With Stunning Dalvin Cook Update, Vikings Push Chips in Middle of Table
The Minnesota Vikings are really doing this.
Some 10 days after fearing the loss of Dalvin Cook for the remainder of the season, the Vikings halfback is emulating a piece of iron. News broke on Thursday morning – the same day the Vikings square off against the Pittsburgh Steelers – Cook is expected to play after rehabbing a torn labrum like a cyborg.
There was a reason head coach Mike Zimmer was more optimistic than the rest of the world on Cook’s prognosis. Amid the last week and a half, most folks believed the “wait and see” approach would be enacted with Cook, biding time to see if Minnesota could actually stay relevant and squirt into the playoffs.
Now, the Vikings are in desperation mode, required to win four out of the next five games (vs. PIT, at CHI, vs. LAR, at GB, vs. CHI) for postseason entry. If Minnesota can only win three of the next five, it will need serious losing endeavors from the 49ers, Eagles, and Washington Football Team.
In that regard, Minnesota is pushing chips in the middle of the table. A JoeEveryman fan can’t be sure how severe or painful Cook’s injury is, but if he’s giving it a go, writing on the wall suggests a last-gasp playoff push is the rationale. This is the era of player empowerment in sports, so the decision for Cook to play has to be driven by the player, approved by the medical staff, of course, and then welcomed back by the coaching staff.
The Vikings have endured self-inflicted wounds lately, losing to the 49ers and Lions in the last two weeks. Winning just one of those contests would’ve placed Zimmer’s team in the driver’s seat for obtaining the sixth or seventh seed in January’s postseason tournament. But victory was not on the agenda, playing poorly in the 2nd Half at San Francisco and embarrassingly collapsing in Detroit.
The Steelers game provides home cooking – and evidently an unforeseen tablespoon of Cook. Most reasonable fans believed Cook was strategically held out of the Lions game, tactically waiting to see if the playoffs were still in the purview. But even losing to the Lions didn’t taper the enthusiasm on Cook’s return. In fact, it appears the stinker in Detroit somehow emboldened Cook to return sooner, if that can be believed.
Cook, if the trend this afternoon and evening continues, will encounter a bad Steelers rush defense on Thursday night. Because the Steelers franchise has a spine calcified with a defensive reputation, folks always assume the Pittsburgh defense is formidable – no matter what. Well, that’s false in 2021. They sack the quarterback frequently – Pittsburgh leads the NFL in sacks – but much like the Vikings, they defend poorly everywhere else.
The Steelers defense isn’t good – and neither is the Vikings 2021 rendition. So, if the game is a low-scoring affair, 2021 statistics will be defied.
It is unclear how healthy Cook is heading into Week 13. But he’ll be damned if he isn’t giving it a whirl. The stakes involve the Vikings winning at least four of the next five games to reach the playoffs.
And apparently, Cook wants to be the man leading the charge on offense for the unlikely playoff push.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).