NFL News & Analysis

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott must "cross the threshold" to play Sunday vs. Minnesota Vikings

Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) reacts after running back Ezekiel Elliott (not pictured) scored a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was limited with a calf injury in his return to practice Wednesday after a well-timed bye week.

Prescott injured his calf on the final play of the Cowboys’ Week 6 win over the New England Patriots. Dallas plays the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8 after last week’s bye.

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Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday that Prescott responded well to Wednesday’s workload and that the team will take a similar approach Thursday.

“He’ll start with the rehab component, then get into the individual [drills], then we’ll see what he can do after that,” McCarthy said.

The Cowboys have not yet decided whether Prescott, whose 87.7 PFF passing grade ranks sixth among qualifying quarterbacks this season, will play Sunday in Minnesota.

“I think you take in the full week,” McCarthy told reporters. “Dak has a ton invested as far as his personal conditioning, and we trust the relationship between him and (associate athletic trainer/director of rehabilitation) Britt (Brown) to get across that threshold. That’s frankly where we stand.”

Prescott's comments make him sound legitimately questionable for Sunday's game.

“If it was my call and it was totally up to me, yes,” Prescott said. “But this is something that, I agree with the experts, I don't want to linger. I don't want this to be week after week, are we going through this?”

“Something I want to nip in the butt, make sure I'm healthy and ready to go so I don't think about it playing and we're not having these conversations past today,” he said.

Prescott also said he would definitely play if it was a playoff game.

“It'd be no question – 100% no question,” he said.

Week  PFF grade Rank
1 77.6 12 of 32
2 63.6 24 of 34
3 68.5 20 of 32
4 71.0 17 of 34
5 74.5 13 of 34
6 85.7 4 of 28

The line has moved some in the Vikings' direction from Dallas favored by 2.5 to now Minnesota favored by -2.5. While this five-point swing feels like a lot, it's actually not a significant move until it crosses the key number three.

Since 2015 (the introduction of the new extra-point rule), games with a total of 49 or more have landed on -2, -1, 0, 1, or 2 a combined 9% of the time, the same percentage of games that have landed on the home team winning by three points. Road teams win games by three points in such situations roughly 7% of the time. Nine percentage points does not fully capture how much an elite quarterback means to football teams.

For example, when Russell Wilson got injured on Thursday Night Football, Seattle's market-implied win probability the following week went from a lookahead number of ~54% to a closing number of about 32%, more than twice this implied move.

Dallas faces a tough matchup against a Vikings defense that has allowed the eighth-fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks this season. He should be in starting lineups as the seventh-best projection for the week, but he will have a hard time being a top-five quarterback. He is QB7 this week, according to PFF's Week 8 consensus fantasy football rankings.

PFF injury analyst Mario Pilato believes that Prescott is suffering from a Grade 1 calf strain, which would put his return-to-play timeline between one and three weeks.

PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

“They need to be cautious with Dak because research shows the reinjury rate is 16%,” Pilato noted. “Dallas is likely to carry multiple QBs in case he aggravates the injury. It is a tricky injury to deal with as the muscle is used every time you push off.”

Cooper Rush is currently QB2 on the Dallas depth chart but has played just 29 career snaps and earned a 68.2 PFF grade since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2017. Will Grier, a 2019 third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, is the Cowboys’ third-stringer. Ben DiNucci, who earned a 25.6 overall grade in three games last season, is on Dallas’ practice squad.

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