The regular season is over, and the Minnesota Vikings face must-win games the rest of the way. They are four victories away from the franchise’s first Super Bowl ring, and that may be enough to get a few guys back on the field.
Kevin O’Connell watched in horror as the Green Bay Packers dismantled his team. Not only did Aaron Rodgers keep the division rival’s playoff hopes alive, but Minnesota lost not one but two offensive linemen in the contest. First, Austin Schlottmann went down with a fractured fibula, and then tackle Brian O’Neill suffered a torn Achilles.
Reinforcements Hit the Field for Vikings
We saw a patchwork group against the Chicago Bears in a Week 18 game that didn’t matter too much, and there has been plenty of uncertainty heading into Wild Card weekend against the New York Giants. We know that neither Schlottmann nor O’Neill will return, but there does seem to be some good news trickling in from the practice field.
Having sat out for weeks due to a back issue, starting center Garrett Bradbury is back on the field. O’Connell has suggested that Bradbury will not go unless he is cleared to avoid further damage. Although he was a troublesome part of Minnesota’s line last season, the output this year has been tremendous.
For now, Minnesota has pushed veteran guard Chris Reed over to the center spot. After an ugly fill-in job during the Packers game, Reed looked a bit more comfortable in Week 18 against Chicago. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has praised his new center as they continue to get on the same page and look to avoid further issues down the road. The hope would be that Bradbury can be cleared by the end of the week, but that remains to be seen.
From a tackle perspective, backup Blake Brandel is all systems go. He was injured filling in for starter Christian Darrisaw earlier this season. Although Brandel was a far cry from the All-Pro level that Darrisaw plays at, he still represents a capable option that provides depth on a line significantly needing it. During Week 18, Oli Udoh started at right tackle and will continue to do so the rest of the way. Brandel does provide another option outside of the recently signed Bobby Evans.
Most of Minnesota’s injuries have been on the offensive side of the ball, but defensive lineman James Lynch has missed time as well. It was reported he, too, was back at practice on Wednesday.
We won’t know what the final injury report looks like until later in the week, but it would be great for the Vikings to have close to a full complement of talent for the playoffs. New York is returning to U.S. Bank Stadium to avenge their walk-off loss a month ago. Minnesota will need a better all-around effort to avoid another tight one, and this is a game they should be expected to win.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.