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5 Vikings-Cowboys Storylines to Watch in Week 11

The Vikings (4-5) will operate on slightly shorter rest than normal against a 2-7 Cowboys squad that is looking to reboot after an extended rest.

Minnesota has won three in a row since its Week 7 bye; Dallas dropped four in a row on the way to its Week 10 bye.

This will be the 32nd overall meeting between the franchises, which includes seven postseason contests, and second at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Minnesota is breaking out its #PrimetimePurple uniforms that were introduced in 2019. It will be the eighth time in franchise history for Minnesota to wear purple jerseys and pants. The Vikings used the combination for a "Color Rush" game against the Cowboys in 2016.

Here are five storylines to watch this week, as well as a link below to the game preview by the Vikings PR staff and a list of connections between the teams.

1. On the ground game

Despite Minnesota leaning more heavily on the passing game Monday at Soldier Field, the Vikings remain committed to the run game and for good reason.

Dalvin Cook is aiming for his fourth consecutive game with 100 or more scrimmage yards, and he leads the NFL with 954 rushing yards and 12 scores on the ground. Cook also leads the league with 1,143 scrimmage yards. Last season, "The Chef" totaled 183 scrimmage yards (97 rushing and 86 receiving) at Dallas. He has scored at least one rushing touchdown in each of his past nine home games.

On the other sideline, no running back has more yards since 2016 than Ezekiel Elliott, who has totaled 5,977 rushing yards since entering the NFL as the fourth overall pick of the draft.

Elliott leads the NFL with 161 rushes that have gained 10 or more yards in that time and with 35 runs that have gone for 20-plus yards. He enters the game with 54 career touchdowns (45 rushing, nine receiving) and is trying to become the fifth NFL running back since 1970 with 45 or more rushing touchdowns and at least 10 receiving scores in his first five seasons.

2. QB roulette back on 'Red'?

Kirk Cousins has posted three consecutive games with a passer rating of at least 100.7, which he posted against the Bears for his first career victory on Monday Night Football and first win against Chicago since joining the Vikings.

Cousins, who completed 23 of 32 passes for 220 yards and two scores for a passer rating of 111.5 last season at Dallas, enters Week 11 leading the NFL in yards per attempt (8.8) and yards per completion (13.3).

The Cowboys have struggled to keep a QB in the game since Dak Prescott's season-ending injury in Week 5.

Andy Dalton, who is nicknamed the "Red Rifle" could return to the lineup. Dalton started in Weeks 6 and 7 but suffered a concussion in his second start with Dallas. He also has been on the Reserve/COVID-19 list but practiced Monday.

In Dalton's absence, the Cowboys started Ben DiNucci in Week 8 and Garrett Gilbert in Week 9. Dalton is yet to be activated, but signs are pointing to his return.

3. Dueling rookies

This game will feature a pair of 2020 first-round picks at receiver.

Selected 22nd overall, Justin Jefferson leads the NFL with an average of 18.1 yards per catch (minimum 40 receptions) and ranks seventh overall with 762 yards, the most by a first-year player. He is the second rookie during the Super Bowl era (Marques Colston, 2006) to post four games with 100 or more receiving yards in his first nine career games.

Dallas tabbed CeeDee Lamb five spots before Minnesota selected Jefferson. Lamb leads all rookies with 44 receptions and ranks third among first-year players with 595 receiving yards.

Both players have caught three touchdowns.

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

4. Getting defensive

The Vikings defense dialed up the pressure at key moments against the Bears on Monday. It was more than Chicago could handle, particularly on third downs in the second half.

Minnesota allowed just 149 net yards, including only 79 in the game's final three quarters.

It also marked the third week in a row in which Minnesota has limited an opponent to a season-low point total. Minnesota allowed 22 at Green Bay, followed by 20 against Detroit and only 13 to Chicago.

Dallas has scored 41 total points in its four games without Prescott but went toe-to-toe with unbeaten Pittsburgh in Week 9.

5. Shoring up specials

The Vikings have survived some shakiness on special teams in the past two weeks. Minnesota allowed two punts to be blocked against Detroit and then surrendered a 104-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson for Chicago's only touchdown.

The Vikings also allowed 44 yards on a pair of punt returns by Anthony Miller and lost 19 yards of field position when Dan Chisena accidentally had his foot on the goal line while downing a punt, and a low snap led to an aborted attempt of an extra point.

Cowboys second-year pro Tony Pollard has a 67-yard kickoff return to his credit this season, and Lamb is averaging 6.8 yards per punt return with a long of 27.

Local Connections

Jeff Gladney, Kris Boyd, Austin Cutting and James Lynch are Texas natives.

Vikings-Cowboys Connections

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer began his NFL career with the Cowboys in 1994. He coached defensive backs through 1999 and then became defensive coordinator in 2000, holding that role through 2006.

Minnesota K Dan Bailey spent his first seven NFL seasons with Dallas, appearing in 108 games and totaling 834 points for the Cowboys from 2011-17.

Cowboys Senior Defensive Assistant George Edwards was Vikings defensive coordinator from 2014-19.

Dallas TE Blake Bell played 13 games for Minnesota in 2017.

Cowboys S Stephen Parker spent part of the 2020 offseason with the Vikings.

Professional Connections

Bailey teamed with Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore from 2015-17.

Cowboys LS L.P. Ladouceur overlapped with Zimmer in Dallas from 2005-06.

Vikings DT Shamar Stephen teamed with Cowboys WR Malik Turner in Seattle in 2018.

Dallas QB Andy Dalton [Reserve/COVID-19] played in Cincinnati from 2011-19, overlapping with Zimmer, Co-Defensive Coordinator Adam Zimmer and defensive backs coach Daronte Jones.

Minnesota QB Sean Mannion teamed with Dallas K Greg Zuerlein with the Rams from 2015-18. Cowboys Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel held the same role with the Rams from 2012-19.

Vikings assistant defensive backs coach Roy Anderson worked with Fassel while they were with the Ravens.

Dallas Head Coach Mike McCarthy (2006-18) held the same role in Green Bay when Minnesota Senior Defensive Assistant Dom Capers was defensive coordinator (2009-17). Cowboys Assistant Head Coach Rob Davis was Packers Director of Player Development (2008-17), offensive line coach Joe Philbin and linebackers coach Scott McCurley were on the Green Bay staff, and Dallas defensive backs coach Al Harris and coaching assistant Scott Tolzien played for the Packers.

Philbin was head coach in Miami from 2012-15; Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf was assistant special teams coach with the Dolphins from 2013-18.

Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan was with Denver from 1987-92 when Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak (1983-91) and Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Rick Dennison (1982-90) played for the Broncos. Nolan and Dennison were on the 2009 Denver coaching staff.

Vikings P Britton Colquitt overlapped in Cleveland with Cowboys receivers coach Adam Henry in 2018.

Minnesota assistant offensive line coach Phil Rauscher worked with Dallas defensive line coach Jim Tomsula in Washington the past two seasons.

College Connections

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook and Cowboys T Cameron Erving at Florida State

Minnesota LBs Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr with Dallas DT Eli Ankou at UCLA

Vikings DE Ifeadi Odenigbo and Cowboys P Hunter Niswander at Northwestern

Minnesota G Dru Samia at Oklahoma with Dallas DT Neville Gallimore, WR CeeDee Lamb and Parker

Vikings DE D.J. Wonnum and Cowboys RB Rico Dowdle at South Carolina

Minnesota DE Jalyn Holmes with Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott and WR Noah Brown at Ohio State

Vikings special teamer Dan Chisena and Cowboys G Connor McGovern at Penn State

Minnesota TE Irv Smith, Jr., and Dallas CB Trevon Diggs at Alabama

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph and S Harrison Smith at Notre Dame with Cowboys G Zack Martin

Minnesota WR Bisi Johnson and Dallas WR Michael Gallup at Colorado State

Vikings RB Alexander Mattison at Boise State with Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch, S Darian Thompson and WR Cedrick Wilson

Minnesota LB Ryan Connelly and Dallas C Tyler Biadasz at Wisconsin

Vikings LB Hardy Nickerson and Cowboys WR Malik Turner at Illinois

Minnesota RB Ameer Abdullah and CB Chris Jones with Dallas DE Randy Gregory; Jones also with Dallas LB Luke Gifford at Nebraska

Vikings CBs Kris Boyd and Holton Hill [IR] at Texas with Cowboys G Connor Williams

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