Is Dalvin Cook playing today vs. the Rams? Latest fantasy news on Vikings RB

Is Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook playing in Week 16, or will fantasy football managers need to look elsewhere for the playoffs?

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week. With new protocols in place, is there a chance that Cook plays today against the Rams, or will Alexander Mattison get another start this season? In what could be a fantasy football gold mine against the Rams, what should you do with Cook and Mattison in Week 16?

Is Dalvin Cook playing today vs. the Rams?

When Cook was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday [December 23], offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak spoke to the media. During his press conference, Kubiak indicated that Cook would not be available on Sunday when Minnesota faces Los Angeles.

With the new protocols in place, this would indicate that Cook might be unvaccinated. If that is the case and he tested positive, Cook must go into a 10-day quarantine. However, if he was just a close contact, he would need to quarantine for five days. Either way, Cook is going to miss Sunday’s game.

Cook’s absence could not come at a worse time

Cook’s absence comes at one of the worst possible times for the Vikings. They are currently 7-7 in the NFL standings and are fighting to retain a Wild Card spot in the NFC. The Green Bay Packers have already clinched the NFC North. Thus, the Wild Card is the only shot the Vikings have at the playoffs.

However, the Wild Card race in the NFC is incredibly close. Two teams currently share the same 7-7 record as the Vikings, and two others are only one win away. The problem is that the Vikings have the sixth-toughest strength of schedule remaining, according to Tankathon. The other teams in the hunt — the Falcons, Saints, and Eagles — all have strength of schedules ranked in the 20s.

Cook has been a fantasy superstar in 2021

Cook has enjoyed an incredible season for the Vikings. He currently leads the NFC with 1,067 rushing yards (third-most in the NFL) and has 6 touchdowns. What is most impressive is that he has done all of that in just 11 games, having missed multiple contests this year due to injuries.

The Vikings RB is also top 10 in fantasy points scored in standard leagues with an average of 16.2 fantasy points per game.

Alexander Mattison takes over as the lead back

The Vikings have one of the better one-two punches in the NFL with Cook and Mattison.

When Cook has missed time this year, Mattison has stepped up. In his three starts this year, he averaged 105 rushing yards per game and caught 16 of his 18 targets for 133 yards.

The Rams are currently 18th in fantasy points allowed to RBs and concede an average of 17.1 points per game.

If the Vikings want to win this contest and keep their playoff hopes alive, Mattison will need to step up once again as the starter. The Rams are the fifth-best offense in the league right now, averaging 27.6 points per game. The 17 points the Vikings scored last week will likely not be enough to get Minnesota the win against the high-flying Rams.

Ryan Gosling is the Chief Written Content Officer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter: @ryangoslingPFN