FOX NFL Game of the Week: Vikings

Despite a 4-4 record, the Cowboys sit atop the NFC East division. Dallas will be looking to widen its lead against a desperate Minnesota Vikings squad hoping to revitalize its season with a strong second half. This NFC battle serves as our FOX NFL Game of the Week.

Five Things to Watch: Minnesota Vikings

Click here for the Dallas Cowboys preview.

Spotlight: Minnesota defense

Minnesota’s quarterbacks have garnered the brunt of criticism for the squad’s 1-6 record, and that group certainly warrants condemnation. What has gone unscathed is the Vikings defense. Harrison Smith’s injury and Antoine Winfield’s retirement have decimated the secondary, evidenced in the admission of 287.9 yards per contest (fourth-worst in the NFL). The rush resistance hasn’t been much better, giving up 113.7 yards per game (21st). These figures make it easy to understand how the Vikings are allowing 32.1 points per outing, third-worst in the league. If Minnesota hopes on salvaging its season, its defense will need to provide some semblance of fight.

Matchup watch: Christian Ponder vs. Dallas secondary

Familiar with the irresistible force paradox? You know, “What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force?” Yeah, this matchup is the opposite of that.

Ponder’s troubles are well documented, yet with Josh Freeman dealing with a concussion and Matt Cassel struggling with, um, being Matt Cassel, Ponder will take the reins for Minnesota on Sunday. Across the line will be a Dallas defense surrendering the most pass yards (315.4) and total yards (422.5), one whose biggest star (DeMarcus Ware) will likely be on the sidelines.

As always, the Vikings will try to utilize Adrian Peterson as their offensive promoter, but Dallas will feature eight, possibly nine defenders in the box, daring Ponder to take aim. Whichever side blinks first will likely lose this contest.

Speaking of AP…

Can we please get Peterson a viable quarterback?

Watching AP work with the Ponder/Cassel/Freeman trifecta from QB hell is reminiscent of Mila Kunis dating Macaulay Culkin. Cat deserves better. We don’t necessarily need to instill a good arm, just one that prevents adversaries from revolving their entire game plan around stopping the Minnesota back, like a Jay Cutler or Andy Dalton. Forget the health-care nonsense; getting AP on a contender before his prime washes out should be our national concern.

Why are the Vikings so bad this year?

Valid question, given most of the integral components, aside from Winfield and Smith, remain from a team that made the playoffs in 2012. The armchair analysis could point to Peterson’s decreased output, but that would be a misnomer, as AP didn’t get hot until the second half of the fall. And as bad as the quarterback performance has been, it wasn’t like Ponder was a paragon of consistency last season.

So what’s the spur for this precipitous downfall? Two factors – Karma and KARMA. Lessons to be learned:

1. Don’t mess with Aaron Rodgers.

2. Never trust a man named “Zygi.”

The Vikings win if…

Ponder minimizes his mistakes, Peterson goes nuts for 200-plus yards, Tony Romo thinks it’s a playoff game…

The Vikings aren’t far off from respectability, but a turnaround won’t start this week. Expect Dallas to come out on top:

Prediction: Cowboys 34, Vikings 24

Joel Beall is a writer for and He lives with a Golden Tee machine and a jump shot that’s currently broken. Reach Joel on Twitter @FOXSportsBeall.