Dallas Cowboys (10-1 SU, 9-2 ATS) vs. Minnesota Vikings (6-5 SU, 6-5 ATS)
Week 13 NFL
Date/Time: Thursday Night Football, December 1, 2016 at 8:25PM EST
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: DAL -3/MIN +3
Over/Under Total: 44
The Dallas Cowboys come to U.S. Bank Stadium to face the Minnesota Vikings in key week 13 NFC action. Both teams are coming off Thursday games in their last outings, with both teams playing on Thanksgiving. So neither team is facing the short week. Dallas won their tenth game in a row as they continue their incredible run. On Thanksgiving, they beat a surging Redskins team, 31-26. Minnesota led Detroit in the 4th quarter on the road, before the Lions staged one of their typical late-comebacks, with a FG with time running out sending the Vikes home a 16-13 loser, for their 5th loss in 6 games.
The Vikings are still in this. One game behind the Lions, they can still right the ship. But it looks like water is entering the boat with this latest run they're on. And the way it happened was disconcerting, with Sam Bradford throwing a pick in Vikes' own territory late in the 4th to set up a Detroit game-winning field goal. The Vikings continue to get standout play on defense, while the offense has been free-falling for weeks. The optimism shown by the Vikes and Sam Bradford en route to a 5-0 start has all but evaporated.
The Minnesota offense wasn't that great under ideal circumstances. Without Peterson, they are left without a run-game. Bradford can't do much more than hit receivers with dinky little passes, as he had 224 yards on 31 completions on Thursday in the Detroit loss. They didn't convert a third down until late in the third quarter. The fastest guy on the team in Cordarrelle Patterson is pretty electric with the ball, yet he rarely gets the ball or at least they don't put him in space, which is criminal. Adam Thielen and TE Kyle Rudolph are useful pieces, but this is an offense devoid of star-power or playmakers. And it doesn't help that the line has been offering seemingly less support as the season carries on into week 13.
To begin the season, the Minnesota defense was the best in the league, giving up very little. Opponents were averaging 12 points a game through their first five contests. In their last 6 games, the Vikes have allowed 21.5 points. That's still not bad, but enough to bring more into the light the deficiencies on the other side of the ball. And it's not the defense's fault entirely, with the offense hanging them out to dry and turnovers contributing to the fallout.
Still, while recent games have forced us to re-classify the Vikings somewhat, we can't shovel dirt on them entirely. This defense can match up with any offense on a given week and hold their own. They can get after the passer with a consistently-applied pass rush. Their secondary can be stingy and they also make big plays here and there. They are a group that has been run ragged; with no other team really depending on their defense to this much of an extent. And they've suffered as a result. But they allowed just 16 points last week and are still a group that can come up with answers.
Dallas came up with the win again against a Redskins team that had lost just one of their previous eight games. The Cowboys, who have never won more than eight in a row in their storied history, now have ten wins in a row. After holding the Redskins to 6 points in the game's first three quarters, the Cowboys saw the Redskins make a run at it with a 20-point fourth quarter. But 14 points of their own in the fourth, with the continued steely play of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and the continued standout play of rookie back Ezekiel Elliott kept the Cowboys in front to go to 10-1 with a stranglehold on the NFC East.
The Dallas defense is a pretty clutch group with a lot of timely plays along the way. They'll give up some yards, as they showed against the Redskins on Thanksgiving in allowing 505 total yards. Cousins completed 41 passes for 449 yards. Washington had no turnovers, Cousins was not sacked, and Washington was flagged only three times. And still, Dallas allowed only 26 points, which is a remarkably small total considering the Redskins' production. They were good against the run, with surging rookie Redskins back Robert Kelley held to very little. The Cowboys "D" has been really stout against the run and plays clutch ball. Sometimes that counts for more than great stats. They play in rhythm with the other side of the ball and have been able to deliver ten times in a row.
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Key to the Dallas success is a pair of poised rookies who are producing on a weekly basis. On Thursday, Prescott was not all that prolific, but he was able to manage the offense expertly to 31 points and a big fourth quarter to ensure a win. With Elliott's 1199 yards on the ground and 12 touchdowns, he's been a great addition to this team. Prescott has 18 touchdowns and just two picks, while having run in five touchdowns. Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, and Elliott have been reliable ball-catchers. They're one of the best running teams in the league and average 4.8 yards per run as a team.
Dallas is really on a roll and they aren't really showing the signs of a team that is looking to take their foot off the gas and take a mental break. Minnesota isn't an easy place to play, but the shine is definitely off the Vikings at this point. There is still a lot for them to play for. And while the Dallas offense is clicking, this might be a tough test for the Dallas rookie combo. I see the Vikes giving a road Dallas team a big challenge on Thursday.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Minnesota Vikings plus 3 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Dallas vs. Minnesota game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!