After a season that was filled with ups and downs, the Minnesota Vikings and everyone on the roster still had hopes of making a late-season push in the playoffs going into Week 17 against the Green Bay Packers. Those dreams came to a screeching halt after laying an egg against the division rival on Sunday Night Football, resulting in the Vikings officially being eliminated from postseason contention.
To round out the regular season schedule, Minnesota will return home to take the field one more time in Week 18, hosting the Chicago Bears in the regular season finale at US Bank Stadium. Not only will Sunday’s game be a meaningless game for both teams, but it could be a game of lasts for a few different faces as they close the book on the year.
Minnesota Vikings Roster Is At A Crossroads
For starters, Sunday’s Week 18 contests in Minneapolis will ultimately be the final game of the season for both Minnesota and Chicago, as both squads are on the outside of the postseason picture without a chance to get into the playoffs.
Minnesota comes in at 7-9 overall and will finish below the .500 mark regardless of the outcome of the regular season finale. The Vikings have also lost two games in a row and are just 4-3 at home this season. On the other side of the field, Chicago enters at 6-10 on the year and is trying to move into a tie with Minnesota to finish second in the NFC North. The Bears, winners of two straight, are 3-5 away from home this season.
The last game of the year will bring a close to what has been a disappointing season once again for the Vikings, coming into the year with hopes of returning to the playoffs for the first time since reaching the NFC Divisional Round in 2019. Behind multiple one-possession and winnable games that would have improved the team record above .500, those postseason aspirations are officially dead with the final game of the season. And there will be plenty of questions heading into the off-season for the team to address before the new year.
Final Game of Zimmer as Head Coach?
One of the biggest questions and growing topics with the season nearing a conclusion for Minnesota is what it will do with head coach Mike Zimmer and if he will return in 2022. Zimmer has received some deserved criticism over how he has handled many things this season, which could ultimately lead to him coaching the Vikings for the final time in Week 18.
Zimmer has done a nice job in leading Minnesota since his arrival in 2014, most notably with his defensive mind that has resulted in the Vikings establishing a top-notch unit on that side of the ball. But a lack of production and most notably the lack of postseason appearances with a talented roster might spell the end with Minnesota perhaps looking for a new voice at head coach.
Zimmer, who will turn 66 before the new season would begin, holds a record of 71-59-1 over an eight-year span going into Week 18, which will be his 129th game as Vikings head coach. In that span, Minnesota has managed to put together just four seasons above .500, with one season ending up 8-8 overall and the other three ending below the .500 mark. Since 2014, the Vikings have also reached the playoffs just three times, totaling a five-game record of 2-3.
The Minnesota Vikings have a talented roster still in place and most players are set to return in 2022. Perhaps a change in voice at head coach might be the difference maker, which could mark the Week 18 regular season finale on Sunday the last game of the Zimmer era.
Final Game of Cousins at Quarterback?
Another person who could see the Week 18 regular season finale be the last game with the Vikings could be veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins. Some believe Minnesota might try and trade Cousins this offseason, if doable, to not only shed his large contract but to move on at the quarterback position starting next season.
It will be easier said than done for Minnesota to even try and shed Cousins’ contract and to ultimately trade him away if it did want to, given his hefty contract. Cousins will make $45 million next year, which accounts for 21.6 percent of Minnesota’s total team salary.
Cousins has recently said he wants to be in Minnesota for the rest of his career, and the Vikings could feel the same way while having him return under center in 2022. But it wouldn’t be that surprising to see Minnesota try to at least look around the NFL and the trade market to see if another team would be willing to take on his salary while shifting focus to the future of the quarterback position next year.
#Vikings QB Kirk Cousins: "I certainly want to be a Minnesota Viking for the rest of my career."
— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) January 5, 2022
Cousins, who is 33 years old, is finishing up his fourth season as quarterback of the Vikings after spending his first five NFL seasons in Washington. In his time with the Vikings, Cousins has appeared in all but two regular season games and has been a relatively solid quarterback for the purple and gold.
Although he has received heat throughout his tenure in Minnesota, Cousins’ statistics have been pretty solid with the Vikings. In 62 games going into the Week 18 season finale, Cousins has led Minnesota to a record of 32-29-1 while completing 68.4 percent of his 2,105 pass attempts while throwing for 16,137 yards, 121 touchdowns, and 36 interceptions. On average, he has thrown for 260.3 yards per game as a Viking with a passer rating of 103.
It will be an interesting off-season to see unfold in Minnesota when it comes to various aspects of the team, from the front office to the talent on the field. And Sunday’s Week 18 contest won’t only be the last game of the year, but it could also mark the final game for a few faces on the Vikings team.
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