MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings return home to start a three-game stretch of sub-.500 opponents at U.S. Bank Stadium. At 4-5, the Vikings need to take advantage of these games to push themselves back into the playoff conversation.
Dalvin Cook looks to bounce back from a middling performance last week against the Cowboys, who gave up more than 300 yards rushing to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt's Cleveland Browns earlier this season.
Here's what to watch for in this weekend's matchup:
Who's under center?
Ever since Dak Prescott's horrible injury in Week 5, the state of Dallas' quarterback position has been in flux. Veteran Andy Dalton (COVID-19/concussion) has been a full participant in practice this week, but seldom-used Garrett Gilbert and rookie Ben DiNucci were disasters when pressed into service. If Dalton's status takes a turn for the worse, it could make for a very long day for the Cowboys.
Dalvin Cook did not look like his MVP-caliber self against the Bears last week — then again, he never has — but it makes you wonder about his high usage the last few games. Minnesota has ridden their top back since the bye week, but Cook hasn't been durable in his brief career. With lead blocker C.J. Ham (COVID-19) and guard Ezra Cleveland (ankle) both held out of practice so far this week, it seems like a good chance to help moderate Cook's time on the field.
Minnesota's young cornerbacks have shown significant improvement during the winning streak, but they haven't faced a trio as talented as Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and rookie CeeDee Lamb. If Dalton is on the field, look for the savvy veteran to target the Vikings on the outside.
Special teams screwups?
The charitable description for Minnesota's special teams units lately is "challenged." Some with less tact would call the Vikings' coverage, field goal and punting units as "a dumpster fire befitting this terrible year." It doesn't seem like anyone on Minnesota's staff is looking for a positive game-changing play on special teams. Coaches and fans alike are desperate for a merely net-neutral showing against Dallas.
Rook vs. rook
The 2020 draft class may go down in history as one of the most talented wide receiver classes in recent memory. Two of the best this season have been Lamb and Viking Justin Jefferson. Fans should be treated to electrifying performances from these young receivers.