With Chris Cook's right arm unbroken and still playing, the Vikings held 6-5, 236-pound Lions receiver Calvin Johnson to five catches for 54 yards and no touchdowns. With Cook's right arm broken and still sidelined just six games later, the Vikings couldn't hold Johnson to anything less than 12 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown.

Keep that in mind as the Vikings talk about how they hope to use the 6-2, 212-pound Cook now that he's eligible to return from injured reserve to the active roster in time to face Houston's 6-3, 230-pound Andre Johnson at Reliant Stadium on Sunday.

Coach Leslie Frazier still sounds hesitant about Cook's role on Sunday, saying he needs to judge Cook's conditioning level and see how "comfortable and confident" he is with the game plan and a significantly increased workload in practice.

"We'll have a better indication by Friday," Frazier said. "But that would be good if it happens."

The Vikings are 8-6 and taking the approach that they have to win their final two games to make the playoffs. Houston is 12-2 and fighting for the No. 1 seed in the AFC in part because Johnson leads the conference in receiving yards (1,360) while catching 93 passes.

"Andre is like Calvin and [Brandon] Marshall in Chicago," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "They're really good, and their quarterbacks like them a lot. They're always trying to look for them. If he's open just a little bit, the quarterback is going to hit him, particularly in critical third-down situations."

Defending that player sounds like a job for the guy the Vikings drafted 34th overall in 2010. The same guy who has played only 20 of a possible 46 games since then because of injuries and last year's felony domestic assault charges, of which he was cleared. The same guy who's lobbying hard to play Sunday.

"Would I relish it?" said Cook, repeating a reporter's question. "I was looking forward to playing against Andre since the beginning of the year. I marked the two Johnsons [Andre and Calvin] on my calendar when I first got the schedule. Playing against Andre is a big opportunity for me."

The Vikings are happy with backup A.J. Jefferson, who has held his own while starting the past six games at right corner. He's far superior to any backup the team had during last year's secondary debacle, but more is expected of Cook.

Despite sitting out the past six weeks, Cook still is tied for the team lead in passes defensed with 12. The overall pass defense has slipped in some areas as well.

Quarterbacks have a higher completion percentage (65.6 to 62.8), more touchdowns (13 to 11) and a higher passing yardage average (271.5 to 252.5) in the six games without Cook than the eight games with him. The secondary had as many interceptions without Cook (four) as it had with him.

Even if Cook returns, he won't shadow Johnson. The Texans move Johnson around far too much for any one Viking to be given full-time containment of him.

"Of all the guys I've been around, I think one of the great things about this guy is how sharp he is as a player," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "I mean for years every time this team shows up, people are doing things to try to take him away. But his brain allows us to move him all over the place, and have him play a bunch of spots, which makes it difficult on people to isolate on him."

Cook will have a protective shell wrapped tightly on his right forearm. He said there are no limitations with the arm at this point.

"I can do everything," he said. "I can press. I can tackle. I'm full go. I guess [the coaches] are playing it by ear to see what my conditioning is this week. But my mindset is I just want to play. It doesn't matter if I start, come in on third down or special teams. I just want to play."