Following a crushing defeat to Detroit, the Cowboys return home to face Minnesota on Sunday. The Vikings are bad. They are 1-6, having been victimized by poor quarterback play and a porous pass defense. Not even Adrian Peterson, the league’s best running back, has been able to put a charge in the listless Vikings. As a result, Vegas has the 4-4 Cowboys as 10 ½-point favorites in this game. Dallas can’t afford to lose this with a game against New Orleans looming. Here is a look at how the Cowboys and Vikings match up:
When the Cowboys run
DeMarco Murray appears ready to return to action. He’s listed as probable. But at this point it’s hard to invest any faith in the Cowboys’ running game. Dallas produced only 62 rushing yards last week in a loss to Detroit, a team that was surrendering the highest average yards per carry before Week 7. The Cowboys feature the sixth-worst ground attack in the NFL and the loss of guard Brian Waters won’t help their effort to improve.
When the Cowboys pass
Since throwing for 506 yards against Denver, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has played average football. In the last three games, he has completed just 56.1 percent of his attempts and posted a 79.7 passer rating. The Cowboys need better production out of Romo and they could get it this week against a Minnesota defense giving up an average of 287.9 yards per game through the air.
When the Vikings run
The Vikings have Adrian Peterson, one of the best runners the NFL has ever seen. But the Vikings’ ground attack is producing 103.3 yards per game, the 18th-highest average in the league. Early deficits and the absence of a legitimate passing game have conspired against Peterson, who is still the fifth-leading rusher in the NFL. This will be a tough test for the Cowboys after Detroit averaged 4.9 yards per carry against Dallas last Sunday.
When the Vikings pass
No team this season has given up more yards through the air than the Cowboys. But they should be able to limit Minnesota’s unimpressive passing offense. Christian Ponder, who will start Sunday, has been unimpressive, throwing two touchdown passes and five interceptions this season. While the Vikings feature a playmaking receiver, Greg Jennings, they don’t pose the type of threat that Denver, Detroit, San Diego and the New York Giants do. All of those teams roasted the Cowboys. It’s not expected Minnesota will do the same.
The battle that could develop between Dwayne Harris and Cordarrelle Patterson could be an interesting one. Patterson, a rookie, has become one of the most dynamic specialists in the game. This season, he’s scored twice on kick returns, including one of 109 yards that resulted in a touchdown last week against Green Bay. Harris, meanwhile, is second in the league in kick return average, just behind Patterson. But unlike Patterson he’s one of the NFL’s best punt returners, too.
The Cowboys suffered a crushing defeat last Sunday and it’s uncertain if the team has gotten over it. Now they face the Vikings, who have won seven of the last eight games they’ve played against Dallas. While Minnesota is 1-6 this season, the Vikings still have Adrian Peterson, the Texas native who should be motivated in his return to his home state. He could do damage to a Dallas team still smarting from its loss to Detroit.
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When: Sunday, November 3rd, 2013 at high noon (Dallas time)
Where: AT&T Stadium | Arlington, TX
Watch on TV: Local FOX affiliate | DirecTV
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