It remains to be seen whether or not star players on the Vikings offense will play Sunday against the Bears.
(shoulder) has already been ruled out
. Alexander Mattison
(ankle) is questionable.
And it seems there's a very good chance that other big names like Kirk Cousins
, Adam Thielen
, Stefon Diggs
and others will have the opportunity to rest up with Minnesota locked into the sixth seed.
But with the Vikings offense coming off its worst performance of the season Monday night against the Packers, there’s also a belief the unit could use a confidence boost heading into the postseason.
“There’s value to both sides of it. You can make an argument for both sides,” Cousins said. “[I] certainly would love to be able to play well and get a bad taste out of your mouth, and we’ll see what ends up being the right call.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer said Thursday afternoon that he was still undecided on his decision. Zimmer noted that there’s a balance between staying healthy but also performing better than Monday.
“Yeah, that’s probably the biggest part of it,” Zimmer said. “Do you look at the entire season and look at how well the offense has played throughout the course of the year, or do you look at a one-game situation?
“That’s kind of what I’m weighing right now,” Zimmer added. “Do I go with the belief that they’ve been really good all year long, or do we go in and, because we didn’t play very well the other night, try to get going again?”
Entering Week 17, the Vikings rank 13th with
357.1 total yards per game, and are seventh in rushing with 130.6 yards per game.
Those are respectable numbers, even after Minnesota compiled a season-low 139 yards of offense against Green Bay, including just 122 yards through the air on 31 passing attempts.
Minnesota’s offense was missing and Cook and Alexander Mattison
at running back; Thielen did not have a reception on four targets.
Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski on Thursday took responsibility for the poor performance.
“I think there’s a bunch of things when you look back that we could have done better, and I’ll start with myself, that I could have done better,” Stefanski said. “A host of things, but it would start with me.
“I mean, any time we don’t contribute in a meaningful way to go get a win, it’s my job to put our guys in a position to go make a play and succeed. I’m always going to be introspective in that regard, and I think our players, to their credit, also say, ‘What could we have done better?’ Stefanski added. “I think that was a really good conversation that we had on Tuesday, and as we move into this week, you identify those things, you talk about what you would do differently the next time, but then we’ve got to move on because we have a game coming up here versus Chicago.”
Of course, it’s possible that the Vikings were saving their big, explosive plays by way of play-action for the playoffs, should they see the Packers again, but the fact that Cousins attempted just one play-action pass in the first half and finished 2-of-5 for 14 yards and an interception on such throws was jarring.
While teams don't necessarily need to establish the run to set up an effective play-action attack, the Vikings didn't even attempt to dial it up against the Packers.
The reasoning for that could be the fact that without Cook, it's hard to sell the threat of the run.
That being the case, Cook gained some important leverage on Monday night.
In his absence, Mike Boone
totaled 11 carries for 28 yards and Ameer Abdullah
had four carries for 27 yards and seven targets on 31 snaps, 26 of which were pass routes. Boone was targeted once on 18 snaps (seven routes). This offense is vastly different without the explosive, do-it-all Cook, who will be eligible for a contract extension at the end of the 2019 season.
Minnesota has never missed Cook more than it did on Monday and may appreciate him even more after realizing what its offense looks like when he's not there.
By the way, Sean Mannion
will run the offense if Cousins is held out or pulled early.