However, the ground game could receiver a major boost with the return of a healthy Dalvin Cook against a vulnerable run defense.
Dallas also doesn’t generate pressure at an elite level, which means Cousins should have plenty of time to cook. That’s been the recipe for success this season as Cousins has an 86.1% ADJ% (second behind Russel Wilson) with 12 TD and two interceptions when kept clean. Plus, his receivers should do plenty of work after the catch against a Dallas D that ranks dead last in YAC allowed.
On the other side of the ball, the Vikings defense has looked more like a vintage Mike Zimmer unit. Last year was really an anomaly due to crushing injuries and key opt outs due to COVID. This unit, which had nine new starters in Week 1 compared to the depth chart that finished the season last year, should continue to improve on a weekly basis.
The Vikings defense ranks sixth in both Success Rate and EPA per play. They’ve been particularly strong against the pass, ranking third in dropback EPA per play and Success Rate. The corner group isn’t the most spectacular group, but it is getting plenty of help from the pass rush.
The Vikings D ranks No. 1 in the NFL in pressure rate (32.1%) and hurry rate (19.7%) despite only blitzing at a league-average clip. Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter are both playing at peak levels off the edge, and the revamped interior defensive line is playing very well. Having a very reliable group at linebacker and safety up the middle also helps.
It’s worth noting that Xavier Rhodes will miss this week with an injury, which means Cam Dantzler will get the nod in his place. I don’t think it’s any sort of enormous drop-off given the fact that Rhodes is a bit past his prime.
Cowboys vs. Vikings Picks
For you trend folks:
- Mike McCarthy 13-4-1 ATS off bye since 2003 — the most profitable coach in the Action Labs database. Former long-time Dallas defensive assistant Mike Zimmer 3-4 ATS off of a bye.
- Zimmer 35-23-1 ATS at home (60.3%; 17.5% ROI) and 48-26-1 (64.9%) in non-division games (second most profitable — behind Belichick — since 2003).
If Prescott can go but has limited mobility, that could spell trouble for Dallas against this Minnesota pressure. When under pressure this season, Prescott has just a 70 QB Rating (18th) and 65.9% ADJ% (16th). Compare that to his numbers when kept clean where he’s been nearly flawless: 15 TD, three INT, 126.6 rating, trailing only Russel Wilson and Aaron Rodgers.
But let’s just ignore the Prescott injury for a second. I like this matchup for Minnesota, which shouldn’t have too many issues moving the ball against this defense. I also think the Cowboys will have success moving the ball, especially on the ground as their offensive line should get a good push in the run-blocking department. However, where do Zimmer’s defenses normally flourish? On third downs and in the red zone. That’s what I believe this boils down to. In a game where both offenses have major edges, Minnesota will get one or two more stops on third down and/or force an extra field goal in the red zone.
And don’t be surprised if we see some of that overdue Dallas turnover regression on Sunday night. Despite having the worse defense of the two, Dallas has twice as many turnovers as Minnesota on the season.
I believe the Vikings get this done at home in front of one of the better home crowds in the NFL in a game that could make or break their season. Whether Dallas wins this or Prescott plays, the Cowboys are still winning the NFC East.
Give me primetime Kirk.
Pick: Vikings +1.5 | Bet to: +1 with Dak Prescott; -3 without
|More Cowboys-Vikings Odds, Picks, Trends|