Significant Week 18 Decisions Ahead for Vikings

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Only one game remains in front of the Minnesota Vikings before they get ready for the playoffs. There are significant decisions for first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell to make. The way KOC approaches Week 18 against the Chicago Bears could play a massive role in how they perform on Wild Card Weekend.

The Vikings have a 95.5% probability of receiving the number 3 seed in the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders. This means they will face the New York Giants on January 14th or 15th. Fortunately, this game will once again be played at US Bank Stadium, and they have already beaten the Giants once this year.

Significant Week 18 Decisions Ahead for Vikings

However, how KOC approaches Week 18 will play a role in the outcome of that game. So, what is the biggest decision KOC needs to make?

Do you play starters?

The playing your starters question is always interesting this deep in the season when you seemingly have nothing left to play for. Is it more important to go into the playoffs with momentum or health? It is a difficult question to answer. However, this game should certainly not be treated like some sort of pre-season game.

Significant Week 18
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The Vikings just lost their starting right tackle Brian O’Neill and backup center Austin Schlottman to injuries on Sunday. They also have no idea if Garrett Bradbury will be able to play in the playoffs. Not to mention the systematic dismantling by the Green Bay Packers on primetime television for their 3rd blowout loss of the season.

KOC and the Vikings absolutely need to play their starters.

Vikings Must Play Starters in Week 18

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The game against the Bears should be a much easier opportunity to get a win now that we know Justin Fields will not be playing. This development could potentially sway KOC into resting some of his veteran players like Harrison Smith, Patrick Peterson, and Eric Kendricks. He may even consider resting Justin Jefferson.

It could be wise to rest some of the veterans on the defensive side of the ball because they are all savvy enough to get themselves ready to play when the time comes. Although, the offensive side is a much different story.

The Packers completely wrecked the Vikings offense. They need to get some momentum and feel good about themselves heading into the playoffs. Although, the most important thing is the offensive line needs some time to jell.

The starting lineup will most likely be:

  • LT – Christian Darrisaw
  • LG – Ezra Cleveland
  • C – Chris Reed
  • RG – Ed Ingram
  • RT – Oli Udoh

This group has never played a complete game together, and it always seems to take a while for communication and trust to build with the big guys up front. They need a full game to work out some of those kinks.

Due to the offensive line issues, Kirk Cousins will also need to play in this game. His communication with Chris Reed and the snap count needs to be drilled as much as possible. We saw on Sunday how disastrous it could be when they are not on the same page.

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That said, KOC must also protect Kirk Cousins, who has been sacked 46 times (3rd most in the NFL). Regardless, Cousins needs to play at least one-half of football with this offensive line group. Live-action reps can never be replicated to perfection in practice.

It will be interesting to see how KOC approaches this week. Does he prioritize health or momentum?

Mitch Massman is a lifelong Vikings fan. His first heartbreak was the 1998 NFC championship game. His full-time job is as an economic development professional in rural Minnesota. He fantasizes about the Vikings winning a Super Bowl one day, but until then he will write about the Vikings. Follow him on Twitter @skol_vikings3