Even if the Vikings lose to the Bears on Sunday, they can still claim the NFC's final wild-card spot with an Eagles loss or tie against the Redskins on Sunday.
Chicago's own interest in playing its starters through four quarters could also be dictated by what the Rams do against the Cardinals, since the only way the Bears can claim a first-round bye is with a win and a Rams loss to the 49ers.
All the permutations that could affect the Vikings' playoff positioning, though, won't be on Vikings coach Mike Zimmer's mind on Sunday afternoon.
The coach, who said he doesn't typically look at scoreboards during the Vikings' games, didn't seem to mind if the Eagles score flashes on the video boards at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
"I don't care. What they show on the scoreboard is up to the scoreboard people," he said. "I don't get into all that. [General Manager] Rick [Spielman] and I have talked about those things, but they ask me, 'Is it OK if we have the doors open this week?' I don't care. Let's just go play football."
If the NFC's playoff picture stays the same after Sunday, the Vikings would find themselves in Chicago for the first round of the playoffs, in a rematch with the Bears that paralleled the end of their 2012 season, when they traveled to Green Bay for a first-round playoff game after beating the Packers in Week 17 to deny them a first-round bye while claiming the NFC's No. 6 seed.
Life without Sherels
Punt returner Marcus Sherels missed his second day of practice this week on Thursday, sitting out with the foot injury he sustained against the Lions. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer didn't sound optimistic about Sherels' chances of playing against the Bears on Thursday, meaning the Vikings will have to operate again without their longtime return man.
"You have a guy like Marcus back there, you don't really give it a second thought," Priefer said. "Obviously, it'll be a little bit different this week, but I take a lot of pride in prepping guys all year long, anyway, and we don't even skip a beat."
After Sherels was injured against the Lions, the Vikings first turned to wide receiver Brandon Zylstra on punt returns, before moving to wide receiver Chad Beebe. Zylstra's first return last week resulted in a 15-yard kick catch interference penalty on Lions safety Tracy Walker, who collided with Zylstra as he tried to field the ball.
"It wouldn't have mattered either way, but probably," Priefer said when asked if he would have preferred to see Zylstra signal for a fair catch. "He said he looked up and thought he had a chance. It's just his youth thing. You've got to be courageous and a little bit crazy to be a punt returner anyway. He's got both of those, which is a good thing."
Dad was watching
The Vikings' game against the Lions on Sunday, which was interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski's second as an NFL play-caller, carried another distinction for the 36-year-old: It allowed him to work in front of his father Ed, who is in his own interim role as the Detroit Pistons' GM.
"No advice — I don't know what he was going to help me with," Kevin Stefanski deadpanned. "It was exciting having my family there. It was cool — kind of a unique thing. But once that was over, we moved on, because we have quite a challenge this week."
Joseph, Remmers return
Nose tackle Linval Joseph and right guard Mike Remmers, who missed practice with respective knee and low back injuries on Wednesday, both returned to practice on Thursday. The Vikings, however, were still without Sherels, cornerback Xavier Rhodes (groin), fullback C.J. Ham (elbow) and linebacker Eric Kendricks (hamstring).