2019 NFL Power Rankings:
No. 12 Minnesota Vikings
We've been waiting for more than a glimpse of healthy Dalvin Cook for two years. Everybody and their mama knew if Cook maintained a clean bill of health, he would emerge as one of the league's most dynamic tailbacks. The Miami boy from the talent-laden Pork-N-Beans projects -- the home of Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and Trick Daddy -- accelerates from zero to 60 like a Ferrari blazing through South Beach, possesses the hands to be a factor in the passing game and boasts the toughness it takes to run between the tackles. Did I mention he also comes from great stock? Cook has three brothers who excel in sports: James (a running back at Georgia), Anthony Jones (a former running back at Florida International) and Deandre Burnett (a former basketball player at Ole Miss). Following a phenomenal preseason in which he looked like the Dalvin of old, the running back kicked off the first two weeks of 2019 by leading the league in rushing yards (265), touchdown runs (three) and longest rush from scrimmage (75 yards). If he keeps it up, the Miami Central product could be looking at a trip back to the Sunshine State for the Pro Bowl.
One would think the success of Cook would open up the passing game for $84 million-man Kirk Cousins. Through two games, that hasn't been the case. Despite Cook’s dominance and an elite receiving tandem in the league's best route-runner, Stefon Diggs, and Minnesota native Adam Thielen, Cousins has looked putrid. The Vikings didn't need much in Week 1 when they cruised by Atlanta with a 28-12 win, as Cousins completed 8-of-10 passes for 98 yards and a score. In Week 2, however, the Vikings happened to be a mediocre Cousins performance away from starting the campaign 2-0. Instead of putting forth a competent performance, their highest-paid player completed a paltry 43.8 percent of his passes and tossed two picks during a 21-16 loss to Green Bay at Lambeau. After failing to lead Minnesota to the playoffs in his first season, Cousins must be better and immediately. He's in the second year of a three-year deal. The clock is ticking.
Mike Zimmer's defenses usually rank among the NFL's best. The 2019 version should be no different. The team boasts two of the league's most dominant edge rushers in Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, a beast in the middle with Linval Joseph, a dynamic duo at linebacker in Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, and two of the league's best defensive backs in Xavier Rhodes and perennial Pro Bowl selection Harrison Smith. I'll put it simply: If your team's quarterback isn't getting his ass kicked by the monsters up front, he'll be running away from them. That's when ballhawks like Smith show up. Yikes for opposing offenses.
Offensive Players to Watch: Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, the offensive line
Defensive Players to Watch: Trae Waynes, Mike Hughes
Fantasy Players to Watch: Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Minnesota D/S
Verdict: So far, the Vikings have been able to avoid the injury bug that's been plaguing teams to kick off the season. With a favorable schedule ahead of Week 3 in the latest Super Bowl odds their next fixtures feature the Redskins, Giants, Broncos, and Raiders., Minnesota's in a prime position to make moves and contend for its first Lombardi. 10-6.