Dalvin Cook will be out, so can the Vikings offense dish a win without him?
Dalvin Cook was on a tear to begin his 2020 campaign. So, naturally, the football gods couldn’t enjoy seeing the one constant of the Minnesota Vikings offense be successful, forcing him to suffer a groin injury in the 27-26 loss to the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday.
The Vikings officially announced on Friday that Cook will be ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. After being sidelined at practice this week, Mike Zimmer won’t take any chances further causing harm to the Pro Bowl runner and ultimately risking to throw away the season.
One can look at the glass as half-empty or half-full. If you’re part of the half-empty party, you likely have Cook as one of your starting running backs in fantasy and Week 6 is a “prove it” week in your league to stay alive.
Sorry, but look at the glass half-full people: Cook sitting out saves both fantasy and the Vikings’ overall season, while playing him could lead to the end of both.
Dalvin Cook sitting out on Sunday is a good thing
Minnesota’s 1-5 start is based on inconsistencies with Kirk Cousins and a defense that’s looking to rebound from a free-agent frenzy. Justin Jefferson’s addition immediately looked promising as Stefon Diggs’ replacement for the passing game. Through five games, the LSU product has tallied 19 catches for 371 yards and a touchdown while averaging 19.1 yards per catch.
But back to Cousins, who has become the protagonist of this sad tale up north.
After paying him another extension, Rick Spielman might be feeling buyer’s remorse and looking for an out. Cousins’ pocket-passing sets look worse than some pee-wee teams on Saturdays, while his QBR and passer rating rank near the bottom for starting quarterbacks.
The focus should be on Alexander Mattison, who will likely see the most carries Sunday in Cook’s absence, but this really is more on Cousins. With an average offensive line, quality weapons and an established run game, the Vikings should be ranked near the top of every offensive category. Instead, they’re 24th in passing yards per game, 21st in completion rating and 19th in passing touchdowns.
Mattison, the second-year player out of Boise State, will hope to build off a career-best 112-yard performance last weekend in replacement of Cook. If he doesn’t, it’s understandable against the Falcons’ defensive front. Atlanta currently ranks in the top half of rushing yards per carry, yards per game, rushing touchdowns allowed and forced fumbles.
“I guess the best compliment I can give Matt is that when Dalvin leaves the game, I don’t change my mindset at all,” Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “I mean he’s a fine, young player, is playing behind a very established player in this league, so he’s got a great example in front of him. Matt is a three-down player.”
Even if Cook were to play, there’s no telling if his stat line would even come close to the ones that made him the league-leader in rushing yards. Instead, he could get hurt, be forced to the injured reserved and maybe never step on the field again for the season. And with a bye week coming in Week 7, the Vikings will have plenty to consider while hoping to get healthy along the way.
Instead, this game will focus on the concerns of Cousins. In back-to-back weeks, the Vikings will face the two statistically worst passing defenses in the NFL. Last week against a Seattle team that allows an average of 370 passing yards per game, the former $84 million man threw just 249 and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Atlanta is currently slightly better, allowing an average of 335 yards per game and nearly 8.5 yards per catch.
If Cousins struggles again, Vikings fans can pack up and really begin to blow the “Tank for Trevor” horn. As for Cook, who signed a five-year, $63 million extension this offseason, he’s earned a two-week vacation after figuratively and literally carrying Minnesota this far into the season.
Cook’s absence shouldn’t change the outcome of Sunday; instead, Cousin’s absence to connect with targets will.