Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM

SNF - Vikings at Cowboys

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NFL Week 10 Sunday Night Football Betting Preview

Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys (NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET)

SNF Betting Results

It's hard to deny that last week's SNF game between the Patriots and Ravens had a playoff-like feel to it, as Baltimore was well prepared from the get-go and made a point to be the first NFL team to knock off New England since last December. More importantly though, that game cashed the 'over' play with relative ease, as it's now three straight weeks of essentially no doubt winners for this piece. You never want to get too cocky in your approach though as that's typically when the bounces start going against you.

Speaking of that, this week's SNF game features the Dallas Cowboys in prime time for the second straight week, as apparently the DB's on the Cowboys feel like their teammates on the special teams units need all the reps they can get. For someone like myself who was holding an 'under' ticket on MNF, to see that strip sack fumble scoop and score with less then 30 seconds was crushing. Had the Dallas DB simply fallen on the ball, it would have been one knee and the game was over.

Instead, he subjected his teammates (and himself) to run nearly the length of the field for the TD (and celebration) forced the extra point team to go out there and taken another hit, and the same with the kickoff team as well. Obviously it is what it is, but when you are on the wrong side of those bounces you think of things in that light and how the guy should have done something differently. But at the same time, him having a scoop and score TD in his stats – no matter the time of game – is something that can help him earn a few more dollars on a potential next contract so it's important to look at both sides of the coin, and as I like to say, “context matters.”

This week the Cowboys are back at home and hosting a Minnesota team that coughed up a late lead in KC last week. The Vikings have to still be having some buyer's remorse feelings with QB Kirk Cousins and his passing ability, but at 6-3 SU everything's still out in front of him. Can he and his teammates bounce back yet again – they are 2-0 SU and ATS when coming off a SU loss this year – or will the Cowboys keep on cashing tickets in their third straight prime time appearance?

Total Talk

This number has held steady at it's opening status of 48 all week, and to me, there isn't really a discernible way to approach this total from either perspective. Yes, going 'over' the total has worked out for these SNF games the past two weeks after the run of 'unders' we had to start the year, but that also doesn't mean we are going to get a nice streak of 'overs' going forward either.

And while the scoop and score late TD by Dallas last week was painful for 'under' bettors like myself, truth be told the 'over' in that game was the right side to be on. There were missed FG's early, both teams settled for too many FG's (especially New York) early, and it really was an up-and-down game for the entirety. Obviously Minnesota's defense brings much more resistance to this game then what the Giants defense has, and you've got to take that into consideration, but with Dallas putting up 37 points in consecutive weeks, do they really cool off that much? Yes, those point totals by the Cowboys were largely aided by turnovers and that's unlikely to continue at a similar pace, and coming off two consecutive division games should dull the intensity from the Dallas perspective, but both sides have cashed 'over' tickets in three of their last four games respectively as well.

Generally speaking, when both sides are coming off the same total result like Minnesota and Dallas are with 'overs' this week, I do like to look the other way, and if forced to make a play on this total, it would be on the low side of this total. And while it's never good to let past results creep into influencing your future bets, there probably is some residue left on my brain from the way last week's 'under' in the Dallas game finished in terms of me wanting to pull the trigger on it again this week. That would be the only way I'd look on this total, but sometimes a “bet saved is as good as money made,” and passing on this total is the end result.

Side Spiel

Line Movements

Just like the total, this point spread has held steady at it's original number of Dallas (-3) for the majority of the week. You do tend to hear/read more support for the Vikings as there are plenty in the industry who like to quote Minnesota's ATS record in the Mike Zimmer era (57-34-1 ATS) and as an underdog (22-14 ATS). Both of those numbers sit at over a 60% cash rate and that's definitely better then good in this business. Zimmer's Vikings have not failed to cover the number three times in a row during the regular season since late-October through early-November of 2016, and coming off two failed covers, that does appear to make sense to some degree here.

Adding support to that argument is the case that Dallas is off of two consecutive division games which is always theorized as a potential 'letdown' spot, and Dallas just continues to have plenty of detractors in general. A very soft schedule plays into that as the only winning teams currently that they've faced this year are New Orleans, Green Bay, and Philly, and the Cowboys went 1-2 SU and ATS in those games respectively. So that's the general consensus it seems in the market this week that Dallas is in another great spot to be bet against, but I'm not so sure that's the case.

For one, while those same Zimmer supporters are likely to fall on the side of ripping/questioning Dallas HC Jason Garrett's skills at his job – which at times do deserve to be questioned – I believe they are missing a huge chunk of the bigger picture in terms of how they view Zimmer. That's because for years I've always had a tough time backing any coach that comes from the Marvin Lewis coaching tree.

Lewis was a guy in Cincinnati who was as predictable as they come in offensive play calling – run or take a deep shot on 1st down, run on 2nd down, and then throw it over the middle to possession receiver on 3rd and medium/long – and always took the conservative approach when in doubt. It's why his Bengals teams were almost always doomed to mediocrity, and those coaches that stem from his coaching tree have similar tendencies. Minnesota falls right into that category this year, as they are so reliant on the success of RB like Dalvin Cook – who the Chiefs essentially sold out to stop last week.

For whatever reason, Marvin Lewis disciples tend to always be great interviewers in that they get the head coaching jobs, but turn out to be suspect head coaches to say the least. The list of coaches on Marvin's coaching tree includes the already fired Jay Gruden (Washington), Hue Jackson, Vance Joseph, Mike Zimmer, and the Vikings head coach before Zimmer in Leslie Frazier.

I'm not sure why the Vikings kept going back to the Bengals coordinator well, but here they are, and like all those years where Marvin kept his Bengals job for far too long (he should have been let go amid the early stages of all those consecutive playoff losses), Zimmer's done just enough in Minnesota to keep his job for another year seemingly every season so far.

Zimmer's doing his best to break away from this disastrous coaching tree with those long term ATS results, and from a market perspective you can't argue with those long term numbers. But is ATS record when catching 3 points or less is 0-4 SU and ATS since the beginning of last year – the start of the Kirk Cousins era - as just like his mentor Marvin Lewis, he can't win the 'big' or close games.

Dallas may have their own issues with Garrett and what he brings to the table, but context always matters, and everyone just prefers to overlook Zimmer and the Vikings recent history in these projected close games to opt for the overall ATS results as support. Remember, during those playoff seasons for Marvin Lewis' Bengals, Cincinnati always took care of business against the teams they should have, and could never get over the hump against equal or better competition like the Steelers, Ravens, Colts, Chargers etc. And you could say that's been the case for all of those coaches that stem from the Lewis coaching tree. Win the games you are supposed to, and choke in the games that are coin flips.

In the end, Zimmer is no different, and Minnesota ranks 31st in the league in passing completions per game (19.3). The only team that's worse then that are the Washington Redskins, who wouldn't you know it, started the year with the aforementioned Lewis disciple Jay Gruden. Are you starting to see the pattern yet?

Final Thoughts

Expressions like “the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree” always have some element of truth to them even when misapplied. That's how I view Mike Zimmer and his coaching prowess, and I just don't see how you can back the Vikings against any team that's got a winning record if they aren't catching upwards of +4.5 points or more. Bettors will comment on how soft the Cowboys schedule has been, but when Minnesota's got wins over Atlanta, Oakland, NY Giants, Philly, Detroit, and Washington, how much better is there resume really? My thoughts on Philly were well laid out a few weeks ago when Dallas last had a SNF game, and every other team there has a losing (or .500) record currently as well.

I don't know what it is about the Cowboys this year in that it's seemingly impossible for them to earn a level of respect from the markets they definitely deserve. Maybe it's that loss to the Jets that still sticks out in everyone's mind that's leaving plenty of residue on their thought process in terms of even considering backing the Cowboys. Who knows? But I'll gladly take advantage of that perception when it fits.

But just like two weeks ago when the Cowboys were laying this number at home against the Eagles, this number against the Vikings is still rather short. The Cowboys defense should be able to gear up to eliminate RB Dalvin Cook from finding significant success like the Chiefs did, and go on to win this game with relative ease like they did vs Philly. Maybe then we will start to see Dallas getting some respect from more in this industry going forward.

Best Bet: Cowboys -3

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