Vikings: 3 keys for a win against the Cowboys

1. Win the battle of the backs

The Vikings-Cowboys game Sunday boasts two of the best running backs in the NFL, but only one of them has the numbers to back it up this season.

Ezekiel Elliott simply isn’t having a good season despite having nearly as much talent as any running back in the league. Elliott hasn’t had a 100-yard rushing game all season and has not found the end zone since week five.

On the other side, Dalvin Cook is in the running for the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year of the year award. Cook has already rushed for 954 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He is coming off a relatively tough outing against the Bears in which he only managed 96 yards on 30 carries (3.2 ypc). Cook should be able to feast on a Cowboys run defense which ranks 31st in the NFL giving up 157 yards per game on the ground.

2. Improvement on special teams

The Vikings defense only allowed 149 yards Monday night in Chicago and still nearly lost the game because of a nightmarish game on special teams.

Marwan Maalouf’s crew allowed a 105-yard kick return touchdown to open the second half, botched an extra-point and allowed a 32-yard punt return.

After Cordarrelle Patterson scored the kick return touchdown, ESPN cameras caught head coach Mike Zimmer berating Maalouf on the Vikings sideline.

“He’s a passionate guy. I love his passion. With him, there’s no gray. I know what he likes, I know what he doesn’t like, and I respect that. I’ve worked for coaches like Zim for a long time, and I think that’s why I like being around him,” Maalouf said. “He’s going to help, too. He’s the first one to say, ‘OK, what do we need to do to get better? Do you need to use more veterans? Do you need to use this? Do you need more practice time? That’s the type of guy he is.”

The Vikings also had two punts blocked two weeks ago against the Detroit Lions.

3. Keep talented Cowboys receivers in-check

Evidenced by their 2-7 record, the Cowboys haven’t done much well in 2020, but getting the ball in the hands of a talented receiving corps can pose problems for their opponents.

The trio of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup have combined for 132 catches for 1,718 yards this season. Most of that production came early in the season with quarterback Dak Prescott who’s out for the season after suffering a gruesome ankle injury in week five. Andy Dalton will be the Cowboys starting quarterback on Sunday.

The Vikings defense is coming off their best game of the season, but they’re still surrendering 267 yards per game throught the air.