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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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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Have Had Quiet, Yet Successful, Free Agency

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones

Yet another free agency without a big splash by the Dallas Cowboys. What a surprise. Despite entertaining Earl Thomas rumors for a long, long time, the Cowboys' front office has stuck with its philosophy of not overpaying free agents and building the team mainly through the NFL Draft. However, they've actually had some pretty good signings over the last few days that will really benefit the Cowboys when the season comes around.

They've done so with inexpensive free agents who will contribute at a high level on their respective positions. Sure, top free agent signings are fun. But many times, they end up backfiring to teams for spending so much money in one single player. At the end of the day, the Cowboys' way has gotten the team three NFC East Championships since 2014. Many factors come into play, but their team building philosophy can't be as bad as many claim it to be.

George Iloka

The most recent acquisition came in form of former Cincinnati Bengal and Minnesota Viking Safety George Iloka. The Cowboys had a desperate need at the defensive backfield and finally they've done something about it. On a heavy safety market, the Cowboys sat tight while watching the top free agents get top contracts around the league, including Landon Collins' record breaking deal with the Washington Redskins.

Now, they've gotten a guy who can play both safety positions. I'll be surprised if he doesn't take Jeff Heath's job. He's played as a free safety most of his career but being a good tackler, he should do a good job in the box. Iloka will also shine on special teams in Dallas.

So far, my favorite signing may be that of former Green Bay Packer, Randall Cobb. The Cowboys had an important need at the wide receiver position despite counting with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup leading the room. Cole Beasley is a tough guy to replace and although Cobb may not be a better slot receiver than him, he certainly has the experience and the skill set to be a starting slot WR.  What's more, he'll only cost the Cowboys five million while Beasley got a four year deal with which he'll earn $17M over the first two years.

Cowboys en Español: La Afortunada Llegada de Randall Cobb

Cole Beasley will be missed, but the good thing is the front office did a pretty good job at filling the concerning hole on offense. Cooper, Gallup and Cobb are definitely not a bad starting trio to have.

Other under the radar moves will also help the Cowboys. Kerry Hyder may not be a well-known in the NFL but he'll surely contribute to this defensive line as a rotational player. Hyder had eight sacks in 2016 with the Detroit Lions before suffering an Achilles injury in 2017 and dealing with a scheme change last season. Hyder will surely be happy about being back to a 4-3 defense in Dallas.

Christian Covington was another overlooked signing. Covington will help on the interior of the defensive line and although he'll likely not be a starter, he'll be an important piece in the rotation for a very reasonable contract ( also a one-year deal).

For a football team that's constantly criticized for not being active in free agency, the Cowboys have done something at pretty much every position where they need help. Safety, defensive end, defensive tackle, wide receiver and tight end have all been addressed this offseason prior to the NFL Draft. This will give them great flexibility in April and could lead to a pretty good "best player available" strategy.

Now granted, there are still concerns regarding the young "to be extended" group of players. DeMarcus Lawrence hasn't reached an agreement with the Cowboys and will continue to postpone surgery until he does. If the front office doesn't strike a contract with the star pass rusher, it won't be possible to consider this offseason a good one no matter what happens. Dallas can't let him leave.

In the meantime though, they've had a pretty quiet yet successful March. And they're not done yet. Robert Quinn could end up wearing the Star if a trade with the Miami Dolphins does end up taking place. We'll see if the Cowboys continue to build on an already pretty good free agency.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Have Had Quiet, Yet Successful, Free Agency" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka

Jess Haynie

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George Iloka

The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.

He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc

This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.

However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.

Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.

We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.



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Dallas Cowboys

What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019

John Williams

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Amari Cooper

In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.

Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.

The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?

Let's take a look.

Outside Receivers

As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.

Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.

As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.

Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.

Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.

There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.

Slot Receiver

Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.

While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.

Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.

In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.

Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.

With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.



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