The Minnesota Vikings may be without their top offensive weapon when they face off against the rival Green Bay Packers in Week 16 on "Monday Night Football." Dalvin Cook, the team's former second-round pick that can take over an NFL game both on the ground and in the air, suffered a shoulder injury early in the third quarter in the team's win over the Los Angeles Chargers. He was ruled out of the contest not long after, following evaluation by the medical staff in the blue tent, but head coach Mike Zimmer sounded optimistic about Cook's status to start the week.
Zimmer noted Cook could likely play through the injury, but the tone surrounding that prediction has seemingly changed mightily as the week rolled on. It's now being reported Cook is unlikely to take the field against the Packers, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, and if he is eventually ruled out -- it's advantage Green Bay.
Cook himself was asked about his status for Week 16 during his Thursday press conference and delivered a much more cautious outlook compared to previous comments about his injury, saying, "I'm going to go through my normal preparations and if I'm ready to go, I'm ready to go."
Cook entered the contest with the Chargers having already rushed for 1,108 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, while tacking on another 503 yards receiving. The Vikings sit at 10-4 and are in position to clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the 11-3 Packers on Monday, but they may have to do it with a mix of backup running backs.
Even then, there's simply no replacing Cook.
Michael Boone stepped up to deliver two rushing touchdowns in Cook's absence against Los Angeles, but just 56 yards rushing, as Kirk Cousins opted to take to the air more often with his star running back sidelined. Boone is a capable back, but the Vikings will also need Ameer Abdullah and Alexander Mattison to join the fray and impact the game.
Mattison himself may be in question as well though, considering he was ruled out of Week 15 with an ankle injury. His status is now also something to watch as practice rolls along this week.
Mattison has been the definitive backup for Cook this season, rushing for 462 yards in 2019, but that tally bumps to just 625 rushing yards when combined with this season's output from both Boone and Abdullah. If neither Cook nor Mattison is available, it'll alter the entire gameplan for Minnesota against the 24th-ranked rushing defense. Cousins has proven time and again he can air it out in 2019, and he may have to do it again on Monday night to secure a playoff seat.
The Packers rank 24th in the league against the run, which might help the Vikings backups have a day, but they also rank 22nd against the pass -- setting the stage for a big day from Cousins if Cook isn't in the mix.