The Vikings are coming off a 24-17 win over the division-rival Packers, whom they defeated on Sunday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com delved into Minnesota's performance against Green Bay and what worked offensively for the Vikings. He highlighted three aspects: utilizing tight end Kyle Rudolph, the use of a versatile Cook and rollouts by quarterback Kirk Cousins. Coller wrote:
Leading up to the Vikings Sunday night victory at U.S. Bank Stadium, they had gotten away from using tight end Kyle Rudolph in their short passing game. Over the previous four weeks, he had only been targeted 15 times for nine catches. In Chicago, Rudolph made just two grabs for 13 yards. He also hasn't caught a touchdown pass since Week 2.
Against the Packers, things opened up for the Vikings veteran tight end. Rudolph caught seven passes on seven targets for 63 yards and three first downs.
Coller embedded two clips of the Vikings using Rudolph in plays against the Packers and how it proved effective. He added that Rudolph "catches everything" and is an especially good asset on first-and-10.
Cousins has an 82.7 percent completion percentage when targeting Rudolph and averages 8.2 yards per play when he throws in the tight end's direction. Gains between 6-8 yards on first down are basically like successful running plays that set up second or third-and-short.
For Cook, Coller looked at two clips that used the running back on a jet sweep and then with jet sweep action to fake the play and draw the linebackers toward one side.
On both plays, Cook proves that he's not an easy runner to take down as he breaks multiple tackles. With Cook, even so-so or bad plays can turn out to be great plays, meaning the Vikings should do everything they can to get him the ball.
Lastly, Coller said that Cousins is mobile and has "the ability to make strong, accurate throws when rolling out of the pocket."
Against the Packers, Cousins was used in rollout situations several times and showed some of his ability to survey the field and how effective bootlegs can be in protecting the quarterback.
These plays are occasionally blown up by defensive ends who read them quickly, but that could give the Vikings even more chances to play off of the rollout look.
Hall of Fame Linebacker picks Vikings to defeat Patriots
The Vikings know they're up against a tough challenge in New England on Sunday.
Tom Brady is 112-19 in 131 career home games with the Patriots, and the 8-3 AFC East team hasn't lost at home this season.
But not everyone has counted out Minnesota, including Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis.
Adam London of NESN recently pointed out that Lewis is behind the underdog in this weekend's contest. London wrote:
During Tuesday's edition of Inside the NFL on Showtime, Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis picked the Vikings to come out of Foxboro, [Massachusetts] with a win. While most would pinpoint the Vikings ferocious defense as the key to victory, Lewis has his eyes set on another game-changer.
London quoted Lewis, who said the following:
"…This team, the way they're built, can go into New England and win. And one of the biggest pieces why — what they do in their front seven on defense is incredible — but Dalvin Cook. Having Dalvin Cook fresh and running against New England's defense, I'm going to take the Vikings in this one."
London disputed Lewis' case and said he doesn't believe Minnesota's run game will be the biggest factor, but he does think the Vikings offense could be damaging at Gillette Stadium.
While the Vikings very well could take down the Patriots, Lewis' line of reason seems a bit off the mark. Running backs haven't had a ton of success against New England this season, as the Pats only have allowed one rushing performance of 100-plus yards — a 101-yard outing from the Detroit Lions' Kerryon Johnson in Week 3.
If anything, Minnesota likely will have success against New England through the air. The Patriots have allowed the eighth-most passing yards this season, and the Vikings boast one of the most lethal wideout tandems in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Cook, of course, is a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield, so quarterback Kirk Cousins very well could look his way.
London added that the Patriots defense "will have its hands full" on Sunday afternoon.