Dallas Cowboys: Vikings are carbon copy of defeated Ravens

Nov 20, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs the ball in the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

When is the last time the streaking Dallas Cowboys faced an opponent with an elite defense and an offense ranked in the 20’s?

Short term memory will recall this took place 11 days ago as the Cowboys knocked off the Baltimore Ravens 27-17.

The similarities between Minnesota and Baltimore are astounding on many levels.

The 5-5 Ravens entered Dallas tied with Pittsburgh for the AFC North lead. They were only a few weeks removed from four straight losses.

The 6-5 Vikings host the Cowboys tonight one game behind NFC North leader Detroit. Minnesota is also two weeks beyond a 4-game losing streak.

Minnesota has playoff hopes, is highly motivated to win, and wishes to keep pace in their division. The Ravens had the same sentiments 11 days ago.

Fortunately Dallas is equally fueled with ambition. Winning their next two games would secure the NFC East title and a home playoff game.

Nov 20, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Cole Beasely (11) celebrates his second quarter touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DOMINANT DEFENSES EXCITE COWBOYS

Like Baltimore, Minnesota enters the Dallas game with a similar record and playoff motivations. Yet identity and production link them far beyond the surface.

Both teams field defenses among the NFL’s four best. Below are their numbers along with NFL ranking in parenthesis.

POINTS PER GAME
Vikings:  17.5 (2)
Ravens:  18.3 (4)
YARDS (TOTAL – RUSHING – PASSING) PER GAME
Vikings:  307.0 (3) – 100.2 (14) – 206.8 (4)
Ravens:  297.8 (2) – 74.9 (1) – 222.9 (6)
TOTAL INT’S – SACKS – FUMBLES
Vikings:  12 (3) – 28 (7) – 8 (7)
Ravens:  11 (4) – 26 (11) – 8 (7)
AVERAGE DRIVE (TIME – YARDS – POINTS)
Vikings:  2:22 (1) – 24.4 yards (1) – 1.47 points (1)
Ravens:  2:40 (14) – 27.6 yards (5) – 1.52 points (3)

Both teams play a stingy, physical brand of defense among the league’s best.

Minnesota lags behind Baltimore in run defense and opponent’s time per drive. Running well and holding the ball is the Cowboys’ weapon of choice.

Ezekiel Elliott should expose the bendable Vikings’ run defense. Falling three yards shy against the Ravens, the NFL’s top rusher will break 100 tonight.

Nov 20, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Terrance West (28) runs with the ball against Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee (50) and defensive tackle Maliek Collins (96) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

LAGGING OFFENSES WILL SUFFER SAME FATE

The Vikings and Ravens appear related on defense, yet when it comes to offensive scoring they are identically flawed.

Each offense struggles to capitalize on efforts by their solid defense. Dallas put the clamps on Baltimore limiting them to 17 points.

POINTS PER GAME
Vikings:  19.8 (24)
Ravens:  19.8 (24)
YARDS (TOTAL – RUSHING – PASSING) PER GAME
Vikings:  294.9 (32) – 71.1 (32) – 223.8 (24)
Ravens:  334.2 (23) – 87.8 (28) – 246.4 (18)
TOTAL INT’S – SACKS – FUMBLES
Vikings:  3 (3) – 26 (18) –  5 (9)
Ravens:  10 (21) – 23 (12) – 5 (9)
AVERAGE DRIVE (TIME – YARDS – POINTS)
Vikings:  2:55 (5) – 27.7 yards (26) – 1.52 points (27)
Ravens:  2:36 (23) – 27.7 yards (26) – 1.50 points (28)

Both offenses have scored exactly 218 points, 98 less than the Cowboys.

The Ravens gain more yardage by ground and air than the Vikings. Though Minnesota has 7 fewer turnovers (8), one more than Dallas hands over.

Without a rushing threat to occupy their 3rd ranked run defense, Dallas will be able to lend coverage help to the back end.

Extra use of nickel and dime packages will fuel Dallas’ return to stingy defense.

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