By this point, the expectation was that the Vikings would be without Garrett Bradbury and James Lynch. More surprising, perhaps, is the 3 more who are questionable for the Vikings.
LB Brian Asamoah, CB Cameron Dantlzer, and edge rusher Za’Darius Smith are all questionable against the Bears.
Chris Reed looks like he’ll be the C1 for Minnesota on Sunday. The hope is certainly that an extra week of practice will help him to eliminate the pesky errors from the Packers game. Reed is a veteran, so I’m expecting him to have a stronger effort. The veteran lineman has played in 67 games in his career, starting 29 of them. In other words, Reed has plenty of experience to draw on. Expect a better day at the office for Mr. Reed.
Lynch is a versatile backup who helps keep the starters along the defensive line fresh. His size allows him to move up and down the line, making him an intriguing depth player. His absence opens more opportunity for Khyiris Tonga and Esezi Otomewo.
Perhaps the most surprising name on the list is Smith. The former Packer has piled up 10 sacks for the season, but he only has 0.5 sacks since Week 11. If he were to miss the game, it would be due to a “personal matter” rather than a physical injury. In the playoffs, Smith will be integral to Minnesota’s success.
Both Brian Asamoah and Cameron Dantzler are young defenders whom the Vikings would like to lean on both this season and (in all likelihood) for many more to come.
Asamoah has been particularly promising lately. He brings a notable energy and physicality to the linebacker position. Though undersized, his effort and compete allow him to fly around. He has 17 tackles, 1 FF, and 1 FR for the season. He has also been a terror on special teams for Matt Daniels. The rookie third-rounder has a bright future, folks.
Dantzler has gone through some adversity lately. He was back for last week’s game, but Duke Shelley maintained his spot in the starting lineup. For the first two years under Mike Zimmer, Dantlzer was in and out of the starting lineup; unfortunately, that trend has continued with Ed Donatell leading the defense. To be sure, injuries have much to do with the struggle to stay in the starting lineup. Dantzler hasn’t played a full season in his 3 years in the NFL.
If I was in charge, I’d be very reluctant to play my starters for very much of the Week 18 game. Finishing at 13-4 would be a notable accomplishment, and yet it may not do much to actually help the team compete in the playoffs. Brian O’Neill – a true top-tier offensive tackle – has already been lost for the playoffs. Losing any other players would make the road to Lombardi Station even harder to traverse.
Kevin O’Connell’s Vikings travel to Soldier Field to take on the Bears on Sunday. The game begins at 12 CST.
Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.