The Minnesota Vikings have known that they would be heading to the postseason for a little while now as they clinched the NFC North title a few weeks ago. But, they are certainly not heading into the playoffs in top form, as they are limping toward the finish line.
Minnesota is on track to become the first 12+-win team since the merger to finish the season with a negative point differential. They are currently -19 on the season, meaning they have to defeat the Chicago Bears in Week 18 by at least 20 to avoid that ugly record.
When the Vikings lose games, they do it embarrassingly. All four of their losses this season have come by at least 11 points, while only one of their victories has come by double-digits. They are 10-0 in one-score games this season, which is why they are in their current position.
Last week’s loss to the Green Bay Packers was an embarrassing one on the scoreboard as they lost 41-17. Green Bay scored 41 unanswered points, as Minnesota made the score a little more respectable in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided with two touchdowns.
Alas, the game was more damaging than just another mark in the loss column. The Vikings lost two more players to injury along their offensive line, a unit that was already playing backups at spots.
Right tackle Brian O’Neill is a huge loss. O’Neill, a second-round pick out of Pittsburgh in 2018, has been locked in at the right tackle spot essentially since he was drafted. He had a Pro Bowl campaign last season and was once again a lynchpin in the offensive line.
Unfortunately, he was placed on IR earlier this week after suffering what head coach Kevin O’Connell admitted was a pretty significant calf injury. That guarantees that Minnesota will begin the postseason with at least one starter down along the offensive line. They could be without their starter and his backup at the center position as well.
Austin Schlottmann has been filling in for the injured Garrett Bradberry, starting the last four games. But, Schlottmann was also placed on IR this week because of a fractured left fibula. There is hope that Bradberry could return to the lineup for the playoffs, but if he is unable to go, third-stringer Chris Reed will be in the lineup.
Reed has already been announced as the starter for the season finale against the Bears in Week 18. Veteran Oli Udoh will slide into the right tackle spot in place of O’Neill. Center Greg Mancz was signed to the 53-man roster in another corresponding move while offensive tackle Bobby Evans was signed to the practice squad.