EAGAN, Minn. – To play or not to play, that is the question.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer hasn't yet decided whether the Vikings starters will play all – or part – of the regular-season finale against the Bears.
Minnesota will host a Week 17 matchup against Chicago for the fourth consecutive season, but this year's game has no postseason implications for either team.
The Bears (7-8) have already been knocked out of the playoffs; the Vikings (10-5) are locked into the No. 6 seed regardless of Sunday's outcome.
Zimmer was asked on Thursday about his approach to who will play and who won't. On one hand, there is consideration of resting starters to make sure the team is as healthy as possible for the Wild Card game the first weekend of the new year.
Also significant, however, is hoping to bounce back from a difficult loss to Green Bay on Monday Night Football and enter the postseason on a high note.
The latter can especially apply to Minnesota's offense, which failed to get anything going against its division rival in the prime-time contest.
"That's probably the biggest part of it. 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?" Zimmer told Twin Cities beat reporters via conference call. "That's kind of what I'm weighing right now – 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?"
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins also spoke with reporters on Thursday and confirmed that he doesn't know whether or not he'll be starting against the Bears – and, if he does, if he'll play the duration of the afternoon.
Cousins said there's "value to both sides" or the debate.
"You can make an argument for both sides," said Cousins, who completed 16 of 31 passes Monday for just 122 yards. "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.
"Players play, and coaches coach, and I understand that distinction," he added. "There's always good communication, and then you let the coaches coach, and you focus on playing."
Vikings receiver Adam Thielen has now played two games after missing significant time with a hamstring injury. He was targeted four times against Green Bay but did not net a catch.
"We don't know. The coaches aren't going to tell us [if we're playing]," Thielen said. "If we're out there, we're going to take advantage of it. It's a great opportunity to go against a great defense, some great corners and a great secondary that we can really use to help us get better and get ready for the playoffs."
Thielen didn't tip his hand on whether or not he's pushing to play.
"It's just like anything – if I'm out there, I'm going to be going," he said. "I'm going to prepare like I'm going to be out there on Sunday, control what I can control. That's all I can do."
There may be differing opinions among teammates on the benefits to playing in a game that doesn't officially count for anything. But Zimmer explained that he can't make decisions on a player-by-player basis – it's important to view it from a larger-picture perspective.
He provided an example to illustrate.
"I have talked to some of the guys, and they've given me their input. At the end of the day, it's my decision," Zimmer said. "For instance, one player wants to play, then maybe I need to play a bunch of players so it's effective around him. Like Anthony Barr, for instance – let's say him. If he wants to play, and I play him, then OK, do I need to make sure that L.J. (Linval Joseph) is in there, and Shamar [Stephen]? … So, it's not just about one player. It's about the group, really."
And while it may have been the Vikings offense that struggled in their previous game, Minnesota's defense hasn't been without its ups and downs this season.
Consequently, the question of playing or resting starters also applies to the Vikings defenders.
Minnesota has used rotations at defensive line for most of the season and recently implemented that approach at cornerback, as well. Will there be an increase of rotation on defense or, perhaps, the possibility of benching starters altogether?
"I'm taking that into consideration, too," Zimmer said. "For the most part, they played pretty good the other night. So again, do I look at the one-night, one-game sample, or the last four weeks, or the entire course of the year? Or who's nicked up or who's not nicked up?
"Just kind of gotta get a feel for it, then make a decision and go," he added.