Week 17 opponent: What the Vikings are saying

Every week during the regular season we get an opportunity to talk with the opposing head coach via Zoom. This week it was Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. I also scanned the Minnesota media websites and the Vikings website to see what else Minnesota players and coaches are saying about this week's regular-season finale with the Lions.

Here's what they had to say:

1. The Lions and Vikings don't have anything to play for Sunday in terms of playoff contention, but that doesn't mean this game won't be important in the evaluation process moving forward.

"This is the last game that I'll remember going into the offseason," Zimmer said. "So I think that's important."

Like the Lions, the Vikings are coming off a bad loss last week. Zimmer said this week will show some of the personality of the players. He said it's important to go out and try to remember something good from the 2020 season.

View photos of the starters for the Minnesota Vikings.

2. According to a report, Vikings star running back Dalvin Cook had to return to Miami for a family emergency and will not be available to play Sunday in Detroit.

3. Vikings rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson can top Randy Moss' 1,313 franchise-leading receiving yards for a rookie from his 1998 season, per Vikings.com. Jefferson needs just 47 yards to pass the Hall of Famer. Jefferson needs 111 yards to break Anquan Boldin's NFL record for receiving yards by a rookie.

4. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said earlier this week he wants to play if the ankle injury he suffered last week early in the loss to the Bucs allows him to.

"I have a ton of respect for Matthew Stafford," Zimmer said. "We've had to play him, I don't know how many times I've had to play him, he's a great arm, he's a tough competitor, he sees things very well. I have a ton of respect for him."

If Stafford can't go Sunday, Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell said Chase Daniel would start at quarterback for the Lions.

5. Zimmer has worked closely with Vikings GM Rick Spielman, brother of new Lions special assistant to owner Sheila Ford Hamp and team president Rod Wood. Zimmer's gotten to know Chris through that relationship, and also through Chris' time as a broadcaster. Zimmer said Chris was a knowledgeable football guy and hard worker, and someone who is very dedicated to the sport of football and the Detroit Lions.

6. Former Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson is a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Does Zimmer think the Lions Legend is Hall of Fame worthy?

"I do, because every time we played him we had to do special things to try to affect him and his game and it was still really, really hard," he said. "He's one of the best receivers to play the game, in my opinion. The game plans always revolved around him every single time you played him."

7. One thing Zimmer wants to see Sunday in Detroit is his young defense tackle better. He told the Minneapolis Star Tribune this week that his defense made way too many mistakes against Saints and had 17 missed tackles.

"We'll get back to work this week and clean up those mistakes and get ready to play Detroit," he said.

8. I thought it was interesting when Zimmer was asked about playing so many young players this year. He said the two positions in particular that he thinks it's difficult for young players to come in and play consistent right away is along the offensive line and at the cornerback position.

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