Dallas (5-1) at Minnesota (3-3)
When: Sunday, October 31st, 2021
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium,
Time: 8:20 ET | TV: NBC
Opening Odds: Dallas -2/51.5
Both the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings are coming off much-needed bye weeks, but that didn’t seem to help maybe the most important player on either roster. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was a limited participant in practice this week due to a strained calf and oddsmakers aren’t confident he’ll play. The Cowboys were 2.5-point favorites earlier this week, but the Vikings are now 3-point home favorites for the Sunday night Halloween matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium. We’ll know more on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, but for now, we’ll assume Cooper Rush will be under center for the 5-1 Cowboys. Luckily, Dallas has built-up a nice lead in the pathetic NFC East, which might make a decision to rush back Prescott too early, a little easier. The Cowboys are coming off a 35-29 overtime win at New England two weeks ago and the offense has been on fire all season under Prescott.
The Vikings meanwhile, have won three of four including a 34-28 road win at the Carolina Panthers in Week 6. The defense played well in three straight home games during Weeks 2-4, holding each opponent to 17 points or less. With the way the Green Bay Packers are rolling, a division title is probably a stretch, but the wild card might be just as tough. Right now, 15 of the 16 NFC teams have at least two wins, which could make for a fun race come December. The Cowboys are 17-15 all-time vs. the Vikings including playoffs. The teams played a tight game last year in Minneapolis with Dallas winning 31-28 without Prescott. Andy Dalton led the Cowboys with 203 yards and three scores and Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 103 yards and caught a TD pass. The underdog is 4-0 against the spread in the past four meetings.
Dallas leads the NFL in total offense at 460.8 yards per game and is No. 2 in rushing at 164.3 ypg with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard and the team is the only undefeated ATS squad left (6-0). The 460 yards Dallas averages might be hard to come by Sunday with Rush under center. He has never started an NFL game and his three career pass attempts came in 2017. Rush has received the bulk of the practice reps all week while Prescott has mainly been involved in individual drills and rehabbing the calf. The running game will surely be the focus against Minnesota, who allows 128.0 rushing yards per game and are 29th with opposing teams recording 4.8 yards per carry. Dallas is second-best in the league with 164.3 rushing yards per contest. Entering Week 8, the Cowboys led the NFL in scoring offense at 34.2 points per game. Perhaps the one disappointment is that Dallas is tied for 24th in red zone efficiency, having scored touchdowns on just 56 percent of its opportunities.
The Vikings are back in the playoff race after a couple of wins against bad teams. But the team nearly blew both of them late before rallying. All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson will miss the next three games on injured reserve. He signed with Minnesota during the offseason after spending his first 10 seasons in Arizona. Minnesota does not play their best at home, owning a 1-6 ATS mark in its past seven. On the season, quarterback Kirk Cousins has 1,796 passing yards and 13 touchdowns against just two interceptions. In the win over Carolina, Cousins was 33-for-48 for 373 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. The Vikings don’t turn the ball over often, ranking first in the league at 0.8 turnovers per game. Dalvin Cook had a season-best 140 rushing yards against the Panthers, while wideout Justin Jefferson has 41 receptions this season and has caught at least five in each of his past nine games. The Vikings are tied for the NFL lead with 21 sacks, with defensive end Danielle Hunter recording six of those.
This is a hard game to handicap until we know for sure if Prescott is playing or not. We posted the Vikings at +1.5 before the news broke, so we are locked-in. If Prescott doesn’t play, I would still lay the three points with Minnesota. Cooper Rush is going to be a deer in headlights and the Vikings can focus on the Dallas run game.
Pick: Vikings +1.5 (-3 if Prescott doesn’t play)
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