Kevin O’Connell possibly taking a gigantic risk vs. Bears in Week 18

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Kevin O'Connell
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Kevin O'Connell /

For whatever reason, the Minnesota Vikings are expected to have their starters take part in Sunday’s Week 18 matchup against the Chicago Bears.

Heading into their 2022 regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell appears to have made a bit of a puzzling decision.

O’Connell was asked on Friday about the possibility of playing his starters against the Bears, and according to multiple reports, the team’s first-year head coach indicated that the Vikings will have their top guys out on the field when the game begins on Sunday.

For a team that now has very low odds of finishing as the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff standings (4.5 percent chance according to Football Outsiders), Minnesota risking the health of some of their top players in Chicago doesn’t make a ton of sense.

No reason for top Minnesota Vikings starters to play in Week 18 vs. Chicago Bears

Any success the Vikings are able to have in the upcoming playoffs will hinge on the health of guys like Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Christian Darrisaw, Dalvin Cook, Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter, Patrick Peterson, and a handful of other notable players on the team’s roster.

If O’Connell sends any of his top guys on the field this weekend, what exactly is the benefit? They get some meaningless reps on a Chicago field known for being one of the worst in the entire NFL?

Understandably, each team is only allowed to have 46 players active on game day, so at the very least, some of Minnesota’s regular starters will have to dress for Sunday’s contest. But for many of the guys at the top of the Vikings’ depth chart, they shouldn’t be on the field for a single snap against the Bears.

Given the cautious approach that O’Connell and Minnesota have taken with player injuries this season, it’s surprising that there’s even a chance of guys like Cousins, Jefferson, or Hunter hitting the field this weekend.

Hopefully, this turns out to just be gamesmanship on the part of O’Connell more than anything, and he never had any intention of playing his top starters on Sunday. If not, the Vikings’ rookie head coach is playing with a fire that could end up burning his team when it comes time for the playoffs next week.

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