The Minnesota Vikings and their fans haven’t had much to be happy about in the 2020 NFL season. Despite two impressive wins in-a-row, both against divisional opponents, the Vikings sit at 3-5 and have a ton of work to do to even sniff a playoff spot.
In a year filled, so far, with disappointments and either heartbreaking losses to good teams or blowouts against bad teams, Vikings fans have had one bright spot to turn to through it all. Dalvin Cook is competing with all the best players in the league for a shot at the MVP award.
Dalvin Cook’s Case for MVP
When the Minnesota Vikings handed Dalvin Cook a five-year, $63 million contract this off-season, the response was mixed. Fans love his ability to make big plays happen, but there were, and still are, underlying health questions.
One thing that was harped on by many fans and writers was that “good running backs are a dime a dozen in the NFL.” Well, I’m here to say that Dalvin Cooks are not a dime a dozen, and we’ve really seen that in his last two games.
Against the Green Bay Packers, at Lambeau, Cook put the team on his back and racked up 226 total yards (163 rushing, 63 receiving), 30 carries, and four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving.) The only other Vikings to ever score four touchdowns in a game are ring of honor members Chuck Foreman and Ahmad Rashad. Those two games came in 1975 and 1979, respectively. He also is the only player in NFL history to 200 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns against the Packers at Lambeau Field.
Then, with the current Vikings all-time leading rusher and last running back to win MVP, Adrian Peterson, on the Detroit Lions sideline, Cook went off again. Against Detroit’s defense, Cook collected a career best 206 rushing yards, his first 200 yard rushing game, two rushing touchdowns, and additional 46 receiving yards.
Recency bias aside, Cook has been dominating the NFL this entire season. Despite missing one game due to injury, he leads the NFL in rushing yards (858) and rushing touchdowns (12). Cook is also only five yards behind Alvin Kamara for the NFL lead in yards from scrimmage, where Cook has 1031 and Kamara has 1036. Cook also has a rushing touchdown in seven straight games to open this season.
Projecting Cook’s numbers going forward, if he maintains his current pace and stays healthy, he will end 2020 with 1,838 rushing yards, 25 rushing touchdowns, 370 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. If Cook misses one game, like he did in the first half of this season, he will end with a slightly less impressive total of 1,716 rushing yards, 24 rushing touchdowns and 356 receiving yards.
Assuming these numbers (and his health) hold, that would give Cook 2,208 yards from scrimmage, putting him at the 25th most of all-time just behind Eric Dickerson’s 1983 campaign. He would also have 28 total touchdowns, which would tie Shaun Alexander for the second most in a single season. He would also nab the 18th highest total rushing yards in an NFL season.
It’s still going to be hard to beat out the bevy of NFL quarterbacks vying for the MVP trophy. Cook almost certainly has to up his numbers to have a chance. Peterson had to almost break a rushing record that has now stood for nearly 40 years to win MVP in 2012. Peterson also had just come off of a season where he had a gruesome ACL tear and nobody knew whether he would be the same again.
Cook doesn’t have that emotion behind his season. Sure, he’s a couple years removed from a similar injury, but he’s also not currently carrying the entire Vikings team into the playoffs like Peterson did. Although, if the Vikings can nab a few more wins, perhaps he could.
Even if he pulls Minnesota to the playoffs, Cook will need to break or tie one of the three records that he is close to to lockdown the MVP. He has the best shot at the touchdown record if he keeps up his relentless pace, but if he peppers in a few more 200 yard rushing games, maybe he’ll hold Dickerson’s rushing record where AP fell short.