Thanksgiving is upon us and just like most Americans, there's a simple procedure that helps everyone get through the day. Yes, after dashing through the snow all the way over to your in-laws in Wisconsin and being force-fed Miller Lite, you sit down with your relatives, eat some food and pretend you like each other while planning your escape at the first sign of a break in the conversation how the Packers will win the Super Bowl.
But in all seriousness, Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect and enjoy the little things that matter in life. For the Minnesota Vikings, that includes an 8-3 record heading into the final five games of the season and a sprint with those damn Packers, who also sit atop the NFC North with the same record.
So as we all sit down and stuff our face with food until we completely hate ourselves, I figure it's a good time to look back and appreciate what's going on with our football team. And since you're probably reading this while looking at your phone to avoid your relatives, there's no better time to be thankful than the present.
Dalvin Cook's health
Remember how some people thought Dalvin Cook was a bust at this time last year? The Vikings running back was coming off a hamstring injury that wiped out his second consecutive season and as the Vikings were floundering under John DeFilippo and falling further out of the NFC playoff picture, some people wanted to get rid of him in favor of Latavius Murray, who runs like the Stanford tree.
This year, Cook has gone from being a turkey to the chef constructing a delicious offensive meal. While Kirk Cousins has gotten all the headlines for his MVP performance, Cook would be in the running for the award if it wasn't unofficially exclusive to quarterbacks. The third-year back ranks third in rushing yards heading into Week 13 and with his ability to get involved in the passing game, he's pretty much matchup proof.
The Vikings will need Cook to remain healthy (a concern that is the furthest away from anyone's mind right now) if they want to return to the playoffs, but Cook staying on the field has been just gravy for the Vikings offense.
Kirk Cousins MVP-caliber season
Much like Cook, Cousins probably won't win the MVP because he's not as big of a name as Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson or even Aaron Rodgers, but he is playing like a man possessed since people wanted him gone after Week 4.
Cousins has chucked 18 touchdowns and one interception since that embarassing loss to the Bears and he looks like a guy that just burned down the garage trying to deep fry a turkey and will be damned if it's going to ruin Thanksgiving. Kirk's more mashed potatoes than sweet potatoes, but if he keeps playing like this, the Cousins haters are going to be eating more crow than turkey in the final five games.
An offensive line that actually works
You might fall over from a heart attack when you think about this, but the Vikings offensive line actually has done its job for the first time in ages. By not having guards play tackle and tackles play guard and/or center, the Vikings have been able to move the ball on the ground while keeping Cousins upright behind them.
What's even more impressive is that Cousins is third in the NFL among qualifying passers in time to throw at 2.8 seconds, meaning that the offensive line has been more protective than your grandmother has been about her pecan pie recipe.
Danielle Hunter is a football god
Nobody in the history of the NFL has had more sacks before age 25 than Danielle Hunter and this guy just turned 25 at the beginning of November. Although he spent his first three seasons as a part-time player, he's spent the last two years turning it up a notch and ranks third in pass-rushing productivity rating (10.4 snaps per pressure) and eighth in sacks with eight.
Hunter has been so good chasing the quarterback, it's almost as if turkeys have a better chance of avoiding the pre-Thanksgiving slaughterhouse than quarterbacks have avoiding being run down by Hunter.
Three of the final five games at U.S. Bank Stadium
We've talked a lot on this blog about how the Vikings play much better at home than on the road and as the only undefeated team at home in the NFC (5-0), the Vikings are about as excited to return home as you are. (OK, maybe that's going a little too far.)
But as great as the Vikings have been at home, it's even better considering that all three remaining home games are against NFC North opponents, including a Dec. 23 showdown with the Green Bay Packers. While Nana is great at hosting your entire family, Mike Zimmer won't be so kind to the Lions, Bears, and Packers, leaving a happy Thanksgiving as a segway for a very merry Christmas.