Dalvin Cook has been at the heart of a Minnesota Vikings midseason turnaround, the running back putting up a combined 478 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns in back-to-back wins.
The 3-5 Vikings look to make that three wins on the bounce when they face the 5-4 Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football – live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.20am, Tuesday – and throw themselves well and truly into the playoff mix.
And Pro Football Talk‘s Mike Florio, a big Vikings fan, believes that Cook could even be in the MVP conversation if he manages to carry Minnesota – who started the season 1-5 – into the playoffs.
The last non-quarterback to win the league MVP award was a Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson in 2012 when he rushed for 2,097 yards, and Cook (858 yards) currently eclipses Peterson’s mark (652) after playing the same number of games.
“What Cook is doing is spectacular,” said Florio. “226 yards from scrimmage against the Packers, 252 against the Lions, six touchdowns.
“He is only the third guy in NFL history to have 225 or more yards from scrimmage and two TDs or more in consecutive weeks, joining Jim Brown and Deuce McAllister.
“He also matched Emmitt Smith in having at least one rushing touchdown in each on his first seven games of a season – the only two to have ever done that. He has 12 rushing TDs in seven games, third all-time for the first seven games of a season.
“I also think back to Adrian Peterson in 2012 when he made that late, second-half push and just started going crazy – and ultimately won the MVP award.
“We’re looking at all of these quarterbacks as MVP candidates but let’s not rule out this guy. They never give you a definition of what it means to be MVP, but Cook clearly is the most valuable player on the Vikings as, without him, they’d be 1-7 or 0-8.
“The first two games of the season, the Vikings were trying to find their way offensively, but they’ve locked in on Cook after Week Two, when they gave the [Tennessee] Titans everything they could handle.
“When you look at the schedule, they could be 7-5, after starting 1-5, and Cook is the reason – he has been spectacular.”
Former NFL quarterback Chris Simms agreed with his PFT co-host, adding that Minnesota’s offensive scheme from coordinator Gary Kubiak plays to Cook’s special talents.
“He’s a special football player; they’ve got a chance to go on a run,” Simms said. “It’s amazing first of all how talented he is, and it shows the run-game intelligence and coaching of Gary Kubiak once again. He is amazing that way.
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“He continues, week after week, to find these ways and these different schemes to crack the code. Every defence knows the first thing they have to do is stop Dalvin Cook, but it doesn’t matter, he finds ways to do it.
“And when they get that run game going, that’s when Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and the play-action passes come alive – that’s when they’ve got you.
“But, man is Cook something to watch. His acceleration through the hole is as good as anybody in football, and he has the long speed to outrun people too. It’s rare to have that type of acceleration and they speed to sustain it on a 70-yard touchdown.
“Minnesota are hanging tough under [head coach] Mike Zimmer. I’ve got a lot of respect for them; they’ve had some tough loses but here they are competitive at 3-5.”
Watch Dalvin Cook and the Minnesota Vikings at the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.20am on Tuesday morning.
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