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Custom Kirk Cousins Jersey Large

The New Orleans Saints haven’t been afraid to express themselves over the years, especially when it comes to describing their opponents. While New Orleans players have been relatively quiet this year, Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Jordan opened Pandora’s box when asked about the Minnesota Vikings and their upcoming wild-card matchup.

While appearing on “The Rich Eisen Show,” Jordan answered a question about whether the outcome against the Vikings would depend on how healthy Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook is for the game.

Jordan deferred the question for the most part, but he laughed as he offered a few words on his evaluation of Minnesota’s quarterback.

Jordan: “The issue is knowing what kind of Kirk Cousins you’re gonna get”

Eisen: “So what do you mean by that, Cam?”

Jordan: “At times he looks to be a very proficient quarterback.”

Jordan stopped after that comment, but that could be the statement that motivates Cousins ahead of his second playoff start. Cousins ended his regular season with a 10-5 record, completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 3,603 yards, 26 touchdowns and six interceptions for a 107.4 passer rating (a career-high). While Cousins is in the midst of his best season, he still struggles in primetime games, including an 0-9 record in “Monday Night Football.” In “late” time slots (7 p.m. or later), Cousins is 7-15 while completing 67.7 percent of his passes for 40 touchdowns and 18 interceptions for a 98.2 rating.

The last time Cousins had a defensive player take a shot against his play was when linebacker Zach Brown proclaimed “the weakest part of their offense is him.” Cousins would go on to complete 22 of 29 passes for 333 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 138.4 passer rating in a 38-20 win and the Eagles released Brown days later. The Vikings are hoping for more of the same this Sunday.

Jordan was dismissive when asked about the Minnesota Miracle — the Case Keenum Hail Mary play to Stefon Diggs that knocked the Saints out of the playoffs two seasons ago (the last time the Saints and Vikings met in the playoffs).

“That was two teams ago and like five quarterbacks ago for them, right?,” Jordan said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Cousins was the replacement for Keenum, who signed with the Denver Broncos as a free agent in the following offseason. In two seasons with the Vikings, Cousins has completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 56 touchdowns and 16 interceptions with a 103.0 rating.

Jordan’s comments may motivate Cousins and the Vikings Sunday as they look to become the third consecutive No. 6 seed to win in the NFC wild-card round.

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Custom Eric Kendricks Jersey Large

We’ve gotten the second injury report of the week for the Minnesota Vikings as they prepare for their Wild Card weekend matchup against the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

We’ll go through it here in a bit, but for now here is the full report from today’s session:

Did Not Practice
CB Mackensie Alexander (knee)
S Andrew Sendejo (illness)
DE Stephen Weatherly (illness)
Limited Participation
CB Mike Hughes (neck, downgrade from full)
LB Eric Kendricks (quad, upgrade from DNP)
DE Ifeadi Odenigbo (hamstring)
Full Participation
RB Dalvin Cook (shoulder)
S Jayron Kearse (foot)
RB Alexander Mattison (ankle)
CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle)
DT Shamar Stephen (knee)
A couple of big stories from this one, both involving guys who were limited in practice on Thursday.

The first one is that linebacker Eric Kendricks practiced for the first time since the lead-up to the Green Bay game on Thursday, as he took part in some individual drills. We’ll have to see if he continues to progress on Friday when the final report comes out.

Mike Hughes, on the other hand, was downgraded to limited after being a full participant on Wednesday. Hughes is dealing with a neck injury, and I’m not sure when he suffered that injury, exactly. With Mackensie Alexander continuing to sit out of practice with a knee issue and now Hughes dealing with this, the Vikings’ cornerback group suddenly looks even more suspect.

On the bright side, it doesn’t appear that the illness that Sendejo and Weatherly are dealing with has spread. . .yet.

(knocks firmly on nearest wooden object)

That’s your injury report for Thursday, folks. We’ll have the final injury report here for your perusal at around this time tomorrow.

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Custom Rashod Hill Jersey Large

EAGAN — When the Minnesota Vikings came out of halftime without veteran left tackle Riley Reiff, there was cause for concern.

Not only has Reiff put together a strong season at one of the most valuable positions in the sport but his assignment was largely former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. But experienced swing tackle Rashod Hill came off the bench and allowed zero sacks, zero QB hits and zero pressures (per PFF) in the second half.

“I think Rashod (Hill) has proven to be very versatile,” offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said. “He’s our swing tackle, so he has to be ready to go in on the right side, on the left side. You saw in that game he came in and I thought performed pretty well. Riley’s a captain of this team, certainly want him out there. If he’s not available to go, that’s why you have backups that are on point like Rashod like he showed this last week. Rashod is certainly a guy that we’ve leaned on. He’s came in during a game before. He’s come in during the week. He’s really taken the bit as being a player that is always ready to go.”

Monday night’s game wasn’t the first time that Hill has been asked to jump up off the bench and stop a quality pass rusher. Against Philadelphia he entered in relief of Reiff and had the same results: Zero pressures on Kirk Cousins. In 85 total snaps Hill is yet to give up so much as a QB hurry.

“It’s good to have him, he can play both sides,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Need guys like that.”

The Vikings may need him to continue his quality play if Reiff can’t go this week against the Detroit Lions. The starting left tackle missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practices.

For a swing tackle who was undrafted and signed off Jacksonville’s practice squad in 2016, Hill has a good amount of NFL experience. He has 1,400 total snaps, 882 of which have come at right tackle, 493 on the left side and a handful as an extra lineman. Last season he won the starting job over Brian O’Neill — who hasn’t allowed a sack all season — but eventually saw the second-round pick in 2018 take over the starting gig.

Swing tackles who can be trusted on both sides against good competition are hard to find in the NFL. That’s why the Vikings gave him a $2 million deal as a restricted free agent this offseason rather than drafting a replacement or signing someone on the cheap. That decision could pay dividends if he has to start down the stretch as he did in 2017.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

— With Ron Rivera out in Carolina, the Panthers are already being connected to Kevin Stefanski as a possible replacement. The Panthers bumped up Scott Turner to offensive coordinator for the final four games in order to give him a shot at being the next OC. If they want to keep him on, that would even strengthen the possibility of hiring Stefanski since the two worked together in Minnesota.

“Excited for him,” Stefanski said. “Never good in this business when people are losing jobs to get an opportunity that way, that’s not the fun way to do it, but any of us and you’re getting your first opportunity to call plays, I think is exciting. I think you have to lean on your assistant coaches. I think he has a really group down there to help him out.”

— The Vikings drafted Armon Watts with hopes he could be a development project. With the few opportunities he’s gotten due to injuries, the former Arkansas DT has been a noticeable presence. With Linval Joseph coming back quickly from injury, we may see more of Watts in the rotation.

“He’s really done a nice job in the run game,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “He’s done a nice job. He tipped a pass last week that ended up going for an interception, so he’s really shown an ability to be able to go and adjust and adapt to what it is we’re asking him to do. He’s been pretty successful with what we’re asking him to do.”

— With the Bears beating the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football, all of the sudden Week 17 between the Vikings and Bears looks more interesting. Chicago is still 1.5 games back of the Vikings but the Bears would have a tiebreaker because of the Week 4 game at Soldier Field. Chicago plays Green Bay next week with an extra few days rest.

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Custom C.J. Ham Jersey Large

When Vikings fullback C.J. Ham laces up his cleats Sunday morning, he’ll feel a little extra motivation – and emotion – ahead of taking the field at U.S. Bank Stadium.

It’s not because this weekend’s game is a divisional matchup and a hopeful bounce-back for Minnesota after a tough loss to Seattle on Monday Night Football.

Rather, C.J.’s custom-designed kicks for the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats game feature a portrait of his mother, Tina, who currently is fighting pancreatic cancer.

C.J. surprised Tina with the cleats after a recent Saturday morning walk-through. Sharing the first look, mother and son each were taken aback by the detail as they lifted the box’s lid and picked up the shoes.

C.J. Ham Surprises His Mom with His “My Cause, My Cleats”
Vikings running back C.J. Ham surprised his mother with his cleats for “My, Cause, My Cleats.”

On one, Tina is painted with a wide smile and in Vikings gear, a photograph snapped pregame at the Crucial Catch game in October; You are the strongest person in the world is written in white across the toe. The other reads, I love you, Mom. A purple ribbon for pancreatic cancer wraps across the outside panel of each cleat.

“These are made specifically for you,” C.J. told Tina. “I know you’ve been through a lot in this past year, and I just wanted to make these special for you.”

“They’re so cute,” she said, breaking into a matching smile.

C.J.’s cleats represent the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, which is dedicated to fighting “the world’s toughest cancer” through research, clinical initiatives, patient services and advocacy.

Tina was diagnosed in March 2018 initially with Stage 2 pancreatic cancer, but surgery revealed that it actually was Stage 4.

C.J. has been inspired by his mother and felt strongly about dedicating Sunday’s game to her ongoing battle.

“With everything she’s been through, staying strong this entire time, I just wanted to honor her,” he explained. “I love my mom, and I just want to do all I can for her.”

He gave Tina a hug and kiss and then was joined by his wife, Stephanie, and daughters, Skylar and Stella.

“That’s Granny!” Skylar exclaimed excitedly, pointing to the portrait.

“It’s way better than I even imagined. Words can’t even really explain,” C.J. said. “Just the portrait itself – there’s so much strength in that picture.

“She truly is the strongest person I know, and I know when I’m wearing these cleats, it’s going to help me,” he added, his voice wavering.

As the family continued to admire the uniquely designed cleats, Tina reiterated how much she loved them.

“But I don’t get to wear them,” she said, laughing.

“No, you don’t get to wear them,” C.J. agreed with a smile. “But I get to wear them for you.”

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Custom Pat Elflein Jersey Large

Vikings guard Pat Elflein is in his third NFL season but first under Minnesota’s current offensive coaching staff.

Elflein believes this new system best-fits Minnesota’s roster and gives its offensive playmakers a chance to shine.

The Vikings enter tonight’s game ranked fourth in rushing yards per game (135.9), second in passing yards per play (8.03) and fourth in interception rate (1.21).

“It lets Dalvin [Cook] get the ball in his hands and pretty much run the ball where he wants to. It lets Kirk [Cousins] get out in space a little bit and take some shots, and it allows us linemen to run block … to really attack some defenses with the run game,” Elflein said. “I feel like we’re on the attack.”

Asked what makes the Vikings offensive line group special, Elflein pointed to the coaches, as well as veteran left tackle Riley Reiff.

“Riley is our leader; I think it starts there – really having a blue-collar work mentality,” he said. “Every time we come to practice or come to the weight room or go to meetings, we’re locked in, and we’re about our business. But we also have a lot of fun together, too. I feel like we have a good balance of both.”

Added Elflein: “We take pride in that.”

elflein-feature-3-2506
We caught up with Pat to chat about pounding the beef, spreading holiday cheer and – of course – mullets.

Q: Dalvin Cook is headed to his first Pro Bowl; how much pride do you take in that?

A: “We’re so happy that Dalvin made the Pro Bowl. From where he’s been … through injuries and a lot of things he’s had to deal with, for him to come back from that and make the Pro Bowl, it’s a testament to what type of person he is, what type of player, his resiliency, and just the flat-out talent he has. With and without the football, he’s an incredible player. We’re happy for him, and I know he’s definitely earned it.”

Q: How fun is it when he gives the football to a lineman to spike after he scores?

A: “It’s awesome. Dalvin’s sharing the love. He’s scoring touchdowns, getting all that, and for him to give the ball to us to have a little fun with it, too, it just makes it fun. Something to look forward to, an opportunity to let a little personality show. And it’s a bonding moment, too; we all get excited for each other when we score and get to do something like that.”

Q: Has there been a top spike this season?

A: “Yeah – all of mine.”

efllein-feature-5-2560
Q: ‘Pound the Beef’ has become a popular phrase – tell me about that.

A: “Basically, it just means pounding the rock, running the football. It just kind of evolved into what we do on Sundays when we’re able to run the ball and really impose our will. Pound the beef. Pound the rock.”

Q: And even Kirk gets in on it sometimes, right?

A: “Yeah. Sometimes he’ll carry it, and he’ll pound some beef, too. We’ll let him know he’s poundin’. Oh yeah.”

Q: Christmas is soon; what’s the best Christmas gift you’ve gotten?

A: “It had to be when I was a kid, and my mom got us an X-box; I was pretty pumped about that.”

Q: Your last name is a fun one around the holidays; how fun was the Elf Line video last year?

A: “And we did one at the mall recently, too. Gettin’ in the Christmas spirit is fun and something that I’ve always done, and as an O-line, we like to get into the Christmas spirit. I have the last name that kind of goes along with it, so anytime I get to play along with that and spread some Christmas cheer, I’m all about it. It’s fun.”

Q: Which is more fun? Dressing up as an elf or as Mario for the Kids Club Halloween party?

A: “Those were both pretty good. When I was Mario, [right tackle] Brian O’Neill was Luigi, so it was fun to kind of tag-team that one. But, we actually dressed up as elves together, too, at the mall. Dressing up as elves is pretty fun – everyone gets a kick out of that for the holidays.”

Q: In all seriousness, why is a positive presence in the community important to you?

A: “It’s an awesome community. As Vikings players, we feel the utmost support from the fans all season, even in the offseason. The city, the fans, the people here have our back – and it shows on game day. So … to make someone’s day, to make someone’s holiday, whatever we can do to do that, we love it. We love giving back. We did the Halloween party, we did the Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, we were spreading Christmas cheer at the mall. Anytime we get a chance to do that, we always take advantage.”

pat-elflein-1-2560

Q: Tell me a little about the facial hair you have going on here.

A: “Oh, the ’stache? It’s just kind of grown into a style that I’ve been embracing this year. I don’t really know where it came from, but I’m just rocking this mustache right now, and I feel like I can’t shave it. I just can’t do it right now. I like to get cleaned up, too, get a nice haircut and be clean-shaven – but right now, I just can’t. I’m wearing this mustache until the time is right.”

Q: Brian O’Neill told me to ask you about the mullet, too.

A: “Oh, yeah, I’ve got a mullet going, too, trying to grow the back out. I’ve always been a fan of Joe Dirt, and then the Kurt Dirt thing kind of came around, and I was just like, ‘I’m growing a mullet.’ So that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Q: Do you think you’ll get to keep it for your wedding in April?

A: “Not a chance. There’s a zero-percent chance of keeping it for the wedding. It’ll be fun while it lasts.”

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Custom Harrison Smith Jersey Large

EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings know full well they’re the underdogs heading into New Orleans.

In all honesty, that might be putting it lightly.

“I don’t think anybody believes that we can win this game, so we go in there and slug it out,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said on Monday. “All I really care about is that 53 guys believe.”

The Vikings are prepping for a Saints squad that is only the third 13-3 team to play in the Wild Card round since 1990, when the NFL expanded to a six-team field for each conference.

So, sure, the task is a tall one. But as Zimmer said after the Week 17 game, “Why not us?”

Minnesota has been considered the underdog before, but the team welcomes the challenge.

That oversight tangibly surfaced earlier this week, when the NFL released a postseason hype video that included 10 of the 12 playoff teams but omitted the Vikings and Eagles.

Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs was asked during his session with Twin Cities media members if he had any sort of reaction to the omission.

“I don’t make the videos. We don’t make the videos,” he answered. “We’ve got to play ball.”

Five-time Pro Bowler Harrison Smith has been with Vikings teams that have been underdogs and favorites. He doesn’t much mind the underdog.

“That’s how it is,” Smith said. “All that matters is what we believe, how we prepare in this building and how we go out and play. All that other stuff doesn’t really matter.”

Fellow safety Anthony Harris thought for a moment when asked if the Vikings “enjoy” being looked at as the weaker team.

“I think we like having the opportunity to play another week,” Harris said. “I think guys like the preparation and like competing.”

Quarterback Kirk Cousins doesn’t buy too much one way or another into Minnesota’s perceived chances at New Orleans.

He’s really only concerned about one thing.

“You understand that you’re seeded and you go play a game, but all that really matters is it’s one game. We’ve just got to go play in a tough environment,” Cousins said. “Whatever people need for motivation, so be it, but in the NFL Playoffs, I don’t probably need too much more motivation. You’ve got everything you need, just from the fact that you’re in the playoffs.”

In the playoffs or not, there doesn’t seem to be much confidence in the Vikings outside of the building. But Diggs pointed out that the Vikings locker room is full of “guys that have a lot to prove.”

“You can see the makeup of this team. We’ve got a lot of late-round guys,” Diggs said. “Even Dalvin Cook, I think Dalvin Cook should have been the first back off the board. We’ve got a lot of guys with a lot to prove that came in with that mindset.

“It’s a good spot to be in,” he added. “Some people don’t like it, but it’s a great spot. We’ve got a lot to prove, and we look forward to it.”

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Custom Andrew Sendejo Jersey Large

The Bears took advantage of the shorthanded Vikings to finish the 2019 season with a 21-19 win Sunday afternoon. Mitch Trubisky orchestrated a scoring drive inside the final two minutes to salvage the victory with Eddy Pineiro’s go-ahead field goal.

The Vikings, having already clinched the No. 6 seed in the NFC, benched many of their key players ahead of the game. Instead of Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook, the Bears’ defense had to stop Sean Mannion and Mike Boone.

Mannion struggled throughout the game, but Boone blew up with 17 carries for 148 yards and a touchdown. It’s the most rushing yards by a player against the Bears’ defense since Green Bay’s Ty Montgomery ran for 162 in 2016.

The Bears wrap up the 2019 season with an 8-8 record.

Final score: Bears 21, Vikings 19
Bears 21, Vikings 19: With 12 seconds to go, Eddy Pineiro hits the go-ahead field goal. He’s 4-of-4 in the game.

Vikings 19, Bears 18: The Vikings just ran out of timeouts and the Bears should have a chance to take the clock inside 20 seconds before setting up a field goal attempt.

Vikings 19, Bears 18: Trying to milk the clock, Mitch Trubisky hits Allen Robinson for a 3-yard gain on third-and-2 to keep the offense on the field. Big play.

Vikings 19, Bears 18: Mitch Trubisky delivers! The QB finds a streaking Riley Ridley on the right side for a 34-yard gain before the receiver gets tripped up. The Bears will have first down at the Vikings’ 17 when play resumes after the two-minute warning.

Vikings 19, Bears 18: After converting a couple first downs to get near midfield, the Bears are facing a fourth-and-9 that could decide the game.

Vikings 19, Bears 18: The Bears’ defense holds up on a short field, but Dan Bailey stays perfect with a 34-yard field goal to put Minnesota ahead.

Bears 18, Vikings 16: Wow. Mitch Trubisky fumbles on the second straight play and this time it’s recovered by Ifeadi Odenigbo. The lineman returned it all the way to the end zone, but it was ruled that he was down by contact at the Bears’ 23.

Bears 18, Vikings 16: Mitch Trubisky fumbles in the backfield after being sacked but manages to recover it.

Bears 18, Vikings 16: After the Bears get the stop, Dan Bailey hits the 39-yard field goal to cut the lead to two points.

Bears 18, Vikings 13: The Vikings go backwards as Oli Udoh gets called for unnecessary roughness following a post-play scuffle. That puts them in a tough third-and-18 situation down a score.

Bears 18, Vikings 13: Alexander Hollins makes a huge catch for 35 yards to put the Vikings at the Bears’ 13. That’s the biggest pass play of the game for Minnesota.

Bears 18, Vikings 13: A brutal unnecessary roughness penalty on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gives the Vikings a free first down after they’d be stopped on third-and-2.

Bears 18, Vikings 13: On third-and-10, the Bears yet fail to pass beyond the first down line, and Tarik Cohen gets taken down a yard short.

Bears 18, Vikings 13: Mike Boone completes the eight-play, 43-yard drive with the Vikings’ first touchdown of the game.

Third quarter: Bears 18, Vikings 6
Bears 18, Vikings 6: Mitch Trubisky gets stuffed on a QB sneak on fourth-and-1, giving the ball back to the Vikings late in the third quarter.

Bears 18, Vikings 6: Allen Robinson with an amazing catch on third down, but he gets whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct for yelling in the face of a Vikings defender afterwards.

Bears 18, Vikings 6: The Vikings go three-and-out after a good run by Mike Boone on third down gets called back for holding.

Bears 18, Vikings 6: What a drive from David Montgomery, who finishes off a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 14-yard rumble up the middle. The linemen did a good job of shoving the pile into the end zone to complete the play.

Bears 11, Vikings 6: David Montgomery keeps getting the rock to open the third quarter and it’s working as he’s ran for 43 yards on five carries.

Halftime: Bears 11, Vikings 6
Bears 11, Vikings 6: A good tackle by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on third down forces the Vikings to settle for a 38-yard field goal.

Bears 11, Vikings 3: Mike Boone takes off for 41 yards to give the Vikings a shot to score inside the final minute of the half. He’s up to 126 rushing yards in the first half.

Bears 11, Vikings 3: Eddy Pineiro hits from 34 yards for his third field goal of the afternoon.

Bears 8, Vikings 3: Taking advantage of the safety, the Bears are slicing into Vikings territory on the subsequent drive. A 17-yard pass to Javon Wims was one of their biggest of the game so far.

Bears 8, Vikings 3: Mike Boone gets taken down for a safety to give the Bears a couple points and possession.

Bears 6, Vikings 3: Bears announce Anthony Miller is questionable to return (shoulder) and Cordarelle Patterson is out for the game (concussion).

Bears 6, Vikings 3: The drive stalls out near midfield, but Pat O’Donnell bombs away a 57-yard punt that’s downed at the Vikings’ own 1-yard line. A good play by the special teams unit.

Bears 6, Vikings 3: The Bears get gifted a first down with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Andrew Sendejo.

Bears 6, Vikings 3: After a good pass over the middle to a wide open Allen Robinson for 18 yards, the offense line gets overwhelmed for an easy sack on Mitch Trubisky.

Bears 6, Vikings 3: Anthony Miller, stepping in for Cordarrelle Patterson while he’s in concussion protocol, goes down on the kick return. Team personnel helped him off the field and into the blue medical tent.

Bears 6, Vikings 3: After the Bears get the stop at their own 19, the Vikings’ Dan Bailey hits a 37-yard field goal to cut the lead in half.

Bears 6, Vikings 0: The Vikings converted a pair of third-and-7 situations, then turned to Mike Boone for a 14-yard run to put them into field goal territory.

First quarter: Bears 6, Vikings 0
Bears 6, Vikings 0: Another trip to the end zone ends with a short field goal from Eddy Pineiro.

Bears 3, Vikings 0: Mitch Trubisky goes down the middle to Allen Robinson for a 15-yard gain on third-and-15. The Bears are now 3-of-4 on third downs so far.

Bears 3, Vikings 0: Another takeaway! Dalvin Cook bobbles a pass and Kevin Pierre-Louis is right there to catch the ball for the first interception of his NFL career.

Bears 3, Vikings 0: The drive stalls out at the Vikings’ 8, so the Bears settle for a 26-yard field goal from Eddy Pineiro.

Bears 0, Vikings 0: A couple third-down conversions have the Bears on the move on their first offensive drive of the game.

Bears 0, Vikings 0: On the next play, Sean Mannion and Mike Boone screw up the handoff, leading to a fumble recovered by Bilal Nichols. That’s the first takeaway by the Bears in a few weeks.

Bears 0, Vikings 0: Mike Boone takes off on the Vikings’ first offensive play of the game for 59 yards to put them at the Bears’ 16. Not a good start.

Before the game
The Bears try to end their 2019 regular season on a high note with a Week 17 matchup against the Vikings on Sunday afternoon. It’s a low stakes game for both sides as Minnesota gets ready for the playoffs while Matt Nagy’s squad takes the field one last time before a long offseason.

Nagy lived up to his claims throughout the week that he’d play his healthy starters by listing all of them active Sunday morning. The same couldn’t be said for the Vikings, who won’t be playing quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook and several other key players as they turn an eye toward their Wild Card Round matchup in a week.

The Packers clinched the NFC North title with last week’s win over Minnesota and can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Lions on Sunday. The Vikings are already locked into the No. 6 seed in the NFC, so they’ll be unaffected by the results of Week 17.

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Custom Linval Joseph Jersey Large

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Monday night’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers isn’t for all the marbles, but an argument could be said that it’s for a whole bunch of them.

The Packers and Vikings are both destined for the playoffs, but based on what happens Monday night and the following week against a depleted Detroit Lions team, the Packers could find themselves as the NFC’s top playoff seed, or the lowest playoff seed. The difference between the two seeds comes down to a first-round bye and at least one home game versus playing up to three games on the road prior to the Super Bowl.

Yikes.

For visiting Green Bay, tackle Bryan Bulaga, corner Kevin King, tackle Alex Light, linebacker Blake Martinez and corner Tramon Williams are all nursing injuries but are certain to play. Tight ends Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis were limited in practice this week, but are also expected to play. Defensive end Dean Lowery is questionable to play.

For the Vikings, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, safety Jayron Kearse, corner Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen are all nursing injuries but are expected to play. It’s at running back where the Vikings might be thin. All-world running back Dalvin Cook is out, and his backup Alexander Mattison is questionable.

Packers

Scheduled to play, but full participants in practice:

Bryan Bulaga T
Kevin King CB
Alex Light T
Blake Martinez LB
Tramon Williams CB

Scheduled to play, but limited participants in practice:

Jimmy Graham TE
Marcedes Lewis TE

Out

Yosuah Nijman T

Questionable

Dean Lowry DE

Vikings

Scheduled to play, but full participants in practice:

Linval Joseph DT
Jayron Kearse S
Xavier Rhodes CB
Shamar Stephen DT

Out

Dalvin Cook RB

Questionable

Alexander Mattison RB

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Custom Eric Wilson Jersey Large

Eric Wilson has a history with — and against — Detroit.

The Vikings linebacker grew up in Redford, Michigan, which is fewer than 20 miles from the Lions home stadium of Ford Field.

But he wasn’t a big fan of the team.

“I never grew up a Lions fan … more of a Tigers fan,” Wilson said. “More just fans of good players … a lot of respect for Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson.”

Now in his third season with the Vikings, Wilson has made seven career starts — with three of them against the Lions.

He started both games against Detroit in 2018 and was also a starter in Week 7 of the 2019 season when the Vikings earned a 42-30 win. (Wilson has made six of his seven starts against NFC North opponents).

“I was just excited. Excited to be out there, especially in my hometown,” Wilson said of the games he’s started in Detroit. “I had about 30 people there, just family and friends watching. I was just excited to go make plays.”

“I think last year I started both Lions games and both Bears games,” Wilson added. “Those are big, important games — division games — and it was great to get experience in those.”

Wilson said he likes how his game has improved since arriving as an undrafted free agent from the University of Cincinnati in the spring of 2017.

But he also emphasized the importance of providing depth for the Vikings defense at a moment’s notice.

“I think I’ve been doing a good job. I’ve been steadily trying to get better in any way that I can,” Wilson said. “Just improve on the details and the fundamentals of the game. Those are important, especially at this time of the year.

“And anywhere you look, you have to have guys ready to play and step up,” Wilson added. “Even if it’s only for one play, or for a whole game, you have to be ready and know the game plan even if you’re not listed as starting that week. You have to know all the intricacies and stay ready during the week.”

Wilson has 4.0 sacks in his career, two of which came in Week 3 against Oakland in September. Another occurred against the Bears in Week 11 of the 2018 season.

The fourth, naturally, happened at Ford Field against the Lions in Week 16 last season.

We caught up with Eric to talk about the Vikings linebackers group, visor sponsorships and whether or not he has ties to Lizzo:

Q: Your position group seems especially close. What’s the vibe like in the linebackers room?

A: “It’s great. Our linebackers … we’re a family, we’re a tight group. We hang out a lot off the field and have a lot of fun on the field, so it’s a great room.”

Q: You traveled with Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr last offseason … anything planned for 2020?

A: “We went to Japan, and that was awesome. Not only to see Japan and everything it had to offer, but to bond with the guys. We don’t have a concrete plan [for 2020], but we were maybe thinking about Australia. But to get there, we might have to make a couple stops along the way. We have to talk more about it.”

Q: You blocked a punt in Week 1 that left your helmet visor with blood on it. Did you ever get the Oakley sponsorship you wanted?

A: “I didn’t get the sponsorship. Last year, too, I got smashed in the face and had an Under Armour imprint on my face. I didn’t get a sponsorship from that, either. I don’t know what’s going on with these visor sponsorships … I need to talk to them.”

Q: I noticed you have the Wilson Sporting Goods logo tattooed inside of a football on your left chest. What’s the story behind that?

A: “I got that back when I was 16 or 17, in high school. I thought it was pretty unique that dang near every football had Wilson on it. That is one of my passions, so why not put that on and represent? It’s on my left chest, along with my football numbers over the top of it.”

Q: Is that every number you’ve worn?

A: “That I’ve worn so far for a good period of time. I was a couple different numbers in high school, but the number I was most was 11. And then 23 was my number in college. I don’t have 50 [tattooed] yet, though.”

Q: Time for the most serious question on here. We all know Lizzo sings about the “new man on the Minnesota Vikings” in her song “Truth Hurts.” She recently said he is from the Detroit area. You are from the Detroit area … is it you?

A: “I did hear about that, and a lot of people hit me up asking if I’m the new man or have any type of connection. But I don’t. My mom actually hit me up last [month] asking me questions about that … my uncle, a whole bunch of friends. But it’s not me. I need to do some more investigating.”

Q: I’m guessing a lot of your teammates razz you about that?

A: “Oh, yeah. Kirk [Cousins] and Adam [Thielen] were asking me if that was me. It’s not.”

Editor’s note: This Timeout will run in Sunday’s Playbook game program, which was sent to print on Wednesday. Lizzo posted this tweet Wednesday about the mystery man. Vikings fans know what to do:

1 million RTs and I’ll tell u who my new man on the Minnesota @Vikings is https://t.co/oLmGOSJcrG

— Feelin Good As Hell (@lizzo) December 4, 2019

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Custom Anthony Harris Jersey Large

Vikings safety Anthony Harris had himself quite the 2019 season.

Harris graded as Pro Football Focus‘ second-highest safety with a grade of 90.5. It’s a 1.5 increase from his 2018 grade.

Along with that, Harris finished the 2019 season with a career-high six interceptions. It’s a mark that also was tied for the league lead along with New England’s Stephon Gilmore and Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White.

This glow up for Harris has come at a good time considering he’s in a contract year and is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Surely the Vikings will do everything they can to retain Harris considering how valuable he’s been to this defense over the last two seasons.

The Vikings will need him at his best, along with the other defensive backs, in Sunday’s playoff game against Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and the Saints.