Dalvin Cook will not play on Sunday, which means the value of Alexander Mattison will be realized.
The Vikings will realize Mattison’s value because he’s proven to be a reliable No. 1 back, if only for a short time in Cook’s stead. He did rush for 100 yards on 20 carries last week when Cook was lost mid-game.
Fantasy owners wise enough to draft Mattison given his flashes a season ago and Cook’s injury history will realize his value because he’ll be in starting lineups in nearly every league.
But Mattison isn’t the only one who needs to add value on Sunday. While Cook’s absence creates an opportunity for Mattison to step in, it also creates a need for two other members of the Vikings offense to step up. Those two players are QB Kirk Cousins and WR Adam Thielen.
The Vikings won’t abandon the run game. Establishing the run is something every NFL team wants to do, but it’s something head coach Mike Zimmer demands of his offense. Assuming the game doesn’t go left-handed, Mattison will get his fair share of carries. But Mattison isn’t Cook, and therefore Cousins and his pass catchers must overperform in the absence of Cook, the engine of the Vikings offense.
The good news for Vikings Nation is Cousins and Thielen are proven producers who will relish in this opportunity. It’s not like the Vikings are hoping for something that’s never happened. The bad news is the Falcons can focus in on the Cousins-to-Thielen connection without having to worry about one of the NFL’s best backs running up and down the field on them.
Atlanta’s pass rush is weak (seven sacks, tied for third-fewest) and their pass defense is leaky (No. 31 in yards/game allowed). The Vikings are playing in the comfy confines of U.S. Bank Stadium. And offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will have a bit more license than usual to air it out.
It may be a long day for Atlanta’s secondary.
ATS, SU and TOTALS
Each week in this space, we’ll keep track (and make fun) of my favorite gambling angles on the NFL docket, for those of you lucky enough to reside in a state where sports betting is legal. So, enjoy this foray into PA online gambling, Vikings fans!
We’ll track five of my selections against the spread (ATS), five totals (over/under total points) and then every matchup straight up (SU).
STRAIGHT UP (48-29)
TEN, IND, MIN, NE, WAS, PHI, PIT, CHI, JAX, MIA, GB, LAR, KC, DAL
POWER RANKINGS – Most Irreplaceable Non-QBs in the NFL
The impetus behind this week’s Power Rankings subject is that both Dalvin Cook and Julio Jones may be out this week for the Vikings and Falcons, respectively. Before you skewer me for this list, just keep in mind that this is not essentially a list of the Top 5 non-QBs in the NFL. This is a list of players who when not available to their teams are missed the most because of how much they’re relied on by their team. As an example, Davante Adams is not on this list. He may be a better player than someone on this list, but because his QB is Aaron Rodgers his team can survive his absence better than, say, the Saints can survive without Michael Thomas.
5. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots
I almost left him off this list because his coach is Bill Belichick and I don’t know if there’s a coach in the League more capable of overcoming the loss of a key player. But Gilmore is just too good and his presence affords Belichick so much flexibility that he needs to be on this list.
4. Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings
It’s interesting that Cook is part of the reason for this being a power rankings subject yet it’s one of Cook’s teammates who actually makes the list and not Cook himself. The Vikings pass rush has been lacking in 2020, which is a stark contrast to what we’re used to seeing from Mike Zimmer’s group. It’s not surprising, though, considering both of last year’s starting DEs – Hunter and Everson Griffen – are not in the lineup. Griffen is in Dallas and Hunter is out with an injury.
3. David Bakhtiari, LT, Green Bay Packers
I love Aaron Rodgers’ ability to improvise and make something happen on the move, but I love Rodgers even more when he has time and is in the pocket. And Rodgers is not R-E-L-A-X-I-N-G in the pocket at all when Bakhtiari is out of the lineup. For my money, Bakhtiari is the best LT in the game.
2. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys | Saquon Barkley, RB, NY Giants
Tony Pollard may be a capable back, but in Elliott’s shadow it’s hard to know for sure. What we do know for sure is that a Cowboys offense without Elliott would be only a shell of itself. What’s happening with the Giants may be the perfect case study for what would happen to the Cowboys without Elliott, especially now that Dallas would also be without QB Dak Prescott.
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
It’s not just the production Henry provides relative to the rest of the offense or to what his replacement would be capable of. It’s his style of play…the physicality and attitude. And what that means to the Titans and the brand of football they play. He’s everything to that team.
Tweet of the Week
— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) October 13, 2020
I’m not a big book guy, so when I dive into one it has to be right. And this book hit me right. It’s a great mix of the light side of sports with some deep and heavy mathematics, odds and probability. It all adds up to a compelling read that challenges the way you look at decision making within the sports world. Get this book and read it!
Stat of the Week
Dalvin Cook has joined Mike Evans & Tyreek Hill as the NFL’s only players to score TDs in the first 5 games this season
Cook is the first Vikings player to accomplish this feat since HOF Randy Moss back in 2004#Vikings
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) October 12, 2020
I know I harped on the Vikings a lot – maybe too frequently – about getting Cook more touches earlier this season. But this is why. This is the type of player Cook is and this is what he means to the Vikings. Cook is the engine of the Vikings offense. The Vikings did a good job in drafting a RB the caliber of Mattison because when your offense is built around a RB, you better have a good backup in place. Even still, there’s a drop off from Cook to Mattison and it’s significant. Cousins and the passing game need to pick it up this week every bit as much as Mattison, as I wrote about to lead this week’s Mixtape