Houston Texans running back David Johnson (31) gets past Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (23) to score a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook runs from Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Kamalei Correa (40) during a 39-yard touchdown run in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
HOUSTON (AP) Dalvin Cook could be due for a big game Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings visit the Houston Texans in a matchup of winless teams.
Cook ranks third in the NFL in yards rushing after running for a career-high 181 yards last week in a loss to Tennessee. Houston (0-3) has the worst run defense in the NFL, allowing a whopping 188.3 yards rushing a game this season.
''It's a very, very difficult challenge,'' Houston coach Bill O'Brien said. ''We're going to have to do a good job of fundamental football. Setting the edge, playing good gap control and then tackling. If he gets into the secondary or gets around the edge, he's got great speed so you're going to have an issue.''
Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer has been impressed with Cook's work this season.
''Dalvin's great,'' Zimmer said. ''All backs are a little bit different, but I think Dalvin has such great feet. The way he can sliver through a hole, the way he can catch the ball. The way ... for a smaller size guy, he runs with power and determination. If he gets in the open field, he's a really tough, tough guy to get tackled.''
The Texans have not only had trouble stopping the run this year, they've also been unable to run the ball effectively. Houston ranks 31st in the NFL in yards rushing with just 66 a game. They had 118 yards rushing in their opener when David Johnson ran for 77 yards, but have managed just 80 yards combined in the past two games to tumble to the bottom of the league.
The Texans received Johnson in the trade with Arizona for DeAndre Hopkins and hoped he could get going to lead their running game this season after a tough year in 2019 when he managed just 345 yards rushing.
Instead he's been unable to do much of anything since the opener and averaged just 1.77 yards a carry last week as Houston failed to score after halftime in a 28-21 loss to the Steelers.
As these teams both search for their first win, players from Minnesota and Houston insist there isn't any panic, but instead a determination to do more to turn things around.
''You just get to work,'' Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said. ''This isn't the first time anybody on this team has faced adversity, so you just go right back to work, keep your head down and embrace the grind.''
Added Houston defensive end J.J. Watt: ''If whatever you're doing at the moment's not working, work harder. So, that's what I'm doing. That's what we're doing. We're looking forward to it paying dividends.''
The Vikings had to close their facility on Tuesday and Wednesday after the Titans reported multiple positive tests for COVID-19, including players who played in the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday. Instead of conducting a normal practice on Wednesday, typically the most important day of the week when specific aspects of game plan for the upcoming opponent are installed, coaches and players participated virtually from their homes. Just like in May and June when the virus outbreak prevented teams from gathering.
''We were able to communicate and really watch tape on our iPads. That wasn't too bad, honestly. Probably if we weren't able to do it in the spring, it would have been a lot more hectic than it was,'' Zimmer said. ''We're going to try and get in everything that we normally get in.''
When the Vikings visit on Sunday, they'll bring with them the first two men who coached the Texans in senior defensive assistant Dom Capers and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Capers was the first coach in franchise history and coached the Texans for their first four years before he was let go after the 2005 season. Kubiak took over after Capers and remained with the team until he was fired after 13 games in 2013. O'Brien took over the next season after Wade Phillips finished out the 2013 season as interim coach.
''I think they probably need to get a picture of that, the three of us on the field at the same time on Sunday,'' O'Brien said.
Zimmer spoke at length about his affinity for all three men.
''In my opinion they've been very fortunate to have those three guys coaching for that franchise,'' Zimmer said.
The Vikings had 464 yards in their loss to Tennessee, nearly tripling their output from the 28-11 loss at Indianapolis on Sept. 20. Cook was again the catalyst with his huge game, but rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson gave the unit a vital boost with seven catches for 175 yards and a touchdown. The emergence of the first-round draft pick from LSU was just what Cousins needed - a dynamic complement to wide receiver Adam Thielen who can help keep defenses from selling out to stop Cook.
''It just shows the playmakers we have in this offense,'' Thielen said. We've talked about it all training camp, going into these first couple weeks of these season, talked about all these guys that can make plays. You kind of saw a glimpse of that on Sunday. We're going to continue to have guys step up and make plays in big situations.''
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 8
Buffalo Bills CB Josh Norman (hamstring) hasn't been ruled out, but he's unlikely to play in Week 8.
Fantasy Spin: It's a tough break for Norman, who was going off in fantasy before the injury. He can be dropped for fresh legs in IDP leagues.
Cincinnati Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap was told to stay home while the team attempts to trade him.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy doesn't intend to bench quarterback Nick Foles in favor of Mitchell Trubisky after the team's 24-10 Monday night loss to the Rams in Week 7. The Bears are 5-2 but rank 27th in points per game (19.7), 30th in yards per play (4.8), 30th in yards per run (3.8), 29th in yards per pass (5.6), 30th on third-down conversions (35.1 percent) and 29th in red-zone efficiency (47.6 percent). Foles took over for Trubisky in Week 3 and was 28-for-40 for 261 yards and two interceptions against the Rams. Foles has thrown for 1,139 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions in five appearances (four starts) this year. The Saints -- Chicago's Week 8 opponent -- allow the sixth-most fantasy points per game to signal-callers, but Foles remains a low-end QB2 in superflex leagues in Chicago's stagnant offense.
Atlanta Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones (hip) and Russell Gage (knee) were both limited in practice on Tuesday. Jones' injury is new, but the 31-year-old always seems to be fighting through some sort of injury and he should be fine for the Thursday night matchup with the Panthers. The All-Pro wideout missed the Week 5 matchup with Carolina due to an injury, but he should be fine for this one and he remains a locked-in, must-start WR1 whenever he's on the field as the team's No. 1 receiver. Jones has 16 receptions on 19 targets for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the last two weeks against the Vikings and Lions. The Panthers allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to wideouts, but Jones should be in all starting lineups regardless. Gage should play on Thursday, but he's been a non-factor the last five weeks and can be left to the waiver wire in shallow leagues.
The San Francisco 49ers reached an injury settlement with wide receiver Tavon Austin (knee) on Tuesday, and he is no longer on their Injured Reserve list. Austin was put on IR before the 2020 regular season started. He spent the last two years in Dallas, recording 21 catches on 37 targets for 317 yards and three touchdowns in 21 games. The eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Rams, Austin had his best season in 2016, catching 58 passes for 509 yards and three touchdowns. He has just 15 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons and has essentially become a little-used gadget player in recent seasons. Don't expect Austin to resurface anywhere in 2021 as a fantasy relevant option.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said that rookie third-round safety Terrell Burgess (ankle) broke his ankle in the Monday night win over the Bears and will miss the rest of the season. The 21-year-old will finish his rookie season with eight tackles (seven solo) and one pass defensed in seven games of action. Burgess was taken with the 104th overall pick in April and has the versatility to also play nickel cornerback in the NFL. He's a smart player and anticipates routes in coverage. The former Utah Ute should have plenty of time to recover in time for training camp next summer.
Because of COVID-19 protocols, the Detroit Lions Defense will not have newly acquired defensive end Everson Griffen available to play in Week 8 against the Colts. Griffen's debut with Detroit will come on Nov. 8 against the Vikings, the team that he spent the first 10 years of his career with while earning four Pro Bowl nods. The Lions sent a sixth-round draft pick in 2021 to the Cowboys for Griffen's services on Tuesday, and he'll be a veteran present for Detroit's defensive line the rest of the season. While the 32-year-old isn't an IDP starting option at his position on a weekly basis, he should help improve their defensive line. However, the Lions defense overall is near the bottom of the league in fantasy points through seven weeks, so you should continue to avoid them everywhere.
Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley has either topped 50 receiving yards or caught a touchdown pass in all seven games this season.
Fantasy Spin: Beasley's 470 receiving yards rank in the top 20 in the NFL, and he sits inside the top 15 in receptions. He's a PPR flex option.
Atlanta Falcons RB Todd Gurley's 122 rush attempts rank second in the NFL, and he has logged at least 14 carries in all seven games.
Fantasy Spin: The heavy workload is a bit of a surprise given Gurley's history of knee problems, and while he has managed just one 100-yard game, he has scored seven times and topped 50 yards six times. He's a volume-based RB2 heading into a friendly matchup against Carolina in Week 8.
Free-agent WR Dwayne Harris (Texans) was signed to the Chicago Bears' practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Los Angeles Rams DL A'Shawn Robinson (undisclosed) will be activated from the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list this week, head coach Sean McVay said Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee (hand) could be ready to play against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8, according to head coach Sean McVay Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Fantasy Spin: Higbee was forced to sit out Week 7 for his first missed game of the season. He has 18 catches on 21 targets for 222 yards and three touchdowns through six games and is a low-end TE1 most weeks.
Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't being shopped for a trade, according to a source with direct knowledge Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Fantasy Spin: Fitzpatrick would definitely have at least some measure of fantasy value on any one of the NFL's current QB-needy teams, but it appears he'll be staying in Miami to mentor rookie Tua Tagovailoa. It will help Tagovailoa, but it's a shame for fantasy managers in two-QB leagues.
Tennessee Titans RB D'Onta Foreman, PK Tucker McCann, QB Trevor Siemian and LB Tuzar Skipper were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Deon Cain, RB Trey Edmunds, LB Jayrone Elliott and RB Wendell Smallwood were named to the team's Week 8 practice squad protection list Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers PK Greg Joseph and DT Jeremiah Ledbetter were chosen as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
New York Giants RB Alfred Morris, P Ryan Santoso, G Chad Slade and QB Clayton Thorson were named as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (knee) could be back in the mix as soon as Sunday versus Seattle, with head coach Kyle Shanahan saying that he was hopeful that they'd have Coleman for the game. The 49ers' backfield has been a constant shuffling endeavor with Raheem Mostert (ankle) and Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) both now out of the mix for the foreseeable future. Coleman's return coincides with Jerick McKinnon likely moving up the depth chart, although how any share of carries would be split remains unclear. Coleman started 11 games for San Francisco last season, so despite having compiled just 30 yards across 18 carries this year, he's likely to see an increased role whenever he's officially ready to return. Check back throughout the week for updates on his status as they become available.