Potential playoff preview on tap when the Vikings take on the Cowboys on SNF
A pair of teams jockeying for playoff positioning in the NFC will square off when the Minnesota Vikings meet the Dallas Cowboys the Week 10 edition of "Sunday Night Football."
The Cowboys (5-3) have had an interesting start to the 2019 season. After opening with three straight wins they dropped three in a row before righting the ship and have now won their past two games. During that span, they have outscored their opponents, both divisional rivals, a surprising 74-28.
The Vikings (6-3), on the other hand, were on a four-game winning streak of their own before a crushing 26-23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. Minnesota led 23-20 with less than 11 minutes left in the game but Matt Moore, playing in place of an injured Patrick Mahomes, orchestrated two drives in the final 2:30 that led to a pair of Harrison Butker field goals, the last being a 44-yarder as time expired.
Minnesota at Dallas
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 10 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Spread: Dallas -3
Three Things to Watch
1. The health of Leighton Vander Esch
There were a lot of people who felt like the Cowboys reached when they selected Vander Esch, a linebacker from Boise State, in the first round (19th overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft. Those people ended up being completely wrong.
As a rookie, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound headhunter racked up a franchise-record 140 tackles to go along with seven pass deflections and two interceptions. His second season has not been as productive, but he is still considered one of the best young linebackers in the game.
Unfortunately, Vander Esch was forced to miss the Monday night game due to a neck/stringer injury. He's back to being a limited participant in practice, which is a good sign, but his health is something to monitor as Dallas attempts to slow down Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook.
2. Dalvin Cook vs. Dallas front seven
Speaking of Cook, his matchup against the front seven for the Cowboys will be one of the more intriguing of this game. In nine games, the former second-round pick has rushed for 894 yards, which leads the NFL, and nine touchdowns (second in the league behind Christian McCaffrey).
Dallas, on the other hand, has fielded one of the league’s best run defenses. On the season, the Cowboys have only given up 748 yards, good for eighth in that category. The addition of a player like newly-acquired defensive lineman Michael Bennett should only add to the depth up front. That depth is even more important as long as Vander Esch is limited by the neck injury.
Be sure to keep an eye on Cook and his success — or potential lack thereof. If the Cowboys can force the Vikings to be one-dimensional on offense, it could certainly bode well for their chances of winning their third straight game.
3. Dan Bailey's return to AT&T Stadium
If you were to ask the average Cowboys fan about the best kicker in franchise history, most would say it was Bailey.
The 31-year-old spent seven seasons in Dallas and made 186 of his 211 field goal attempts (88.2 percent). The last two seasons, however, Bailey has spent in Minnesota as a member of the Vikings.
His first season did not yield great results (21-of-28 FGs, 75.0 percent), but the Oklahoma State product seems to be bouncing back nicely in Year 2 with the team. So far, Bailey has hit 13 of his 15 field goal attempts (86.7 percent). But he has missed two extra points this season already, which already ties a career-high.
It will be fun to see him make a return trip to Dallas to take on his former team on Sunday night.
The home-away splits for the Vikings have been more than noticeable this season. While the team is 4-0 inside U.S. Bank Stadium, they’re only 2-3 on the road. In those three losses, they’ve only been outscored 63-45, which is an average difference of only six points per game.
With the way Dallas is playing, it is likely that the Vikings will drop another game on the road, but it will be close. That three-point Vegas line makes a lot of sense in this one, so we are going to use it.
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Vikings 23
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.