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Dallas Cowboys Vs. Minnesota Vikings: Game Preview

Bryson Treece

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Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings
Where: Mall of America Field - Minneapolis, MN
When: January 17, 2010, 12:00 PM on FOX

Mall of America Field. The name might not be too familiar to some of you. Perhaps if I referred to it as The Metrodome you would be a little more intimidated.

This is where the Dallas Cowboys are headed this Sunday. This is where blood will be shed, tears will fall, and champions will be born.

This particular Divisional Playoff round provides the NFC with 2 games that are NFC Conference Championship caliber games. The Minnesota Vikings are the team standing between the red hot Dallas Cowboys and establishing NFC dominance once again.

You have to believe that the winner of this game will more than likely proceed to the Super Bowl. This is the most evenly matched game we've seen in a long while, and therefore, we have a lot to analyze. So let's get started.


How They Stack Up
12-5 Record 12-4
7-2 Home 8-0
5-3 Road 4-4
5-2 Division 5-1
463 Total Points 470
15.5 Avg Points Allowed 19.5
27.2 Avg Points Per Game 29.4
6816 Total Offense 6074
4515 Pass Yards 4156
2301 Rush Yards 1918
47 TD 56
46 Sacks 47
Won 4 Streak Won 1
1st, NFC East - #3 Seed NFC Position 1st, NFC North - #2 Seed NFC


Cowboys
(12-5)
Key Matchups

Vikings
(12-4)
Dallas Defensive Line (3-4)

DE

DT

DE

In this game the trenches will be the decision maker. The Cowboys pass rush has become feared league-wide and they're showing no signs of slowing down. Jay Ratliff will lead an attack that I believe will penetrate this offensive line while allowing Olshanksy and Spears to plug-up the holes. I believe that our Defensive line is the stability of this defense and are showing they can get it done on all levels.

On the other side Minnesota offers an offensive line that I don't consider to be game changing. However, given the explosive offensive weapons, they do a considerable job paving the way for Adrian Peterson. Highlighted by Hutchinson and McKinnie, you better believe they'll be emotionally and physically prepared to take on the speedy Dallas Defense.

Advantage: Dallas

Minnesota Offensive Line

LT

LG

C

RG

RT


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Dallas Offensive Line

RT

RG

C

LG

LT

On the other side of the ball is a large and mean offensive line. The Problem here lies completely with Flozell Adams, who will be matched up with all-pro Jared Allen. While I believe Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo, and Kyle Kosier will perform up to par, it's the mistakes and speed that Flo brings to the table that will cost this offense and ultimately keep Tony Romo from getting comfortable.

Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, and Ray Edwards—need I say more? This defensive line is strong, fast, and deadly. They will plug holes and harass Tony Romo all day. Bottom line is this: These are some of the toughest guys in the league. They represent the league's second ranked rush defense, and are responsible for 47 sacks this season.

Advantage: Minnesota

Minnesota Defensive Line (4-3)

DE

DT

DT

DE


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Dallas Wide Receivers

WR

WR

WR

WR

WR

This is a battle of numbers. Dallas' sixth ranked pass offense goes against Minnesota's 19th ranked pass defense. No Matter what people say, the compliment that Roy Williams gives Miles Austin is a big deal. Roy still requires attention especially as he starts to show his real self again. Match that with Patrick Crayton's impressive play out of the slot and you've got a combination of players with great play ability.

A real key to this matchup will lie in the play of Antoine Winfield, who will play in only his second game back from a seven game layoff due to injury. If the Vikings' corners can stop themselves from biting on some of the double moves and cuts, I think they could be a factor. However, I don't see that happening and I believe that our receivers can really play big against this team.

Advantage: Dallas

Minnesota Defensive Backs

DB

DB

FS

DB

DB


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Dallas Defensive Backs

DB

DB

FS

DB

DB

Mike Jenkins is the hottest defensive back in the playoffs right now. He is making every play needed to be considered a shut-down corner. It's Jenkins emergence that has overshadowed the play of Terence Newman, who has been absolutely lights out. Newman was really the one who shut down DeSean Jackson but they'll both have their hands full this weekend. I believe the major problem comes when Percy Harvin comes in the slot, Scandrick needs to be able to stop him and while he's shown some improvement late this season, he's still struggled.

This is an explosive group of receivers as long as Favre is throwing the ball. I believe that in reality this is a mediocre group, besides maybe Harvin who has flourished. This unit will outplay the Dallas DB's if they are given time to develop routes and get open, and they just might.

Advantage: Draw

Minnesota Wide Receivers

WR

WR

WR

WR

WR


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Dallas Running Backs & Tight Ends

RB

RB

RB

FB

TE

TE

TE

Here's a big part of both teams game plans. Felix Jones was explosive against a tough Philly Defense. Marion Barber was a non-factor. What needs to be done this week will create a large role for Marion Barber. He will need to be the punishing ball carrier he is known as to wear down a tough defense so El Gato can gash them. But given Barber's sore knee, it's unclear right now, and likely up until game time, if he'll be ready to go. The key here will be how the Minnesota linebackers handle Jason Witten—he has the ability to destroy any team.

Minnesota's linebackers have been in search of their identity since E.J. Henderson left for the season. Since then, they have been less successful against the run. I still think they have talent. However, I don't believe they have enough talent here to deal with the likes of John Phillips, Martellus Bennett, Jason Witten, Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice. I believe this is the area where Dallas can really control this game.

Advantage: Dallas

Minnesota Linebackers

OLB

LB

OLB

SS

SS

LB

LB


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Dallas Linebackers

OLB

OLB

MLB

SS

MLB

LB

LB

OK, this is hard to argue. DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer may be the best OLB tandem in the league. Mix that with the emotional and inspirational play of Keith Brooking and Bradie James and you have a tough group. Also, where did Bobby Carpenter come from? Carpenter has done a good job covering tight ends. This is the league's fourth ranked rush defense—allowing only 85 yards a game—and still they manage to terrify opposing quarterbacks with 47 sacks across 17 games.

All that being said, Adrian Peterson may be the best back in the league. Chester Taylor does a terrific job spelling Adrian Peterson, and Visanthe Shiancoe is as good as they come from the tight end position. If Adrian Peterson can break through the initial level he can take it to the house on a Dallas Defense who lacks tackling ability in the upper levels.

Advantage: Draw

Minnesota Runnings Backs & Tight Ends

RB

RB

FB

TE

TE


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Players To Watch

HB Adrian Peterson

Peterson is a game breaker. He averages 4.4 yards a carry and destroys defenses with yards after contact. The Vikings will undoubtedly look to him to control the game and keep this from becoming a shootout. But he has a tendency to fumble the football and could very well hand the Cowboys a game changer if he's not careful with the ball.

Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson


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DE Jared Allen

The heart and soul of the Vikings defense, Allen will more than likely cause headaches for Flozell Adams. The impact Allen makes will determine the outcome of this game.

Jared Allen
Jared Allen


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Keith Brooking
Keith Brooking

LB Keith Brooking

Brooking has been spectacular for the Cowboys. Beyond his usual pregame inspirational speech to his defense, he will be responsible for stopping Adrian Peterson and keeping Favre uncomfortable. Not that hard right? He's taken over this defense after a modest introduction earlier this year, and his teammates will look to him for solid, and big, plays.


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Tony Romo
Tony Romo

QB Tony Romo

If Romo can manage the game by reading defenses and changing plays accordingly, he will win this game for the Cowboys. Balance, smart decisions, and elusiveness will be Tony's key to success. At times this big offensive line has been suspect in protection, but Romo's quick feet have kept him alive to make plays.


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Key Injuries


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T Marc Colombo - Ankle
(Probable)

S Pat Watkins - Knee
(Probable)

RB Marion Barber - Knee
(Probable)

S Gerald Sensabaugh - Thumb
(Probable)

LB DeMarcus Ware - Wrist/Back
(Probable)

DT Jimmy Kennedy - Thumb
(Questionable)

FB Naufau Tahi - Back
(Questionable)

TE Visanthe Shiancoe - Quadriceps
(Probable)

DT Pat Williams - Elbow
(Probable)

G Steve Hutchinson - Shoulder
(Probable)

P Chris Kluwe - Back
(Probable)

CB Antoine Winfield - Foot
(Probable)

Winner

I'm struggling here. Going to Minnesota is a tough task, have the Cowboys gotten too confident? I believe they're on the verge of being something special but the media is going to kill them with positive talk. Don't get me wrong, they can defeat this team. I'm just unsure that Favre's experience will let them do that.

Minnesota 27 Dallas 21


Keys To The Game

  • Pressure Favre - The bottom line is that Favre is good—but he's old. If you continue to harass him he's going to get uncomfortable and start rushing his throws. If the linebackers can get penetration, it'll be a long day for Minnesota.
  • Stop the A-Train - Peterson needs to be contained. Don't get frustrated with 3 yards by him; that should be considered success. Keep him bottled up on first down and limit the breakaway runs. Do that and let Jenkins, Newman and company finish the rest. He says AD stands for All Day, but in order for the Cowboys to win this game, by the end of the day it needs to stand for All Done.
  • Patience - The 'Boys need to be able to shrug things off and forget mistakes quickly. Big plays and opportunities are going to arise, but it'll take the first quarter for both teams to set in. The team that can stay calm and battle the noise will win.


Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter - @InsideTheStarDC

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. jon

    January 17, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    What a true cowboy fan going for the other team you suck……

    • Purple Pride

      January 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm

      Cowboys showed the world, just how bad thay really are. Eagles must of been real bad. You big frachise sports teams can suck a rooster.

  2. Bryson Treece

    January 17, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    I had the same comment for him myself, but I have to point out that he was right. The matchup was a tough one to predict—obviously.

  3. Bryan Martin

    January 18, 2010 at 3:52 am

    Do i suck or am I just a realist?

    • Purple Pride

      January 18, 2010 at 1:54 pm

      Yea you Suck, Well you asked, open wide.

  4. Bryson Treece

    January 18, 2010 at 9:32 am

    You just called upon the one way the Cowboys would lose for your prediction, and it was right. The Vikings got so much pressure on Romo—that was the game deciding factor in my eyes.

  5. mistygirlll

    October 17, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    god im really nervous about the cowboys/vikings game because i have bet on it wooohoooo!! everybody think positive!!!!!!!

    • misty girll

      October 17, 2010 at 9:06 pm

      sorry i forgot to say i am rooting for the cowboys!!!

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Dallas Cowboys

Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?

Sean Martin

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Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?

The Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss at the Los Angeles Rams is still fresh on the minds of their players, staff, and front office. So much so that the team had to fan the flames on a Jason Garrett comment expecting Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to return. Garrett himself walked back this "report" once Stephen Jones noted it's still too early for any coaching staff changes. The focus will remain on Linehan's post until it's removed or the Cowboys OC is retained, but one coordinator the Cowboys now expect to keep is Rod Marinelli on defense.

Marinelli himself disputed the season-long belief that this was likely his last as the Cowboys defensive coordinator. With Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard not taking any of the three HC positions he interviewed for, Marinelli doesn't have to worry about shuffling his title to accommodate Richard - who called the plays from week one this season anyway.

Rod's title does include his specialty as defensive line coach though, a unit that the Rams dominated with their offensive line to a historic degree. The Rams' season-high 273 rushing yards was provided by both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson surpassing 100 yards on the ground, the first time in team history they've had two backs reach this mark in a single playoff game.

Rams HC Sean McVay hardly had to reach into his vaunted 'bag of tricks' to expose the Cowboys defense in a way they hadn't been all year, but there was still an element of brilliance in his offensive game plan. It came out after the game that the Rams picked up on the keys the Dallas defensive linemen used to signal stunts and twists before the snap. While this is nothing more than just great scouting yielding an unforeseen advantage, it's left the Cowboys with more than enough time to ponder what went wrong in the Coliseum.

Danny Heifetz on Twitter

The Rams offensive line knew what the Cowboys defensive line was going to do before the snap on Saturday. https://t.co/oGo6Eiz4av

The answer to this may be nothing other than the coaching questions the Cowboys are already considering. With Richard's interviews in Tampa Bay, Miami, and New York coming at the beginning of the week leading up to game day, it's possible Marinelli had a larger say in the Cowboys preparation on defense.

It was Marinelli's defense that conceded 412 yards to the Rams in 2017 in a loss at AT&T Stadium. Matching him up with McVay leaves a lot to be desired, while Richard helps bridge this gap - something he was seen desperately trying to do on the sideline with a battered Cowboys defense.

As each day of the offseason passes, a change at either coordinator position becomes less likely in Dallas. On offense, the play caller has more than a season's worth of evidence showing the deficiencies of the Cowboys attack. In a league fueled by recency bias however, Marinelli certainly didn't leave his best performance on the field in Los Angeles.

Somewhere in the middle of this is Jason Garrett, safely in place as the head coach that should be personally trying to upgrade his top two assistants however possible. Marinelli signing up for another year makes this hard on defense, though Richard should resume play calling duties next season.

Again, this leaves the onus of the Cowboys improvements for 2019 on the offensive side of the ball, something that'll be realized when the shock of their defense letting them down in the biggest game of the season is gone.

Tell us what you think about "Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money

Jess Haynie

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Tony Romo, Dez Bryant

You may have already heard that the Dallas Cowboys will be flush with salary cap space in 2019, and that's very accurate. A huge portion of it comes from over $30 million in expiring cap penalties, otherwise known as "dead money."

Quick explanation; dead money occurs when a player is released or retires prior to the expiration of their contract. Any guaranteed money, such as the original signing bonus or money converted in a restructuring, that has not yet been paid out according to the contract schedule is accelerated.

For example, when Tony Romo retired after 2016, he still had $19.6 million in guaranteed money owed to him. Dallas chose to split this dead money over two years, and thus had a $10.7 cap penalty in 2017 and $8.9 million last season.

But now Romo's dead money, along with Dez Bryant's and several other players, is coming off the Cowboys' books. The result is a roughly $30 million infusion of salary cap space for 2019.

Here were the major culprits for last year's dead money:

(All cap figures are taken from Spotrac.com)

  • QB Tony Romo - $8.9 million
  • WR Dez Bryant - $8 million
  • DT Cedric Thornton - $2.5 million
  • CB Orlando Scandrick - $2.3 million
  • CB Nolan Carroll - $2 million
  • WR Deonte Thompson - $1.8 million
  • DE Benson Mayowa - $1.1 million
  • K Dan Bailey - $800 thousand
  • TE James Hanna - $750 thousand

Those players alone make up a little over $28 million. Another $4 million or so came from over 30 players with lesser penalties that still added up.

Right now, the Cowboys have only $1.76 million in dead money on their 2019 salary cap. Nearly all of that is the $1.6 million still owed to Orlando Scandrick.

That difference is where the cap space comes from, and it will be of tremendous help to Dallas as they have major financial moves coming. They need to re-sign DeMarcus Lawrence, deal with a major salary bump for Amari Cooper, and consider a contract extension for Dak Prescott.

The 2019 number will change, of course, as the offseason rolls on. If Dallas elects to release players like Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, or others, some dead money will appear. But that will be offset by whatever cap savings motivated the move in the first place.

This is a good reminder of why the Cowboys' new era of fiscal conservatism is a good thing. After years of what felt like perpetual "salary cap hell," they are finally getting out from under those penalties and have complete flexibility this offseason. They may not even need to cut a guy like Crawford, who they almost would have been forced to in past seasons.

We'll be talking a lot more about individual players and their contracts in the weeks ahead, but this summary helps us see that Dallas isn't nearly up against the financial wall as they have been. We still miss guys like Romo and Dez, but we won't miss that awful dead money in 2019.



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Player News

Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program

Jess Haynie

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Travis Frederick

Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.

After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire

While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.

It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.

Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.

That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.

But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.

Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.



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