Dallas Cowboys (10-1 SU, 9-2 ATS) vs. Minnesota Vikings (6-5 SU, 6-5 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date/Time: Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 8:25PM EST
Where: U.S Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: DAL-3/MIN +3
Over/Under Total: 44
On Thursday Night Football, he Dallas Cowboys come into Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Dallas and Minnesota both played on Thanksgiving Day. Dallas was able to win their tenth game in a row with a 31-26 win over the Redskins. Meanwhile, the Vikings fell to the Lions, 16-13, falling victim to yet another late Detroit comeback. The Vikings have all but squandered a 5-0 start with losses in 5 of their last 6 games. They have now fallen a game behind Detroit in their division and need to get on the winning track and soon.
The Cowboys completed the season sweep against Washington on Thursday. The ĎSkins had lost just once in their last eight games. Dallas extended their franchise record winning streak to ten games and now have a stranglehold on the NFC East. The Cowboys looked to be in control before a late Washington spurt gave them a little sweat and got the Redskins the cover. With Washington on a late surge, Dallas kept pace with two 4th-quarter touchdowns of their own en route to the win. Not only have Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott thrived in their rookie campaigns, but they also tend to deliver the few times the Cowboys have been in a pinch this season.
Itís getting hard to overstate the performances of the rookie combo carrying the load on the Dallas offense. Both Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have been excellent. For a top pick like Elliott to hit the ground running the way he has is remarkable in itself, as he has 1199 yards and 12 touchdowns. But for the 135th pick in the draft in Prescott to look like cool veteran in there is truly remarkable. Helping is a great line that excels in protecting Prescott while springing holes for the top-notch run game. Prescott has thrown just two picks on the season, connecting well with Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, and others. They average nearly 5 yards per run, with the aerial attack a very viable weapon. They offer balance and consistency.
Dallasí defense gave up a lot on Thanksgiving, with Kirk Cousins spraying the ball over the field to the tune of 449 yards. With over 500 total yards by Washington, the Cowboys were still able to hold the Redskins to 6 points in the first three quarters of play. In other words, theyíre a defense that will give up some. But when they need to tighten up, they usually do so. To get a good idea of how this defense plays, stats are less-important than seeing how they play in-step with the offense. They were again good against the run with the Redskins rising ground game kept in check. With Kirk Cousins having so much success aerially, allowing 26 points wasnít all that bad. And this week, they should have things easier against a lackluster Vikingsí offense.
The Vikings are facing a crisis on the offensive side of the ball. They werenít great during their 5-0 start, but an ironclad defense, big special teams plays, and their opposition helped conceal that to some degree. The Vikings are not in a bad spot for a team that has seen very little go their way in recent weeks. With five losses in 6 weeks, the questions are more related to their emotional state. They have a bad offense and a good defense. But where are they mentally at this point? They blew it on Thanksgiving, with Bradford throwing a late pick in a tie game. The Vikes really need this and righting the ship against a team that has won ten straight could really turn things around for Minnesota.
Offensively, there is very little to like with the Vikes. Bradford can connect on short passes well, but the aerial game has been very tepid in recent weeks. They have some tools and donít ever seem to get the most of what they have. Even with a lack of playmakers, they have some burners and donít put them in great spots. The line has been faltering increasingly over the course of the season. Cordarrelle Patterson isnít properly utilized, while Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph are inconsistent in their production. And the run-game suffers massively without Adrian Peterson, despite the earnest efforts of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon.
The Minnesota defense has held solid over the season, even if the support they get from the other side of the ball is minimal and apparently dwindling. It has caused them to go from a great defense to a good one. Early in the season when everyone was fresh, the defense was allowing very little. Lately, the points allowed has risen. At the same time, this is a defense that can still be a handful for any team. Against an offense led by two rookies, a vintage Minnesota defensive effort could conceivably have the Cowboys in trouble on offense. Granted, the lack of optimism towards the Vikes after this recent slide is understandable on a lot of levels. But they are still able to get after the QB and make big plays happen in the secondary. If they havenít been run down mentally and physically, they could still spring back to life some.
Not to overly-subscribe to oneís ďspidey-sensesĒ too much, but this matchup at this particular point in time has a strange feelóa certain unquantifiable element where putting a finger on it is difficult. Not that the Vikings have been a ball of fire lately, while Dallas has not been indicating complacency necessarily. But one can almost sense a potential Dallas letdown with a Minnesota spurt. Thatís been a dangerous game to play with the Cowboys this season, but I see the young Dallas offense facing some issues with a home Minnesota defense that is feeling some desperation. And maybe the Vikings offense is due for some good things to happen. Iím taking the home dog.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the Minnesota Vikings plus 3 points.
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