The Dallas Cowboys have not lost since the season opener but cannot afford to take their foot off the pedal as they prepare to visit the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night. Riding a 10-game winning streak and leading the New York Giants by two games in the NFC East, Dallas has a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win over Minnesota and some help.
The Cowboys are trying to navigate through their most rugged stretch of the season, with Thursday’s matchup marking their third game in 12 days. “They throw these schedules at you and it’s part of the game,” Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr told reporters. “You get through this one, get through the storm … you can look back and tell stories about it. It’s something that makes us bond and become closer.” Minnesota, which also will be playing for the third time in 12 days, has been in a spiral since sprinting out to a 5-0 start. The Vikings have dropped five of their last six, including a 16-13 loss at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day to fall one game behind the Lions in the NFC Central.
TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC, NFL Network.
LINE HISTORY: The Dallas Cowboys opened as 2.5-point road favorites and by Monday morning the point spread was all of the way up to the current number of 3.5. The total has wobbled between 43.5 and, the current number, 44 all week. Check out the complete history here.
WEATHER REPORT: Dome.
Cowboys – DE D. Lawrence (Probable, back), T T. Smith (Probable, back), LB S. Lee (Probable, illness), S B. Church (probable, forearm), DL D. Irving (Probable, illness), DE J. Crawford (Questionable, foot), DT T. McClain (Questionable, thigh), LB J. Durant (Out, hamstring), S J. Wilcox (Out, leg), OL C. Green (Out Indefinitely, foot), CB M. Claiborne (Out Indefinitely, hernia), DE R. Gregory (Elig Week 15, suspension), LB R. McClain (I-R, suspension), RB D. McFadden (Questionable, elbow), OL L. Collins (Questionable, toe), TE J. Hanna (I-R, knee), TE G. Swaim (I-R, pectoral), DE C. Tapper (I-R, back), LB J. Smith (I-R, knee), QB K. Moore (I-R, ankle).
Vikings – WR S. Diggs (Probable, knee), TE K. Rudolph (Probable, shoulder), S H. Smith (Probable, ankle), LB E. Kendricks (Probable, hip), CB T. Newman (Probable, neck), G J. Sirles (Probable, hip), QB S. Bradford (Probable, ankle), WR A. Thielen (Probable, shoulder), QB T. Heinicke (Questionable, foot), CB C. Munnerlyn (Questionable, ankle), DE E. Griffen (Questionable, shoulder), CB M. Alexander (Doubtful, groin), DT S. Floyd (Out, knee), CB M. Sherels (Out, ribs), G J. Berger (Out Indefinitely, concussion), G M. Harris (Questionable, illness), RB A. Peterson (Mid Dec, knee), T J. Long (I-R, achilles), T A. Smith (I-R, tricep), T M. Kalil (I-R, hip), QB T. Bridgewater (I-R, knee), DT S. Crichton (I-R, undisclosed), CB J. Price (I-R, knee), S A. Exum Jr. (I-R, leg).
ABOUT THE COWBOYS (10-1 SU, 9-2 ATS, 5-6 O/U): Dallas owner Jerry Jones is adopting the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy and sees no reason to deviate from the formula of riding the legs of rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, the league’s leading rusher with 1,199 yards. “The more we give Ezekiel the ball, then I think the better,” Jones said of Elliott, who also has rushed for 11 touchdowns. “We’re winning with that. We’re wearing them down on defense.” Elliott has thrust himself into the MVP conversation, and one of his competitors may be fellow rookie Dak Prescott, who has 18 TD passes against only two interceptions and has posted a passer rating of at least 100 in nine of the last 10 games. Dallas ranks 31st in pass defense (280.4 yards) and has made only four interceptions.
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (6-5 SU, 6-5 ATS, 4-7 O/U): Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes has as many interceptions as the Cowboys and is part of a defense that ranks second in the league with 17.5 points allowed and paces the NFC with a plus-12 turnover differential. With a stagnant running game and an offense that has been limited to 16 points of fewer four times in the last six games, quarterback Sam Bradford is pushing for the coaches to open the playbook and take shots downfield. Bradford (ankle) has been limited in practice this week but hopes to have the services of leading wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who had 40 receptions over a four-game stretch prior to sitting out last week’s loss against the Lions with a knee injury. “I think we’ve got to find a way to create more explosive plays,” Bradford acknowledged.
* Cowboys are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
* Vikings are 8-0 ATS in their last 8 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
* Under is 8-2 in Cowboys last 10 road games.
* Under is 14-2 in Vikings last 16 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Cowboys are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The road favorite Dallas Cowboys are picking up 70 percent of the point spread action and the Over is getting 59 percent of the Over/Under wagers. View full consensus data here.
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