The regular-season finale between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears has little in the way of intrigue. Entering the season, it was circled as a game that had the potential for serious playoff-seeding implications. That will definitely not be the case. Any interest here lies with all the swirling questions facing both teams beyond their Week 18 tilt and how this game may or may not have an impact on some of those decisions.
There would’ve been an instant injection of life into this game had Mike Zimmer opted to start Kellen Mond, but Kirk Cousins will be back under center against Chicago. Minnesota will coast into the offseason having only one drive of in-game film to evaluate Mond. It would’ve been that plus a full game Sunday. But they’ll roll out Cousins, who they know everything about at this point, and will now start a meaningless game. An opportunity for the Vikings to get a long look at Mond turned into the opposite when Zimmer named Kirk the QB1 for Sunday.
Cousins made clear on Wednesday how he feels about the Vikings moving forward.
It will be one of many big decisions the Vikings will make this offseason. They know what they have in Cousins, and what he does Sunday absolutely won’t sway that one way or another. The Minnesota brass will have to decide if what they see in Cousins is good enough to move forward with or if they want to turn the page. Cousins has had one of the better individual years in his career, but it hasn’t led to a great record overall for the team. The Vikings will now miss the playoffs for the third time in four years with him as the starter.
Meanwhile, the Bears know that Justin Fields is their Plan A moving forward. Like Cousins, what he would’ve done Sunday wouldn’t have altered that for Chicago in any way. Unfortunately, Fields has landed on the COVID/reserve list and won’t be playing. Unlike Cousins, though, Fields hasn’t had enough experience on the field yet for Chicago to determine whether or not their first-round pick will pan out. Fields has shown flashes of inspiration this season, but he is far from a finished product. If they opt to run it back with him, Minnesota has a stable, proven starter in Cousins. Meanwhile, the Bears have no questions about the who of the matter. They just don’t know what kind of results to anticipate.
And these quarterback questions aren’t the only unknowns these organizations will face once the clock hits 0:00 on Sunday.
Both Mike Zimmer and Matt Nagy have been on the hottest of hot seats. For Zimmer, it’s started to heat up recently. Nagy’s chair was already smoldering, and many thought the front office would show him the door last year. There’s an excellent likelihood that this could be the final game for both coaches in their current roles. A blowout win or loss for either side likely won’t change what plans for both coaches are already in place.
Rumors of Nagy being informed he won’t be returning this season have been circulating for a couple of months now. It would be shocking if he returned as head coach of the Bears. He’s had ample time to prove his worth, and it’s never resulted in more than just making the playoffs. His offense hasn’t evolved as one quarterback after another shuffled into the rotation. It seems obvious what Chicago will do in terms of Nagy following Week 18.
It’s not as easy for the Vikings because they have so much in place. They have superstar players in Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook. They have a quarterback that the fanbase remains divided on, but Cousins is a sturdy option even if he won’t ever be in that top tier. The Vikings may opt to blow things up at quarterback, with the coaching staff, and in the front office. Yet their roster isn’t too far away from success, at least on paper. That’s what makes the Zimmer decision more tricky than the one in Chicago. However, this weekend, even a blowout win against the Bears won’t be good enough to save Zimmer if the dialogue has already begun with the Wilf’s. This game between these two teams is quite literally as meaningless as it gets.
Sunday’s game at US Bank Stadium is far from expected when the year began. For the Vikings, a winning regular season and a spot in the playoffs seemed like reasonable expectations. This game was supposed to determine postseason seeding, or perhaps whether or not the Vikings would get into the dance at all. Now it will be the final game of the year, win, lose, or draw. Afterward, the Vikings and Bears will face similar questions about their futures, despite Minnesota’s roster appearing ahead of Chicago’s. Those questions won’t get answers with this particular game on Sunday afternoon.