The Dallas Cowboys come into this matchup winning five straight games after losing their season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the other side, the Minnesota Vikings have had an up and down season but are coming off back-to-back wins against the Detroit Lions and the Carolina Panthers. Both teams are also coming off a bye week.
The Cowboys have been red-hot all season long. Their offense looks unstoppable with quarterback Dak Prescott now in the MVP conversation through seven weeks. On the other hand, their defense is much improved from a season ago led by cornerback Trevon Diggs, who has seven interceptions on the season. These have contributed to Dallas’ early success leading them to a 5-1 record to start the 2021 season.
As a result, America’s Team is widely considered to be one of the best teams in the NFL. Their 5-1 record is the fifth-best in the league but is also the fifth-best in the NFC with the Arizona Cardinals (7-0), Los Angeles Rams (6-1), Green Bay Packers (6-1), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-1) all having better records. It’s important to note that none of these teams have had a bye week yet.
Nonetheless, this matchup between the Cowboys and Vikings could be the biggest game for both teams in recent weeks. The Cowboys are trying to push their record to 6-1 while the Vikings are trying to go above .500 for the first time this season.
There are many possible ways that the Cowboys win this game, but here are the keys to the game for Week 8.
Dallas Cowboys: 3. Establish the run early
The Cowboys play their best games when they run early and often. As a team, they rank second behind the Cleveland Browns in rush yards per game with 164.3. This is led by the two-headed monster, running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
Despite the week off, both players rank in the top 16 this season in total rush yards. Elliott is fifth with 521 yards and Pollard is 16th with 366 yards. Additionally, both players rank in the top 10 in yards per carry amongst other running backs. Pollard leads the league with 6.0 yards per carry while Elliott is eighth with 5.1 yards per carry.
As a result, when the Cowboys get the run game going, it is a scary site for defenses. Running the football in this game is imperative if this team wants to come out on top. Additionally, if quarterback Dak Prescott can’t go, running the football would be how Dallas wins this game.
The Vikings’ run defense isn’t one of the best in the league either. Although they have some solid weapons in their front seven like defensive end Danielle Hunter and linebacker Eric Kendricks, they still struggle against the run. This season, they rank 26th in rush yards allowed per game with 128.0.
This can be the biggest advantage for the Cowboys in this game. The last time the Vikings faced a team with a running back duo like this was in Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns. Both running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 169 yards and a touchdown while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. If the Cowboys can average something similar or better than this on the ground, this can be the difference-maker in this game.