The Minnesota Vikings have not won a divisional road game this year, and they’ll have a final opportunity to change that during a Week 18 matchup with the Chicago Bears. Fate ultimately all but decided, Kevin O’Connell is still going with his starters, and that now includes Chris Reed. How much of a difference can a week make?
Dating back to training camp Chris Reed was considered solid offensive line depth for Minnesota. He signed as a free agent following a stint with the Indianapolis Colts, and the former Minnesota State Mankato product quickly put himself on the map. There is no denying that the Vikings have had offensive line issues for years, and rectifying that in season one of Kevin O’Connell’s tenure needed to be a focus.
What Difference Does a Week Make for Chris Reed?
Reed was thought of as a potential option at center, with former first-round draft pick Garrett Bradbury having flopped so badly up until 2022. He had never played the position at the professional level before, but something needed to change with Bradbury. Ultimately the Vikings stuck by their starter and kept Reed off the field until Week 12. Working only on special teams until Austin Schlottmann went down with an injury against the Green Bay Packers, Reed was immediately thrust into emergency action.
Looking back at the Packers game, it was more than clear Reed’s snaps were an emergency. Taking over at center for the first time, it was as though he had never practiced with starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. That seems odd, given he would be the next man up behind Schlottmann, but either way, it was ugly. From multiple delay of game penalties to errant snaps, Reed was clearly a fish out of water. He logged 91% of the offensive snaps last week, and now it’s apparent he’ll give it another go in Week 18.
Obviously, the Vikings would prefer to have Bradbury over the ball for the playoffs, and even behind him, they’d hope for a bit better depth. Greg Mancz was brought in this week, but getting up to speed that quickly is a pretty tall task. Reed is now the man at the front and has been working with Cousins during practice all week. He’s certainly been a professional long enough to settle in on the line, but getting snap counts and cadences down is new.
It doesn’t sound like O’Connell has much desire to rest his starters against a Bears team that will be going through the motions in the final week. Despite the Vikings having little seeding to play for and a likely known opponent coming to U.S. Bank Stadium, generating game reps for both Reed and Cousins is a must. If Cousins is going to be out there, it makes sense to give him the full arsenal of playmakers, and that leaves the door open for Justin Jefferson to still chase a record.
With Reed looking so poorly last week, we’ll have an immediate opportunity to see what impact a week of practice makes. Not only will he have a clear idea of his role coming into the game this week, but he’ll also have worked with the starting linemen alongside him. When Schlottmann started, it would be hard to call his production level positive. There was a clear step backward from Bradbury to his backup, which will remain true with Reed. Minnesota needs to see a guy with more poise and a bit more comfort when taking the field.
Of course, this is still new for Reed, and he’ll probably remain a bit uncomfortable. He must show that it doesn’t bother him during the game. Not knowing if Bradbury will be back for the first playoff game, the Vikings hopes could be resting on Reed getting it right.
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.