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Cowboys blow out Vikings, showing them how tough Super Bowl path in NFC will be

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The Minnesota Vikings’ path to the playoffs is an easy one.

They are leading their division in four matches. They have mastered the art of close wins, recovering from a deficit five times to build a winning drive. Wins against talented teams like the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins add to the Vikings’ resume.

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But what are Minnesota’s prospects once they make the playoffs?

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This, after a 40-3 home loss to the Dallas Cowboys, is much darker now.

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Because Minnesota might be 8-2, but those two losses were a blowout to Dallas and a 24-7 setback in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. And who does Minnesota have to beat to get out of the conference on their way to the Super Bowl?

The same caliber of the NFC team.

There is cause for concern.

“This league has a way of humiliating any football team at any given time if you don’t play good football,” Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said. “We didn’t do that today, and we should learn from that.”

Dallas dominated Minnesota every Sunday. Duck Prescott completed 88% of his passes, throwing for 276 yards and landing twice before being pulled early. Tony Pollard ran for 189 yards in the scrum, throwing a pair of hit-and-run touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliot added another 47 yards and a touchdown after the scrum. The Cowboys scored in each of their first seven possessions and didn’t resort to punting until 3:55 was down in the third quarter.

On defense, the Cowboys drove the demons out of two games in which they allowed 200-plus yards to hold Minnesota back to 73 net yards on the ground. This allowed Dallas to take on Kirk Cousins, five Cowboys players fired Cousins ​​seven times in the worst fashion of his career, including Mickey Parsons’ sinister striptease in Minnesota’s first series.

Even the Cowboys’ special teams showed traction, as kicker Brett Maher was flawless, scoring four extra points and four field goal attempts, and his range at all distances was 27, 50, 53, and 60 yards. (Maher actually hit the 60-yard twice when watching the replay at a strange time required him to hit again, but we digress.)

That full performance was what the Cowboys have been craving since last week’s crushing overtime loss in Green Bay when they lost a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. Dallas returned to second in the NFC East, two games behind Philadelphia, but still with a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs. according to the FiveThirtyEight predictive model. The Cowboys have shown what they can do if they push forward, their defense is enough to haunt quarterbacks’ nightmares, and their offense is well balanced between running and passing.

“If we use the experience we have this season, we will be ready for the playoffs.” The owner of the Cowboys team, Jerry Jones, told reporters about this.. “I really think I see a team here now that you could win the Super Bowl with.”

Are the Cowboys like Sunday’s championship contender?

“Definitely yes,” Jones said. “Voice yes.”

In the meantime, the Vikings were about as effective as the score suggests. Nobody scored a touchdown, Cousins ​​threw for only 105 yards. Star wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who averaged 117.8 yards per game for nine weeks, managed just three catches for 33 yards on five targets. On the ground, Minnesota averaged 4.3 yards per try, but chances to touch the ball were few and far between, with Dallas holding the ball for 37 minutes and 24 seconds and Viking 22:36.

O’Connell noted that Cousins ​​was “under duress” due to the enormous pressure from the Cowboys, but called the performance “sloppy” nonetheless.

Minnesota entered Week 11 with two losses per game and none against Dallas. The Vikings’ ninth-place defense managed just 36.79% of their attempts before the Cowboys, even with a junk time dip, converted 71% (12 of 17).

Unraveling confirmed Viking fears from extended metrics such as Football Outsiders DVOA Ratings, which takes into account the league average base level of the situation and the strength of the opponent in terms of performance. For context, the Eagles and Cowboys finished second and fourth in the league, respectively, this week. Minnesota DVOA Ranking: 17th.

Could even that surpass what the Vikings did with NFC?

O’Connell acknowledged the criticism.

“Every week in this league is another opportunity to really prove who you are as a football team. I don’t think we made it tonight,” he said. “We are an 8-2 football team. There will be a lot of stories about our team that we…really can’t control. We know it. We just need to look inside our locker room.

“I believe we will answer this.”

But how much do the Vikings’ next two games against the New England Patriots and New York Jets actually predict their playoffs?

Minnesota’s two most impressive wins already came against the 7-3 Bills and Dolphins, both AFC East teams. We’ll defend last week’s comeback from a 17-point hole in the second half to win in overtime, no less in Buffalo, from our chagrin. It was impressive. But it’s worth noting that Minnesota’s win over the Dolphins came at back-up quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, while starter Tua Tagawailoa was on concussion protocol.

And six NFC commands that Minnesota won? Their combined win percentage is 0.390. Only the Washington Commanders in this group have a 6-5 win record.

This Minnesota team deserves credit for reaching eight wins, especially for going from 1-8 in one-point games last season to 7-1 this season. In a league that prides itself on parity and has set several records this season for close games, it’s a valuable skill that reflects the tenacity of players and the culture established by new coaches.

So a lot of NFL clichés will keep this team 8-2, refraining from “only play the opponent in front of us” and “you are what your record is” offering valid counters. But perhaps that last line is the truth.

The Vikings are what their record is: in the regular season, a good team that can come together wins.

More than that?

Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys seemed to hint at a response. We’ll find out for sure in January.

Follow Jori Epstein of Sportzshala Sports on Twitter. @JoriEpstein

Micah Parsons (11) and the Cowboys showed Kirk Cousins ​​and the Vikings what to expect in the NFC playoffs.  (Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports)
Micah Parsons (11) and the Cowboys showed Kirk Cousins ​​and the Vikings what to expect in the NFC playoffs. (Brace Hemmelgarn – USA TODAY Sports)


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