Vikings vs. Chiefs: Kirk Cousins is red hot and other things to know

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 20: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings watches the replay during the first quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 20: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings watches the replay during the first quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – OCTOBER 24: Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball for a first down in the second half against the Washington Redskins at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 24, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Washington Redskins 19-9.(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) /

Dalvin Cook is one of the most dynamic running backs in the league

Dalvin Cook has had a tough road to becoming a productive NFL running back. An absolute force at Florida State, with nearly 5,300 all-purpose yards and 48 touchdowns in three seasons, Cook was the third running back off the board behind only Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey.

While he would have every opportunity to be the Vikings premier back, he tore his ACL his rookie season and struggled with hamstring issues his sophomore season. Due to these injuries, he’d miss more games than he would play in his first two years. Questions about his durability at the game’s most physical position made most question if he could ever justify the high pick the Vikings spent on him.

This year for Cook has been an aberration from his first two seasons. Not only has he played in every single game, he’s arguably been the focal point of the league’s third best rushing attack. Through eight games he leads the league in rushing with 823 yards, averaging an impressive 103 yards per game. He also leads the league in rushing touchdowns and has added 293 yards receiving. He’s on pace for 2,232 yards from scrimmage, which would rank 17th all time, and 18 total touchdowns.

The Chies struggled mightily against Aaron Jones last Sunday, who had by far his best game of the season with 226 total yards and two touchdowns. They will have their work cut out for them against arguably a better running back in Dalvin Cook.

The Vikings have an elite receiving corp

The Chiefs seem to have a penchant this year for facing teams with elite receiving corps. The last three games they played teams with good to great receiving corps, and Sunday’s contest doesn’t get any easier. The Vikings have arguably one of the top five receiving corps in the entire league.

One player that seems to be consistently overlooked on the national stage is Stefon Diggs. I don’t mean that the national pundits wouldn’t list him as a top-10 receiver if you asked them, I just mean he doesn’t seem to get the national attention that some other receivers including his teammate Adam Thielen do. Make no mistake, Stefon Diggs is one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL.

Through the first eight games Diggs is fourth in receiving yards with 706 yards, only trailing the first place wide receiver Michael Thomas by 169 yards. This may seem like a lot, but when you consider that Diggs has 36 less catches on 40 less targets the receiving yards disparity is meaningless.

Diggs has a penchant for the big play, something that could force the Chiefs to play with two safeties deep more than they have the last two games and open up the run game for Cook and the Vikings. Diggs is fourth in the league in yards per reception and second in the league in receptions over 20 yards. He’s the consummate deep threat, and he will stretch the field and stress the back end of the Chiefs defense on Sunday.

Unfortunately for Chiefs defensive backs, and linebackers for that matter, Diggs is by no means their only receiving threat. Adam Thielen had a pretty slow start to the season, as did most on the Vikings offense, but he’s a dangerous receiver nonetheless. In the last three seasons he’s been the Vikings most productive receiver with an average of 91 receptions for 1,205 yards and six touchdowns.

Dalvin Cook also happens to be a receiving threat. He’s firmly entrenched as Cousins’ third option and is on pace to set personal bests in both receptions, with 58, and receiving yards with 586. With how much the Chiefs linebackers have struggled in coverage against good receiving backs, Cooks impact will be a challenge for Spagnuolo to solve.

I haven’t even mentioned nine-year veteran, two-time Pro Bowler, and massive red zone threat Kyle Rudolph. He’s not far removed from a season where he caught 83 catches for 840 yards and seven touchdowns, and is still a threat to go off at any point if a defense decides to focus on Diggs, Thielen or Cook. Simply put, this weeks defensive game plan is going to have to be a good one to slow this offense down.