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5 Vikings-Dolphins Storylines: QB Status; Home-Cooking for Dalvin

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings (4-1) have an opportunity to open a season with a 5-1 or better record for the 16th time in franchise history when they visit the Dolphins (3-2) at noon (CT) Sunday.

Minnesota has won three games in a row by executing three fourth-quarter comebacks for first-year Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.

After opening with three wins to begin Mike McDaniel's tenure, Miami has dropped its past two games as injuries have stacked up.

Here is a predicted key matchup, along with five storylines for this week.

Matchup to watch: Vikings red zone defense vs. Dolphins red zone offense

The Vikings defense is due for a stop in the red zone.

In the past three weeks, opponents have scored touchdowns on all eight possessions that have advanced the ball inside Minnesota's 20-yard line.

The Vikings most recent stop in the red zone was the blocked field goal at Philadelphia in Week 2. For the season, opponents have scored 10 touchdowns on 13 trips, a rate of 76.9 percent that ranks Minnesota tied for 29th.

The Dolphins have been effective in the red zone, scoring 10 touchdowns on their 15 trips, a success rate of 66.7 percent that ranks sixth in the NFL.

Those numbers were boosted by going 4-for-4 at Baltimore and 3-for-3 against Buffalo.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Dolphins.

Miami is a combined 3-for-6 over the past two weeks (losses at Cincinnati and the New York Jets).

We highlighted Minnesota's run defense in this space last week, and the Vikings bottlenecked Bears running backs. Now the defense could have a strong challenge of clamping down in the red zone.

1. Tua to Teddy to Thompson

The Dolphins struggles in the past two weeks have been closely connected to their health at the quarterback position.

Tua Tagovailoa was first injured against Buffalo in Week 3 and tried to play in Week 4. He left that game and has been dealing with back and ankle injuries in addition to being in the concussion protocol. He was replaced in Cincinnati by former Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater was injured on Miami's first offensive play last week and replaced by rookie Skylar Thompson.

Tagovailoa and Bridgewater are in concussion protocols at the time of this post. McDaniel said Wednesday that they are preparing for Thompson to start.

On Wednesday, the Dolphins listed 18 players on their injury report. Two veterans (linebacker Melvin Ingram and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah) were because of rest and not injury related.

2. Happy home-Cooking

Dalvin Cook is coming off his 27th career game with at least 100 scrimmage yards and ninth game with two or more rushing touchdowns.

The Miami native will be playing an NFL game in his hometown for the first time and in just his second career game against the Dolphins.

Cook recorded his second career game with more than 100 rushing yards and first with two rushing scores the last time the Vikings played the Dolphins (Dec. 16, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium).

Although the Vikings haven't visited Hard Rock Stadium since 2014, when Cook was a freshman at Florida State, he's quite familiar with the venue from having played there during his high school and college careers.

"It's gon' be fun. I'mma have a lot of supporters down in my hometown. It's always good getting back into some warm weather," Cook said. "Minnesota is upon us right now, as you can tell by the way I'm dressed. It's gonna be a good Sunday. Go down there, play some good football, get a win and get out of there.

"We only play Miami every so many years, so gotta take advantage of these type of games," he added.

Cook frequently wears a beanie, regardless of the temperature in Minnesota (or Florida, for that matter), but he was layered up with sweats during his media session that followed Wednesday's outside walk-through.

In addition to Cook, kicker Greg Joseph, cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Josh Metellus all have ties to South Florida.

3. Creating speed bumps

Miami has some of the fastest NFL players on the planet, with running back Raheem Mostert and receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

Will Minnesota's shell defense help slow down Hill, nicknamed "The Cheetah," and prevent his counterpart from doing his penguin celebration?

Waddle has recorded the 20th fastest speed by a ball carrier this season, hitting 20.8 mph on a 42-yard touchdown in Week 1.

Back in 2020 with McDaniel in San Francisco, Mostert recorded the two fastest speeds by a ball carrier, hitting 23.09 mph on an 80-yard rushing touchdown and 22.73 mph on a 76-yard receiving touchdown. Hill hit 21.91 mph for Kansas City against Miami that season.

Mostert (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Hill (quad/foot) and Waddle (groin) were listed as full participants.

4. Watch for trick by Cedrick?

The Vikings picked a perfect time to have Justin Jefferson throw his first pass of 2022.

Facing a third-and-10, Jefferson fielded lateral from Kirk Cousins before launching the ball back across the field to Dalvin Cook, who enjoyed a convoy of blockers for a 23-yard gain.

Jefferson is now 3-for-5 in his career with 58 yards with all three completions resulting in first downs.

The Vikings might need to be mindful of Miami receiver Cedrick Wilson, who hasn't been asked to throw a pass this season but is 5-for-5 with 111 yards and a touchdown in his career.

Wilson's passing exploits include a 35-yarder to CeeDee Lamb against the Vikings last season in the same third quarter he opened with a 73-yard touchdown catch.

5. Prepping for heat and humidity

The forecast in Miami for Sunday is listed as a low of 75 and high of 84 degrees Fahrenheit, a few octaves warmer than what the Vikings have encountered since training camp.

The temp at kickoff in Philadelphia was 76, and it was 64 (17.8 Celsius) in London.

O'Connell and Cook mentioned the weather.

"We've got to figure out the best possible game plans to go play a really good football team on the road and get our guys prepared for not only a really good team but playing in a different environment with maybe a little weather, humidity, all those things," O'Connell said. "We'll have our guys prepared. [Executive Director of Player Health and Performance] Tyler [Williams] and his staff are doing a great job getting them all ready, on the right track, and hopefully we'll have a healthy football team going down there to play a good football team."

Given the Vikings have prevailed by closing out their past three opponents in fourth quarters, it could be important to have enough left in the tank in a warmer and much more humid environment.

"It's all a mind thing. I grew up in it, I know what is," Cook said. "Our preparation leading into Sunday is going to be important for a lot of these guys that don't know what the heat is down there."