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Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings Odds & Game Pick (2021)

by October 29, 2021
Kirk Cousins

The spread for Sunday night’s clash between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings has seen a ton of movement throughout the week, and it’s due to some concern over arguably the most important player in the game.

With Dak Prescott’s status for Sunday night in doubt, bettors have flipped this line on its head. Is it too much of an overreaction? Can we actually bet on Kirk Cousins in primetime? Let’s break down this critical game.

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  • Opening line: Dallas -1.5
  • Current line: Minnesota -3
  • Total: 52.5

Dak’s status throws spread into flux

It’s rare for a spread to move so sharply in one direction in just a few days, unless a star quarterback’s status is suddenly in doubt.

Despite having a bye week to rest, Dak Prescott’s status for Sunday is up in the air. Coach Mike McCarthy hinted that the Cowboys may take a patient approach in regards to Prescott’s calf injury. But then Jerry Jones spoke and hinted that Prescott might be good to go.

“I’d like to think Dak can go and will think that,” Jones told the Dallas Morning News. We’ll see how things work at practice, but I’d say things are looking good right now about Dak.” 

Right now, bettors are bracing for Prescott to be out, as the spread has flipped 4.5 points while the total has dropped from a high of 55 points to 52.5 points. If Prescott can’t go, Cooper Rush will start in his place. Rush, a 27-year-old Central Michigan product, has thrown three passes during the regular season in his career.

Prescott’s injury puts a damper on what’s been an excellent season for the Cowboys thus far. Dallas has rattled off five straight wins since losing the season opener to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And Dallas’ hot start seems legit. The Cowboys rank third in offensive DVOA and 10th in defensive DVOA.

With a healthy Prescott, Dallas’ balanced offense is incredibly hard to stop. They’ve got a strong tailback duo in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb make up one of the league’s best receiving tandems, and Michael Gallup could be back from injury soon. Tight end Dalton Schultz has emerged. And an offensive line that was much maligned in 2020 has bounced back in a big way. The Cowboys lead the league in adjusted line yards and have an adjusted sack rate of just 4.5%.

Defensively, the emergence of Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons has been huge in offsetting the loss of DeMarcus Lawrence. However, Dallas’ defense could be due for regression in one area: turnovers. The Cowboys have 14 takeaways in just six games, a rate that’s likely unsustainable. Dan Quinn’s done a wonderful job moving away from strictly Cover 3 principles and mixing up defensive looks, but I still need to see more before fully buying into this defense as elite.

Vikings are better than their record suggests

If not for a bad call on a Dalvin Cook fumble in Week 1 and a missed chip shot field goal in Week 2, the Minnesota Vikings could easily be 5-1. Now I know, almost doesn’t matter in the NFL. But I still think this Minnesota team is better than a .500 team.

Kirk Cousins has played pretty well this season and has only two interceptions on the season. The advanced analytics agree, as Minnesota ranks 12th in offensive DVOA and sixth in pass defense DVOA. It helps that he’s gotten great protection from an offensive line that has the second-best adjusted sack rate in the league.

When everyone’s healthy, Minnesota’s offense has the makings to be potent. Justin Jefferson is a star. Adam Thielen is as reliable as they come, especially in the red zone. And K.J. Osborn has emerged as a nice tertiary weapon. The problem is star running back Dalvin Cook has missed time throughout the early portion of the season. Alexander Mattison has shouldered the load well in Cook’s absence. But Minnesota’s 28th ranking in rushing DVOA indicates that Cook’s absence is still being felt.

Defensively, coach Mike Zimmer has orchestrated an impressive turnaround. A unit that finished the 2020 season 18th in defensive DVOA now ranks sixth. The Vikings defense excels at getting to the passer, as Minnesota has an adjusted sack rate of 8.6%, the second-highest mark in the league. Defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen are balling out, and have 10 sacks combined on the year.

But Minnesota’s fatal flaw defensively is against the run. The Vikings rank 28th in run defense DVOA. They rank dead last in adjusted line yards allowed defensively and have the second-lowest stuff rate in the league at 10%. That’s a glaring concern against the Cowboys offense, and something Zimmer must emphasize in this contest.

Bottom Line

Making a bet on this game right now solely hinges on whether you think Prescott will play or not.

  • If you want to bet Dallas and think Prescott will play, bet this number now.
  • If you want to bet Minnesota and think Prescott will play, then wait.

The same goes for if Prescott doesn’t play.

  • Bet Minnesota now and wait to bet on Dallas if you think Dak will be held out.

For what it’s worth, I took Minnesota at +2.5 earlier in the week, and believe they’ll win the game whether Prescott plays or not. The Cowboys are a really good team, but so are the Vikings. And I expect Dallas to experience some turnover regression, which is something they’ve relied heavily on this season.

The pick: See the bullet points above, but I like the Vikings to win and love them as an underdog should Prescott play.

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Matt Barbato is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato.

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