Vikings

Vegas Has Cousins or Cook as Minnesota’s Most Likely MVPs

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

Odds for the 2021 NFL MVP are already starting to trickle out, and Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook are on the list. So where do they stand, and is there a chance either can actually win?

Let’s start with Kirk. His odds on BetOnline.ag are currently 66/1 to take home the award. On the surface that seems reasonable, but given a closer look, you’ll find he sits behind 22 other quarterbacks. Cousins has his issues, but to put 22 other quarterbacks ahead of him is laughable. Quarterbacks who can barely hold on to a starting job like Sam Darnold, Carson Wentz, and Jameis Winston have better odds.

Cousins had an up-and-down year last season but still finished with excellent numbers. With most of the offense returning, he figures to have equal, if not better, production. But he definitely has a reputation of putting up numbers yet falling short in big moments. That needs to change.

Cousins gets a lot of hate. Some even from me. Okay, a lot from me. I may have called him a bigger waste of money than snowshoes in Hawaii. But it seems like the ire directed toward him is mostly due to his enormous cap hit. If he were paid like an average quarterback, Minnesota Vikings fans would be singing his praises. Instead, he makes a boatload of cash and people expect him to play like an elite quarterback. When he isn’t running for his life behind a shoddy offensive line, Cousins is a very good quarterback. He was eighth in passing yards, ninth in completion percentage, and sixth in touchdowns last year. Only FOUR other quarterbacks were in the top 10 in all three categories.

If Cousins can slightly improve those numbers and put together a 10-plus-win season, he firmly places himself in the conversation. However, his ability to do that hinges largely upon the improvement of the offensive line. The much-talked-about unit this off-season needs to improve and keep Cousins upright. Justin Jefferson will hopefully be even better and Adam Thielen will still be Mr. Reliable. Cook is a beast. and the play-action game should be as reliable as ever. There are a lot of ways Cousins can succeed, but a quarterback who puts up good numbers but is unable to make the playoffs will not be included in the MVP discussion. He needs to win.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think his chances to win MVP are slim. But I do think he seems undervalued and would not at all be surprised if he put out a 4,500 yard, 40-touchdown season. (I still have to remind myself that we have 17 games now. It’s breaking my brain.)

Dalvin Cook comes in at 100/1 odds to bring home the hardware. That’s the fourth-best among running backs. Only Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, and Christian McCaffrey are given a better chance.

He faces an uphill battle, however. The last running back to win MVP was our own Adrian Peterson in 2012. He dominated that season and broke the 2,000-yard mark. Derrick Henry ran for 2,027 yards last year and added 17 rushing touchdowns to boot. His name was thrown around a little bit for MVP, but it seemed like Aaron Rodgers was still the consensus choice. Henry only had 19 total receptions last year, which is what held him back from a truly epic season. Had he been able to expand his receiving game, he may have had a decent shot at winning it.

Dalvin also had an incredible impact but was unable to play a full schedule. Cook only played in 14 games last year, but still finished second in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He’s a tough player, but he has suffered some devastating injuries and has yet to play a full season in his young four-year career, which works against his case for MVP. He doesn’t have an issue with production, he just cannot stay on the field.  Based on his game averages, had he played all 16 games last year he would have finished with 1,779 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns.

With a threat like Justin Jefferson on the outside, if the Vikings bolster the offensive line Cook should have no issues reaching that type of production — assuming he’s healthy. But with quarterbacks throwing for 50 touchdowns every year, apparently the only viable way for a running back to win MVP is to break some kind of record like scrimmage yards or touchdowns in a season. The Vikings were fifth in rushing last season, so don’t expect them to shy away from feeding Dalvin again this year.

The odds either Kirk Cousins or Dalvin Cook win the MVP are probably about the same as Mike Zimmer appropriating the air-raid offense. But the offense should be the best it has been in years. An improved defense means the offense can stick to the game plan and not abandon it after getting down 14 points in the first five minutes.

Plus, both players are in the prime of their careers. It’s a perfect time for them to win despite local and national doubt. So even though it’s a long shot that they win, and despite Sam Darnold apparently having a better chance, I’m all for one of them wrapping up the award. Never tell me the odds!

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