The Vikings are heavy favorites at home this week against an AFC opponent. Next week, they play a NFC heavyweight on the road and on a short week, which is followed by a contest in Week 5 against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
But don’t let that scenario cause you to believe the Vikings have shifted any of their focus beyond the Buffalo Bills, their opponent on Sunday. Just take a look at how head coach Mike Zimmer answered two questions at his Friday media availability.
Asked how much the short week next week impacted this week’s injured players’ availability, Zimmer sternly responded: “It doesn’t. If they can play, they play. We’re not worried about next week, we’re worried about the Buffalo Bills.”
A few moments later, Zimmer was asked if there’s a concern that Dalvin Cook’s hamstring injury could linger into next week and affect his status for Thursday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.
“We’re not talking about that game, we’re talking about this game,” Zimmer said. “I don’t know.”
It’s pretty clear Zimmer has not bought into the notion that Sunday’s game will be a walk in the park for the Vikings. With that being said, the Vikings do have two games in four days coming up this week, which requires coaches and support staff to quickly transition and prepare for, and players to quickly recover for, Week 4.
The challenge is to be in as good a position as possible to travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams while putting everything you have into this week’s game against the Bills, who are winless and will come in with everything they have to get their first win.
Elflein set to return
Somewhat lost on Friday because of the news that Cook and Everson Griffen won’t play is the fact that Zimmer stated Sunday will mark the return of center Pat Elflein, who hasn’t played in a game since last year’s NFC Championship Game and who missed all of the offseason program and training camp because of his recovery from offseason surgeries.
The Vikings offensive line has dealt with several blows during 2018, not the least of which was the absence of their starting center, who was an All-Rookie performer last season. Zimmer did say Elflein will not start at center, so it remains to be seen exactly how Elflein will make his debut, but the good news is Elflein is taking the next step and the most significant step in his recovery.
The sooner the better for the Vikings offensive line when it comes to having Elflein back as the starting center. His return to the lineup will strengthen not just the starting center position but also the offensive line’s overall depth because it will make versatile veteran Brett Jones, who is filling in for Elflein now, available to play multiple positions along the inside.
“Hasn’t missed any.” – Mike Zimmer
That was Zimmer’s direct and simple response when asked how his new kicker, Dan Bailey, looked this week in practice. Zimmer estimated Bailey kicked anywhere from 30-32 field goals and extra point attempts in team periods during the week.
I really thought the (George) Iloka move was great. That being said when should fans expect to see Iloka playing more on defense?
-- Markus Bury
It could be as early as this week or next week in Los Angeles. Keep in mind, Iloka does have institutional knowledge of Zimmer’s scheme but he’s still probably transitioning when it comes to assimilating into the defense. The other four safeties on the roster have been with Zimmer for several years each and understandably have a better feel and are a better fit playing defense. As the Vikings continue to experiment at nickel corner and in sub packages, though, don’t be surprised to see Iloka out of the field soon.
Stat of the Week
With a touchdown this week, Stefon Diggs can do something only Vikings Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Randy Moss have done: Catch a touchdown in six-plus consecutive regular season games.
National TV: CBS
Play-by-Play: Jim Nantz
Analyst: Tony Romo
Sideline: Tracy Wolfson
Local Radio: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline: Greg Coleman, Ben Leber
Pre-Game Show: Mike Mussman – 10:00 am CT