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NOTEBOOK: Vikings Offense Looking for Spark in Regular-Season Finale

EAGAN, Minn. — It remains to be seen whether or not star players on the Vikings offense will play Sunday against the Bears.

There's a chance that big names such as Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and others will have the opportunity to rest up with Minnesota locked into the sixth seed.

But with the Vikings offense coming off its worst performance of the season Monday night against the Packers, there's also a belief the unit could use a confidence boost heading into the postseason.

"There's value to both sides of it. You can make an argument for both sides," Cousins said. "[I] certainly would love to be able to play well and get a bad taste out of your mouth, and we'll see what ends up being the right call."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Thursday afternoon that he was still undecided on his decision. Zimmer noted that there's a balance between staying healthy but also performing better than Monday.

"Yeah, that's probably the biggest part of it," Zimmer said. "Do you look at the entire season and look at how well the offense has played throughout the course of the year, or do you look at a one-game situation?

"That's kind of what I'm weighing right now," Zimmer added. "Do I go with the belief that they've been really good all year long, or do we go in and, because we didn't play very well the other night, try to get going again?"

Entering Week 17, the Vikings rank 13th with 357.1 total yards per game, and are seventh in rushing with 130.6 yards per game.

Those are respectable numbers, even after Minnesota compiled a season-low 139 yards of offense against Green Bay, including just 122 yards through the air on 31 passing attempts.

Minnesota's offense was missing and Alexander Mattison at running back; Thielen did not have a reception on four targets.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski on Thursday took responsibility for the poor performance.

"I think there's a bunch of things when you look back that we could have done better, and I'll start with myself, that I could have done better," Stefanski said. "A host of things, but it would start with me.

"I mean, any time we don't contribute in a meaningful way to go get a win, it's my job to put our guys in a position to go make a play and succeed. I'm always going to be introspective in that regard, and I think our players, to their credit, also say, 'What could we have done better?' Stefanski added. "I think that was a really good conversation that we had on Tuesday, and as we move into this week, you identify those things, you talk about what you would do differently the next time, but then we've got to move on because we have a game coming up here versus Chicago."

View exclusive images shot by Vikings team photographer Andy Kenutis as the Vikings and Lions competed against each other on Monday night.

Added Rudolph: "For us, we know the formula to be successful. We didn't get to that last week. For us, it's about running the football and making plays when the quarterback throws us the ball and being explosive with the ball in our hands."

Now, with the regular-season finale on the horizon, we'll have to wait and see whether Zimmer choses to rest his players, or gives the offense one last chance to shine before the games are win-or-go-home.

"You've got to approach it like every other game," Rudolph said. "Tee the ball up and go out there and play.

"What you put on tape is your resumé, so for us, it's another opportunity to go out and kind of get a bad taste out of our mouths from what we did on tape last week," Rudolph added. "Just try to have this springboard us into the more important season … and that's the four-game season we have in front of us after this one."

Added Diggs: "You want to end the season strong going into the playoffs. Just recapture that momentum and have the right mindset."

All eyes on Patterson

It's no secret that Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson were good friends when the latter was on the Vikings from 2013-2016.

Thielen has since gone from a reserve to an All-Pro player. He had high praise for his buddy on Thursday afternoon with respect to the overall player that Patterson has become in the league.

"I have a ton of respect for him. He was one of my better friends and is still to this day," Thielen said. "We talk all of the time. We were roommates in training camp in my first couple of years and on the road until he left here.

"I love the way he plays the game. He's the best special teams player in the league right now, in terms of how he's been able to cover punts and return kicks and things like that," Thielen added. "He's a dominant special teams player, and it's always fun to see him."

Thielen isn't wrong about Patterson's ability on special teams. He ranks second in the league with a kickoff return average of 29.5 yards per return and is one of four players with a kick return for a score this season.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf had a quick answer Thursday when asked if Patterson is a guy who will take a kickoff out from anywhere he gets it. After all, Patterson ripped off a 109-yarder in 2013 to tie the NFL record for longest play.

"100 percent, yes. That's why we have to be extremely vigilant when it comes to our coverage," Maalouf said. "Our guys have to run by him every single play. Just because it's kicked 10 [yards] deep, I've seen times where he's tried to keep it from going through the back of the end zone. With him, anything and everything is possible."

Patterson, a first-round pick by the Vikings in 2013, has also established himself as one of the league's best gunners on punt coverage.

Thielen won't be playing on the kickoff coverage unit Sunday, but he knows his friend will be angling for a touchdown against his old squad.

"I'm sure he'd love that, but hopefully we won't let that happen," Thielen said.

Ready for the road

While the Vikings know they will be on the road in the NFC Playoff, their opponent in the Wild-Card round is up in the air.

And it may not be decided until the conclusion of the 49ers-Seahawks game on Sunday Night Football, which kicks off at 7:20 p.m. (CT).

Still, Zimmer said his staff is preparing for a wide array of scenarios.

"We've got some guys doing some work on the possibility – you know, you always do when you're getting ready to go into the playoffs and you don't know who you're playing – you always break down the three or four teams, and you get everything ready for when it happens," Zimmer said. "Yeah, it's a little bit more difficult when you don't find out until Sunday night, and then it could be a Saturday game. We'll just do the best we can."

Here is a breakdown of who the Vikings could play on the first weekend in January:

—If the Packers and Seahawks win, Minnesota will be at Seattle.

—If the Packers and 49ers win, Minnesota will be at New Orleans.

—If the Panthers and 49ers win, Minnesota will be at New Orleans.

—If the Lions, Saints and Seahawks win, Minnesota will be at Green Bay.

—If the Lions, Saints and 49ers win, Minnesota will be at Green Bay.

—If the Lions, Panthers and Seahawks win, Minnesota will be at New Orleans.

—If the Packers and Saints win and the 49ers and Seahawks tie, Minnesota will be at San Francisco.

"Obviously, there's three realistic scenarios where we can go," Rudolph said, referring to New Orleans, Seattle and Green Bay. "But we lost control of that a long time ago.

"We know we have to play three games on the road to get to where we want to be," Rudolph added. "When it all shakes out late Sunday night, we'll figure out where we're going."