The Chicago Bears face a dilemma against the Minnesota Vikings, but health must be the priority.
We’ve finally reached Week 17 and although the Chicago Bears locked up the NFC North with a win two weeks ago against the Green Bay Packers, there is still a lot to be decided in their final game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Let’s recap quickly. The Bears still have the chance to secure the No. 2 overall seed in the NFC and earn a first-round bye, as well as a Divisional Round home game. It goes without saying that doing so would be huge. However, they need the Los Angeles Rams to lose at home to the San Francisco 49ers who haven’t won on the road this year.
If the Bears remain the No. 3 seed, then they have some control over who they play at Soldier Field in the Wild Card Round. If they beat Minnesota and Philadelphia defeats the Washington Redskins (likely), they’ll play the Eagles. If they lose to the Vikings, they will turn around and play them for a third time this season.
Regardless of those things, the Bears should enter this game with health remaining their top priority. Look, it is unlikely they get the No. 2 seed — losing to the New York Giants all but assured that. So they’ll really be playing to knock the Vikings out of the playoffs.
But here’s the reality — it won’t matter who they play in the playoffs if they’re not 100 percent healthy. Therefore, head coach Matt Nagy must do whatever he can to make sure they come out of the game unscathed.
Nagy has already indicated he plans on staying aggressive and playing to win, though he cautioned that could change depending on the score of the Rams game. While that approach makes sense, there are still ways to ensure the team stays healthy.
First and foremost, any player who is even the slightest bit nicked up should not see the field. That means Eddie Jackson and Aaron Lynch don’t even suit up. That also means Allen Robinson, who has been dealing with some bruised ribs is also inactive. Same goes for Bilal Nichols who has missed some practice this week with a knee issue.
Look, there is injury risk associated with playing football and there is simply no way around it. Yet, it’s one thing to go all out with the players who are healthy enough to see the field. It’s another to put already injured players at further risk.
So while Nagy’s approach to play to win on Sunday make sense, he shouldn’t unnecessarily increase the risk to his players. In addition, if he is playing to win, he would still be wise to reduce the number of snaps his starters see — especially guys like Tarik Cohen, Akiem Hicks, and Khalil Mack. All three have played a lot of snaps this year and would be well served to get a little bit of a breather before the playoffs arrive.
Moreover, if the Bears do play the Vikings, they will want to be the fresher team, since the Vikings will spend all of its might trying to win on Sunday. The Bears have the luxury of setting themselves up for a playoff run.