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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

Despite Changes, Cowboys Offense Still Runs Through Ezekiel Elliott

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott, Rams

We've talked a lot this offseason about the changes at Offensive Coordinator and slot receiver, or how Jason Witten's return will impact the tight end position. But while all of these will impact the Dallas Cowboys' offense in 2019, the constant feature remains Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack.

From 2016 to 2018, since the Cowboys drafted Elliott, Dallas has ranked 1st, 3rd, and 10th among NFL teams in "run vs. pass" play calls. That's only logical; you don't spend a fourth-overall pick on a RB and then not make him the featured player in your offense.

Zeke has certainly rewarded Dallas' decision; Elliott has led the league in total rushing two out of three years, and he led in yards-per-game in 2017 while dealing with his suspension.

Leaning on Elliott has been smart business based on his effectiveness, plus the investment in the offensive line over the last several years.

Dallas has now sunk three first-round picks (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin), one second (Connor Williams), and now two thirds (Chaz Green and Connor McGovern) on building up their front wall. They've spent a lot of money to keep their All-Pro guys around, plus La'el Collins.

Some would try to paint the run-heavy approach as how the team is trying to hide the weaknesses of Dak Prescott at quarterback. But in 2014, with DeMarco Murray at RB and Tony Romo at QB, the Cowboys were still 3rd in the league in rush vs. pass attempts.

This isn't about Zeke or Dak, or any other specific player. This about a team philosophy that starts at the top with Jason Garrett, and that isn't going to change even with Kellen Moore taking over as the new Offensive Coordinator.

Dallas Cowboys: Ranking Top 5 Most Indispensable Players 4

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

We're all excited to see what new wrinkles comes from getting rid of Scott Linehan. We highly anticipate the development of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in the offense, coupled with the addition of Randall Cobb. We're salivating at what Blake Jarwin might become under the tutelage of the great Jason Witten.

Heck, maybe we'll see fullback Jamize Olawale's receiving skills put to more use. Perhaps gadget guys like Tavon Austin or rookie Tony Pollard will be deployed in more creative ways.

And yes, Dak Prescott's growth is another major factor in Dallas' 2019 success. It's especially interesting, and even concerning, as talks are ongoing about his long-term contract.

But make no mistake, this is still the Ezekiel Elliott show. Even if a few more of his carries become receptions in Moore's scheme, Zeke should still get the lion's share of the touches.

That's why this week's news about his incident in Las Vegas is so troubling. It probably won't lead to a suspension, but we saw what happened in 2017 when Elliott was missing for over a third of the season.

While Dallas should be better able to withstand losing Zeke now than it was two years ago, it may still be more than Prescott, Cooper, and the rest could handle. It definitely wouldn't put the Cowboys in good position to compete for a Super Bowl.

In the end, the 2019 will still come down to how well Dallas runs the ball. It's the engine; nothing else matters if the rushing game doesn't set everyone else up for success.

Don't ever take it for granted. This is still Ezekiel Elliott's offense.



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Dallas Cowboys

What Would a Successful Season Mean for Kellen Moore’s Future?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Kellen Moore

Out of every chess piece moved by the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, the decision to name 30-year old Kellen Moore might be the most interesting one. Not only that, but it could be the one that makes the biggest impact on the team. After all, the Cowboys are ready to go talent wise.

With Kellen Moore taking up a new role, it's intriguing to imagine what a successful season would mean for his future with the Dallas Cowboys. Truth be told, Moore is in a pretty fortunate position to debut as an offensive coordinator. He'll be driving a unit full of talented players with almost no weak links. Last year, it wasn't the lack of quality players lined up that had the offense struggling throughout the season, but the guy in charge.

At first, the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver clearly blew up on the Cowboys face. The passing game in Dallas needed a spark and they didn't find it until they traded a first rounder for Amari Cooper. Cooper's impact on the team was clear right away as he put on impressive performances on a weekly basis.

But even when Cooper was at his best, the offense still presented relevant struggles. Despite getting more first downs, the Cowboys still had trouble scoring touchdowns when in the red zone and kept leaving points on the field.

Although he's been a controversial conversation among members of Cowboys Nation, there are a few reasons to be excited about what Kellen Moore can bring to the table as a young offensive coordinator. Ever since he declared for the NFL Draft out of Boise State, where he ran a very complex offense on his way to become the QB with most wins in NCAA history, he was seen by many as an extremely smart prospect. Many expected him to have a mediocre career as a player, but saw him as a potential coach down the line.

Now it's his chance to prove the world just how smart he is and his potential as a coach. He will not only be proving it to the Cowboys organization, but all of the NFL and college football teams. Don't forget what NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah mentioned a few months ago.

Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter

I've mentioned this before- Kellen Moore is a rising star and he'll be in the mix for HC gigs (CFB or NFL) in the near future. https://t.co/hLjOb4HAUc

With a great group of talent at his disposal, it's fair to imagine Moore having a pretty successful "rookie" season at a major coaching position. If he indeed manages to turn heads with the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2019, what does that mean for his future?

In a league that's turning to the young offensive-minded coaches thanks to guys like Sean McVay, is it possible one team decides to pull the trigger and make him an offer for a head coaching gig? It certainly would seem premature, but it's still a possibility in the NFL, where teams have become increasingly impatient with their coaches.

I definitely wouldn't be surprised if next offseason, we're concerned about another team (college or NFL) trying to snatch Moore off the Cowboys. I insist in pointing out this would be a premature decision if it does happen, since Moore has very little experience, but looking at the trend in the NFL it certainly could happen.

This might be the most important year in Kellen Moore's young career. For now, let's hope he does a good job leading Dak Prescott in his fourth year as a professional player and an offense that has a solid OL and a pretty good set of skill players.

Tell me what you think about "What Would a Successful Season Mean for Kellen Moore’s Future?" 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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Dallas Cowboys

Connor Williams Working as Left Tackle in Cowboys Practice

Jess Haynie

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Connor Williams

Second-year guard Connor Williams has been working as the Cowboys' left tackle during practice this week. While this isn't the plan for him in 2019, it does provide a glimpse into potential uses for Williams down the road and how Dallas might handle future offensive line moves.

Using Connor at LT this week has been a matter of necessity. The top players on that depth chart, Tyron Smith and Cameron Fleming, were not participating for other reasons.

Todd Archer on Twitter

With Tyron Smith getting a vet day and Cam Fleming not practicing because of a bruised shin, Connor Williams worked at left tackle Wednesday. He said it was his first left tackle snaps since he was at Texas. He said it felt like riding a bike after a little bit.

Indeed, Williams spent three years at left tackle in college. It was the last position he'd played before being drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Dallas, who immediately moved him to guard.

Connor started 10 of 13 games at guard last season. He played mostly on the left side, starting Weeks 1-9, before getting injured. Xavier Su'a-Filo played well enough in his absence that Williams didn't get the starting job back when he was healthy. However, when Zack Martin had to miss a few games at the end of the year, Connor started a right guard for those two weeks.

When Martin returned for the playoffs, Williams was back as the starting left guard in both postseason games.

Tyron Smith and Cam Fleming will be your starter and backup at left tackle next year. But for 2020 and beyond, Connor Williams' ability to play tackle creates some interesting possibilities.

La'el Collins will be an unrestricted free agent next year. Fleming will still have one year left on his deal and Dallas just spent a third-round pick on the versatile Connor McGovern. Throw in that Williams can play some tackle, and it seems as if they're covering bases for Collins eventual departure.

We could very well see a starting lineup in 2020 with McGovern at LG and Williams at RT. Another possibility is that Fleming starts at RT and Williams stays at guard, but can be moved to tackle if needed.

If nothing else, it's nice to know that Dallas has options. We may never see Connor Williams play a regular season snap at left tackle, but versatility is a great asset. It can greatly increase a player's value, and give his team some leverage and flexibility in roster management.

For the Cowboys, it does make you wonder what the future holds for the offensive line.



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