Let’s be real, who doesn’t like getting “100” on a quiz or test, right? Furthermore, I’ve yet to meet the person that would refuse to accept a freely-offered $100 bill. Everybody loves a large stack of Benjamins! Speaking of stacking “hundreds” together, that’s exactly what Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings is doing this season. He is stringing together 100 yard-plus games one after another, leading the NFL in rushing as the fourth week commences.
Well, I’m going to keep it 100 (a colloquialism for keeping it real, or authentic), and use P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis With Stats) to illustrate how controlling the number 100 is key to winning on Sunday.
For those who are unaware, Dalvin Cook is the real deal and his skillset makes the Vikings’ offense formidable. Last season, Minnesota averaged 93.3 rushing yards per game, while this year its risen to 193.7 yards per contest on the ground. That’s a one hundred yard increase due in large part to Cook’s versatile running acumen. Taking the last three games of 2018, along with this season’s first three matches, the Vikings have a 4-2 record when they reach or exceed 100 yards rushing against their opponents.
This year, Cook has rattled off three straight 100 yard-plus games (111, 154, 110), and is the NFL front-runner in rushing yards (375) and yards per attempt (6.6). He’s also caught 90 percent of passes thrown his way, and accumulated four touchdowns on the year. Whew! Dalvin is definitely “Cook-ing” this season and the Vikings are certainly benefitting from his efforts.
Even Capt. Obvious realizes the vast majority of Minnesota’s offense flows through Cook. He dominates the landscape of their offensive output to such a degree, that his rushing total is 101 yards more than both starting wideouts have receiving yards… combined. Ridiculous! Viking receivers Adam Thielen (173) and Stefon Diggs (101) have a combined 274 receiving yards after the first three games played.
Remember, Cook currently leads the league with 375 yards rushing this season. On top of that, his longest run from scrimmage this campaign is an impressive seventy-five yards. Whereas, Thielen’s longest catch (35 yards) and Diggs’s (45 yards) add up to eighty yards combined, just five yards more than what Cook gained individually on his best scamper of the season.
According to NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats, Cook runs at a 3.18 efficiency rate. A runner’s efficiency is calculated by taking the total distance traveled on a rushing play per rushing yards gained. Basically, a low number means less time is wasted moving sideways, or running in an east/west manner. So, essentially, the stat highlights more effective north/south runners, who get positive yards more quickly than the next player. Saquon Barkley leads the NFL in this category, while Cook is tied for sixth with Ezekiel Elliott.
The point being, Cook is a decisive runner who hits the open hole quickly and heads upfield, as his explosive 75-yard run this year demonstrates.
Cook’s emergence this season has helped mask the struggles of starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is only completing a pedestrian 58.7 percent of his passes, while averaging 101.3 fewer pass yards per game than what he produced last year. Due to an inept passing attack, Cook faces more eight-men fronts from defenses attempting to stifle Minnesota’s running schemes; he’s encountered such defenses approximately 26.3 percent of the time in 2019, according to Next Gen Stats, good for ninth-most in the NFL.
Undoubtedly, Cook is a dangerous and explosive player; however, any offensive weapon can be neutralized with the right defense. Drafted by Minnesota in 2017, Cook and the Vikings are 7-2 when his combined totals (rushing and receiving yards) reach or exceed 100 yards. Conversely, their record is 2-7-1 when his combined yardage is under 100 yards. Against the Bears, Cook and the Vikings are 0-2 and have been statistically dominated in the run game. In the two games versus Chicago, Cook ran for a total of 51 yards (2.5 YPC) with zero touchdowns and caught seven passes for only 19 yards. The Vikings as a team rushed for a total of 85 yards (2.9 YPC) against Chicago in 2018.
The Bears are stout against the run (currently fourth in the league) allowing only 206 yards (3.1 YPC) with zero touchdowns through three games. Chicago must remain true to their defensive identity if they are to have success Sunday against the NFL’s leading rusher. Knowing where Cook is lined up at all times will certainly go a long way in containing him and hindering the Vikings’ offense.
Minnesota rarely has Cook rush out of the shotgun formation, gaining only 21 yards in four attempts. Instead, the bulk of his carries originate from under center, where he’s had 53 rushes for 354 yards, including 13 first downs and four touchdowns. Chicago as a team has a missed tackle percentage of 10.2, which is tenth-best in the league. They will have to do better than even that respectable rate and make sure they don’t miss any tackling opportunities on Cook. Otherwise, this sizzling talent will roast the Bears on Sunday.
The Bears will win if:
-They prevent Dalvin Cook from amassing 100 combined yards of offense (Chicago is 2-0 when Cook is under 100 yards combined)
-They force beleaguered QB Kirk Cousins to pass for scores (Cousins has three touchdowns to two touchdowns on the season)
-They limit the Vikings from scoring points in the 1st half (Vikings average 17.3 points in the 1st half, 4th-best in the NFL; only averaging 8.7 points in the 2nd half)Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.