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5 Vikings-Cowboys Storylines: Responses After Emotional Rides, Another Diggs Awaits

EAGAN, Minn. — What's next for the 8-1 Vikings?

And can it possibly top last week's 33-30 overtime upset win over the Bills in Buffalo?

Getting to a ninth win in 10 tries would make this squad the seventh in team history to open a season 9-1 or better. It also would snap a three-game losing streak to a franchise that is 3-0 as a visitor to U.S. Bank Stadium.

Minnesota is the last team undefeated at home this season thanks to Washington (5-5) upending Philadelphia (8-1) on Monday.

The Cowboys (6-3) are third in the NFC East behind the Eagles and Giants (7-2). Dallas would be the sixth seed, and Minnesota would hold the No. 2 spot if the playoffs started today.

Here is a predicted key matchup, along with five storylines for this week.

Matchup to watch: Dalvin Cook vs. Micah Parsons (and maybe Anthony Barr)

Fresh off a career-long 81-yard touchdown run to lift the Vikings over the team that drafted his brother James this spring, Dalvin Cook will possibly be facing another "brother" in the form of former Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, who is on the injury report this week because of a hamstring problem suffered against Chicago in Week 8.

Cook described the sentiment of possibly facing Barr, who started 98 regular-season games and garnered four Pro Bowls while with Minnesota from 2014-21.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Cowboys.

"That's going to be fun, man. Just grinding. That's my brother. I grinded with him," Cook said. "Him and E.K. (Eric Kendricks) were dudes that got me better each and every day, got me to the point where I'm at right now in front of y'all, the player I am. They used to push me so much when I was a young player. I've got a lot of respect for Barr on and off the field, and come Sunday he's a Cowboy, so we've got to treat him like that."

Cook likely will see Micah Parsons from time to time, as well. Parsons recorded career highs of 11 tackles and four tackles for loss against Minnesota last year as a rookie on the way to collecting All-Pro, Pro Bowl and Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Cook has rushed 71 times for 290 yards and two touchdowns in three career games against the Cowboys (past three seasons). He also has 12 receptions for 131 yards, despite not recording a catch on two targets last season.

1. Encore after emotional win and loss

The Vikings trailed by 17 late in the third quarter before Cook sprung loose for a one-play touchdown drive that only drained 17 seconds. The quick strike sparked Minnesota and enabled the Vikings to mount their comeback.

The Cowboys built a 28-14 lead by the start of the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field but allowed the Packers to tie the game and force overtime. It was the first time in 196 games for Dallas to drop a contest after leading by 14-plus to start a fourth quarter.

Each of the past six games between the teams has been decided by four or fewer points. Throw in Minnesota's seven-game streak of one-score games and a leaguewide trend, and this could be another close one.

Will the Vikings avoid being too high? Can the Cowboys bounce back?

2. Keen focus on task at-hand

The fact that both teams went to overtime last week and will be playing on Thanksgiving in Week 12 makes this about as fair as possible.

Dallas will have to travel to Minnesota, but for some reason, that's not been a problem historically. The Cowboys are 12-7 all-time when visiting the Vikings (includes 2-2 in playoff games) and have notched wins in each of the past two seasons with a similar roster.

There's always a trap that a team can look past Sunday and already be thinking about the following Thursday because of the short week.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said Wednesday he was mindful of the quick physical turnover that will be required from playing extra snaps last week to being ready for Sunday and on the other side of it.


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3. Jefferson to see another Diggs

A week after Justin Jefferson brought it with 10 catches for a career-best 193 yards and a touchdown in a showdown with Bills receiver Stefon Diggs, the phenom will face another star by the same last name.

Diggs' brother Trevon, who led the NFL with 11 interceptions in 2021 to earn All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, will be a key part to Dallas' approach to guarding Jefferson, who earned Player of the Week honors for Week 10 but appeared on the injury report Wednesday with a toe injury.

Will Trevon travel wherever Jefferson lines up? If so, will the Vikings and Kirk Cousins challenge him?

4. Pass protection at a premium

Dallas leads the NFL with a sacks-per-pass-attempt rate of 12.46 percent. For comparison's sake, Minnesota's defense, which has heated up, is ranked 11th with a rate of 8.07 percent.

The Cowboys have totaled 35 sacks, with Parsons (8.0) leading the effort. Defensive end Dorance Armstrong and DeMarcus Lawrence have each added 5.0.

Minnesota is led by Za'Darius Smith (9.5) and Danielle Hunter (6.0) and has totaled 26 sacks so far in the first year of its 3-4 base defense.

The Cowboys have allowed 14 sacks, and the Vikings have allowed 20. Dallas ranks fifth in allowance rate of sacks (4.95 percent), and Minnesota ranks ninth (5.6 percent).

Vikings left tackle Christian Darrisaw is in the concussion protocol after leaving Sunday's game.

5. Rarer opportunity for takeaways?

The Vikings were able to force four turnovers by the Bills, including a pair of picks in the end zone by Patrick Peterson and a fumbled snap recovered in the other end zone by Eric Kendricks.

The takeaways lifted Minnesota's total to 18 on the season, which ranks second in the NFL. That, combined with limiting giveaways to 10 has positioned Minnesota with the second-best net differential in the NFL through Week 10.

Dallas ranks fourth in net differential (plus-6), having forced 15 takeaways and committed nine giveaways.