COWBOYS (10-1) AT VIKINGS (6-5)
TV: Ch. 4, NFL; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9, joined in progress)
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Cowboys by 3; O/U: 43.5
The NFL season goes so fast that sometimes it’s easy to forget the early narratives. Five weeks in, and the Vikings, not the Cowboys, were the talk of the NFC. Now, with five weeks left, it’s all about Dallas, which has won 10 in a row and is all but a lock to be the No. 1 seed.
Early on, it was Minnesota that everyone was penciling in for a Super Bowl trip. The Vikings were 5-0 and their defense was dominant. But after losing four in a row and five of six, Minnesota can’t afford another slipup like it had at Detroit last week if it wants to make the playoffs.
The Cowboys were 4-1 after five weeks, but all anyone could talk about was when Tony Romo would be back to replace Dak Prescott. The next week, underdog Dallas won by two touchdowns at Green Bay and Dak hasn’t looked back. Behind their other sensational rookie, Ezekiel Elliott, and the NFL’s most dominant offensive line, the Cowboys haven’t lost since Week 1. Dallas did lose against the spread last week, its first non-cover since the opener.
With both the Vikings and Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving, they’ve had a full week’s rest, so this is an odd Thursday night matchup. The “short week has its toll” talk isn’t in play.
Minnesota’s defense is going to give everything it has, but will it be enough to stop Prescott (18 TDs, 2 INTs, 108.6 rating) and Elliott (NFL-best 1,199 yards and 11 TDs)? Dallas leads the league in time of possession at 33:12, and is converting 48 percent of its third downs. With Elliott averaging 4.9 yards per carry and extending drives, it also helps keep Dallas’ secondary — its Achilles heel — off the field. Kirk Cousins carved up the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but they should contain Sam Bradford.
Bottom line: The Vikings need to play a perfect game to beat the Cowboys. Expect an intense contest as December football kicks off. But in the end, as it’s been all season, it will be Prescott, Elliott and the Cowboys who keep on rolling. Cowboys 24, Vikings 16.
The pick: Cowboys