With the No. 2 seed all but wrapped up, the Minnesota Vikings would be smart to give Teddy Bridgewater an extended period of playing time versus the Chicago Bears.
The Minnesota Vikings are heading into Week 17 in fantastic shape. Hosting the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium, they are in prime position to get the win, lock up the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and receive a first-round bye. Sure, it’s a divisional game and anything can happen, but the chances rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky leads his team to victory against the top defense in the league doesn’t look great.
Not to mention, the Vikings could realistically lose the game and stay right where they are. Basically, if the Carolina Panthers lose, New Orleans Saints win or Los Angeles Rams win, Minnesota is guaranteed the two seed. In other words, four games would have to go the wrong way in order for the Vikings to drop to the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
Knowing this, head coach Mike Zimmer should be afforded the opportunity to rest some of his key players for the Week 17 matchup with the Bears. Of course, he’s not the type of coach to not start his starters in this situation, but that doesn’t mean he’ll have them finish the game. In all likelihood, he’s going to treat this like a third preseason game where the first-stringers play at least the first half. This could change if Chicago puts up more of a fight than imagined though.
Ideally, Case Keenum leads the offense to a couple touchdown drives and the defense does their part in the first half. In turn, Zimmer can pull his starters, especially ones with nagging injuries like Kyle Rudolph and Riley Reiff. Additionally, he can give Teddy Bridgewater in an extended run with the offense. Something that could pay off down the road.
Given the recent injury history at the quarterback position in Minnesota, Zimmer would be wise to give time to the likely backup quarterback in the playoffs. Yes, Sam Bradford is another potential option, but he’s no guarantee to return for the playoffs either. While I’d rather see Bradford backup Keenum, I don’t think anyone should trust that his knee is as good as the reports are leading on right now. Therefore, it could prove beneficial to get Bridgewater on the field, considering he’s only taken a handful of snaps since returning from injury.
Ultimately, the Vikings are in a good position with Bradford and Bridgewater on the roster. If Keenum were to go down, they can feel much better about their chances than other teams can. That being said, it’d be great to see Bridgewater play at least a half of football after missing a majority of two seasons. Admittedly, he’d probably say the same thing as the game field definitely has a different feel than the practice field.
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Hopefully, Minnesota can build an early lead against Chicago to get Bridgewater into the second half of the game. Even though the Bears are 5-10, their defense has played surprisingly well this season, so Teddy should be able to get some valuable work in. Furthermore, the Vikings don’t have to worry about Keenum getting hurt with the game in hand.
Now, this relies on the Vikings building an early lead. Undoubtedly, Zimmer and the rest of the team are looking to win this game and seal the two seed themselves. While the chances are slim they lose the two seed, crazier things have happened before and they’d much rather control their own destiny rather than putting it in the fate of other teams.
That being said, if the opportunity presents itself, Zimmer has to throw Bridgewater out on the field and give him some playing time.
In the end, it should only give Teddy confidence heading into the playoffs. If it doesn’t go well, the Vikings may look harder in Bradford’s direction to see if he’d be ready to play the backup role in the Divisional Round.