Vikings-Bears should be battle of backups: NFC North notebook
There is no reason the starters for both the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears should take the field for their Week 18 matchup at Soldier Field. None. Hear me out.
The Bears are, and have been, eliminated from playoff contention. The only thing left to play for was pride and the development of quarterback Justin Fields. I whispered this sentiment last week in this same column, while fully acknowledging the Bears wouldn’t do it, but Fields needs to sit. There is no meaningful development taking place at this point.
He’s playing behind a piecemeal offensive line, even as they looked as healthy as they’d been going into this past Sunday’s game. Teven Jenkins and Michael Schofield promptly went down, leaving the Bears scrambling up front yet again. Fields then took seven sacks against the Lions newfound, and very young, pass rush. Fields has taken 15 sacks in the last three games. He’s been sacked 55 times this season, the most in the league, and in 27 games as a Chicago Bear, Fields has suffered 91 takedowns. Jay Cutler previously held the Bears’ single-season record with 52 sacks in his first year in Chicago back in 2009. Fields has now supplanted him.
Fields has already fought through multiple injuries this season, most recently an AC joint injury to his non-throwing shoulder as a result of a tackle. With so much uncertainty up front, Fields has simply had to do entirely too much and it isn’t worth it (and perhaps hasn’t been for weeks).
As far as development goes, sure, you’d like to see him get more of a rapport with Chase Claypool, who was a midseason addition that should be here next year. Claypool already vowed to work with Fields this offseason to get on the same page, and outside of Claypool the rest of the available receivers for Fields have no guarantee to be on the roster in 2023. Fields’ overall weapons are limited as is. What good will reps and development do with a limited supporting cast?
Now, as far as the Vikings go, they still have seeding to play for. They are currently the three seed in the NFC but have no shot at the one seed and the first-round bye. That’s what matters. The two or three seed could shake out a number of ways depending on what happens this weekend but is there really that much of a difference? I’d argue not enough to risk potential injury to quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Packers dismantle Vikings in Week 17
Nick Wright, Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes discuss Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers victory vs. rival Minnesota Vikings in Week 17.
The Vikings are on their third-string center, guard Chris Reed, who made multiple gaffes and had several miscommunications after Austin Schlottman went down against Green Bay this Sunday. Head coach Kevin O’Connell came out and said Schlottman’s injury is significant. Right tackle Brian O’Neill also suffered a calf injury in the game, which O’Connell also called “significant.” Garrett Bradbury is starting to practice again but they’re still in wait and see mode, which virtually rules him out for Week 18. Cousins miraculously only took two sacks against the Packers but didn’t get into much of a rhythm due to his lack of protection. Even with Schlottman in, Cousins took four sacks against the Giants in Week 16 and a whopping seven against the Colts in their miraculous Week 15 overtime comeback.
Cousins is doing too much when he should be resting, along with most of the other starters, as they prepare for their wild–card matchup with whoever it ends up being.
Dan Campbell, Lions just happy to be playing meaningful football in January
There is no quit in Dan Campbell’s Lions. That much has been evident thanks to a midseason turnaround that has Detroit sitting at 8-8 with legitimate postseason hopes after starting the campaign 1-6.
Their fate isn’t up to them, unlike the Packers who have the same record. Due to conference tiebreakers, the Lions also need the Seahawks to lose to the Rams. But if nothing else, this season has proven Detroit is close and they just might have the intangibles to make a real run for years to come.
“I think it’s important to get used to being here because that’s what you — this is where you want to be,” said Campbell on Monday. “You want to be in the thick of it, and you always want to have a chance to get in or have gotten in, and now it’s about seeding, everything I’ve talked about last night, and so this has got to be where we’re at. And I do think it’s very important because to get to this point, now, especially for a young team overall … you look at the ebbs and flows of this season and different teams including us, all the hype one way or all the lows one way, and this team’s written off, and they’re back, this team is the greatest thing that’s happened in years, and now look at the slide they’re on – it’s natural. It’s been that way for years, and you’ve just got to be consistent, and just handle your business, go to work every week. You’ve got to have a little luck. You do, but you’ve got to be a resilient team, and I think that’s got to be part of your foundation, and that’s why we put this team together.”
Not only is this just good experience for the Lions, even if the Seahawks win and eliminate Detroit prior to their matchup with the Packers, the Lions can be the ones to knock a division opponent out of the postseason on national TV.
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Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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