Vikings need win over Packers without Kirk Cousins to keep NFC Playoff hopes alive

Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings watches his team warm up before a preseason game against the Denver Broncos at U.S. Bank Stadium on August 14, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  ((Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Vikings are at Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers Sunday night, and they need a win over their NFC North Division rivals to keep their playoff hopes alive.

They’ll have to beat the Packers without Kirk Cousins, who tested positive for COVID-19 late this week. They’ll also be without defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who was declared out on Friday due to an illness. Pierce was not placed on the COVID-19 list.

Cousins had avoided the COVID-19 list all season, and had been following NFL protocols for non-vaccinated players. Last week, Sean Mannion tested positive despite being vaccinated. Mannion will get the start Sunday night, having not played since the 2019 regular season finale against the Chicago Bears. Mannion finished that game 12-of-21 for 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Vikings have had 26 players go on the COVID-19 list since early October, and it’s been a point of contention for Zimmer with the team this season. In addition to Cousins, linebacker Nick Vigil went on the COVID-19 list this week. They’ve lost other key players to injuries. When news of Cousins’ positive test came down, the Vikings went from 6.5 to 13.5-point underdogs against the Packers.

The Vikings got a win over the Packers at Lambeau Field last season, with a career game from Dalvin Cook. He had 226 total yards and four touchdowns in that game. Zimmer is 6-7-1 against the Packers for his career, including a 34-31 win earlier this season. at U.S. Bank Stadium on a Greg Joseph field goal.

In addition to Cousins, Vigil and Pierce being out, Cam Dantzler is also inactive. The Vikings released defensive back Bashaud Breeland after a recent altercation with coaches and teammates at practice, meaning the Minnesota secondary will lack depth against Aaron Rodgers. Not ideal in a must-win scenario.

The Vikings are also without receiver Adam Thielen for the rest of the season. Thielen went on injured reserve this week after having ankle surgery.

Minnesota needs a win over the Packers Sunday night to keep its NFC Playoff hopes alive, after the Philadelphia Eagles beat Washington Sunday afternoon. The Vikings need wins over the Packers and Bears, and an Eagles’ loss next week to make the postseason.

If the Vikings don't beat the Packers Sunday night, they are eliminated from playoff contention, and it may mark the end of Zimmer with the Vikings. The Packers can clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win over the Vikings after the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

The Vikings are 7-8 with two games to play despite having out-scored opponents by 12 points in 15 games. The Vikings have had all but one game finish within one possession, or come down to the final play.