MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Vikings host the Green Bay Packers for New Year’s Eve football Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium, with both teams at 7-8 and seeking a spot in the NFC Playoffs.
For the fifth time this season, the Vikings are changing their starting quarterback. Jaren Hall will make his second start of the season after Kevin O’Connell made the decision this week to turn to the rookie over Nick Mullens, who threw four interceptions in a 30-24 loss to the Detroit Lions last week and now has six in two starts.
Hall got one offensive series in his first start at Atlanta Week 9, leading what was nearly a touchdown drive before having to leave the game with a concussion. He took a big hit on a scramble just short of the goal line, leading to Joshua Dobbs making his Vikings’ debut after five days with the team.
The Vikings’ roster is beat up with two games left as they cling to slim playoff hopes. Tight end T.J. Hockenson is out for the season after tearing his ACL and MCL on a third quarter catch against the Lions. Defensive end D.J. Wonnum is out for the season after suffering a torn quad in the fourth quarter. Wonnum was having a career year, with 62 tackles and eight sacks in 15 games.
The Vikings will also be without defensive backs Theo Jackson and Byron Murphy Jr., wide receiver Jalen Nailor, defensive lineman Jacquelin Roy and linebacker/special teams standout Troy Dye.
Jordan Addison and Mekhi Blackmon are listed as questionable. Addison made one catch against the Lions before leaving the game against the Lions with an ankle injury on an interception return, but is expected to play against the Packers. Right tackle Brian O’Neill is expected to return after missing the last two games with an ankle injury. Addison and Blackmon are both active for Sunday night's game.
Simply put, the Vikings are already in a playoff mindset with two games to play. The Lions clinched their first division title in 30 years after beating Minnesota last week. After the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the Vikings now need wins over the Packers and at Detroit to earn the No. 7 seed in the NFC Playoffs.
What might help the Vikings’ cause Week 18 at Ford Field is that the Lions could already have their playoff seed determined, and would likely rest starters in what would be a meaningless game. The 49ers beat the Commanders Sunday to earn the No. 1 seed, while the NFC East winner between the Cowboys and Eagles will be the No. 2 seed. The Lions are likely the No. 3 seed.
None of that matters if Minnesota doesn’t win out to end the season 9-8. The Vikings no longer control their own destiny, having lost four of their last five games after climbing out of a 1-4 hole to get to 6-4.
In what's likely the last game at U.S. Bank Stadium this year, the Vikings have not capitalized on one of the best home field advantages in the NFL. They're just 2-5 on their home turf this season.