The Minnesota Vikings are four-point favorites heading to Soldier Field for a date with Chicago Bears in Week 18. The Bears have lost twice in a row on their turf to the Vikings, hoping to avoid the trifecta.
Chicago has nothing to play for aside from pride, and it’s actually better for the Bears to lose to enhance positioning in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Bears are trapped in a lousy 3-13 season emulating a rebuild with a new head coach and general manager, but the fanbase is encouraged by quarterback Justin Fields’ maturation.
And as the two NFC North foes dance this weekend, a couple of mysterious items loom.
Mystery Shrouds Vikings at Bears Matchup
The Identity of Chicago’s QB1
After the Bears embarrassing Week 17 loss to the Detroit Lions, head coach Matt Eberflus told reporters about Fields’ status in Week 18, “If he’s healthy, he’s going. He’s got to get the experience. He’s got to play, learn and get better every single week.”
On Monday, though, Eberflus appeared to walk back the certainty of Fields as QB1 versus the Vikings, “We’re working on that, on everybody including Justin. And we’re going to visit with Ryan, the rest of the coaching staff. The health of the football team, the entire health of the team to me is — where we were two weeks ago is different than where we are now. So I think it’s important that we evaluate that.”
“We’re gonna look at everybody on our football team and making sure that we’re doing what’s best for the Bears, Eberflus concluded.”
And this means the Vikings may not know the identity of the Bears quarterback until later in the week or right before kickoff, forcing defensive coordinator Ed Donatell to prepare for multiple quarterbacks.
If Fields cannot go, Chicago would turn to Nathan Peterman or Tim Boyle. Neither man possesses the raw talent of Fields.
Vikings Will Play Starters — but Really?
This one is weird; let’s just get this out of the way.
The Vikings must hope the San Francisco 49ers — the NFL’s hottest team — lose to the abysmal Kyler Murray-less Arizona Cardinals. That game transpires after the Bears-Vikings matchup. If the 49ers falter while the Vikings win, Minnesota will earn back the NFC’s No. 2 playoff seed.
Great. Fine and dandy. But is any of that realistic?
According to Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell, the answer is yes. He told reporters Monday the Vikings plan to play starters, despite enormous odds that the 49ers won’t lose.
Moreover, this is the same team mitigating injuries to the starting right tackle (Brian O’Neill) and center (Garrett Bradbury). As of this week, the Vikings really, really know a thing or two about devastating injuries.
So, O’Connell claims starters will play — but for how long? A quarter to possibly wipe away the bad taste in mouths from the Green Bay debacle? Until halftime to get the juices flowing? Or the entire game, possible injuries be damned?
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).