After playing games on Thanksgiving, the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings will compete on Thursday for a second straight week. Dallas is looking to take one more step towards securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and they could severely damage Minnesota’s postseason hopes with a win on the road in Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season.
Winning 10 of their first 11 games, the Cowboys are just a few victories away from locking up the best record in the NFC. Just a few weeks ago, the Vikings were in the running for the top seed in the conference, as well. But the two teams have gone in completely opposite directions, and Dallas is a three-point road favorite in Minnesota, via OddsShark, as a result.
Following a 5-0 start, the Vikings are one game out of first place in the NFC North and just a game over .500. Minnesota’s sputtering offense has overshadowed the NFL’s No. 2 scoring defense, and it will make it difficult for them to defeat the NFC favorite and a top Super Bowl contender. They’ll host a team on “Thursday Night Football” that’s coming off a 31-26 victory over the Washington Redskins, scoring at least 24 points in every contest during their 10-game winning streak.
Rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott continued to look like top MVP candidates in Dallas’ most recent win. The quarterback posted a 108.9 passer rating with two scores, and the running back totaled 120 yards from scrimmage with two touchdowns of his own.
Minnesota presents Dallas with one of their most difficult challenges of 2016. Against the New York Giants’ No. 6 ranked defense in the season opener, the Cowboys only managed to score 19 points. The Cowboys put up just 23 points in regulation against the Philadelphia Eagles, who rank fifth in points allowed. In Week 11, Dallas scored 27 points at home against the Baltimore Ravens and their No. 4 ranked scoring defense.
Dallas doesn’t need a big offensive day to leave Minnesota with their 11th consecutive victory. Scoring a few touchdowns and pushing the total towards the over/under of 43.5 points might be enough.
Suffering a 16-13 defeat to the Detroit Lions in Week 11, the Vikings have scored 20 or fewer points in all five of their defeats. Minnesota even had trouble on offense when they were winning. They averaged 21.3 points in their first three victories, registering three touchdowns on defense or special teams.
Behind arguably the NFL’s worst offensive line, the Vikings have the league’s last-ranked rushing attack. They average just 71.1 rushing yards per game on 2.8 yards per carry, and the combination of Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata should struggle against Dallas’ No. 3 run defense.
Sam Bradford has limited the amount of mistakes he’s made as Minnesota’s quarterback, but he hasn’t been much more than a game manager. Bradford’s 6.94 yards per attempt is 22nd among starters, and he’s reached 300 yards passing just once this season.
The Vikings can pull off the upset if they force multiple turnovers, but the Cowboys aren’t likely to beat themselves. Only two teams have fewer giveaways than Minnesota, one of whom is Dallas.
Prescott, Elliott and the Cowboys have shown no signs of slowing down, and it could result in the end of the Vikings’ quest to make any kind of run in 2016.
Prediction: Dallas over Minnesota, 27-16