Justin Jefferson Record Watch + Other Vikings Storylines

Justin Jefferson Record Watch + Other Vikings Storylines

The Vikings face the Indianapolis Colts just six days after their loss in Detroit against the Lions. It was the third game in the loss column in the first year of Kevin O’Connell’s reign, and the team is still in pole position to secure the second seed in the NFC.

The Colts, meanwhile, are in the midst of a chaotic year with an in-season coaching change and another year of questionable quarterback play. They have not found a long-term solution to replace Andrew Luck after his retirement. Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Carson Wentz, and most likely Matt Ryan are all one-year bridge quarterbacks the team was glad to move on from. The matchup with the 4-8-1 team will provide some interesting storylines for the Vikings.

Vikings Can Clinch Division

Justin Jefferson Record Watch + Other Vikings Storylines
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8), wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18), and wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings can clinch the NFC North in Week 15 with a victory. An 11-3 record would provide an insurmountable lead in the division. The purple team has not won the North since the successful 2017 season ended in the conference title game.

After three consecutive titles for the Packers and the Bears in 2018, coach O’Connell could be the second first-year Vikings head coach to win a division title. The first one was Dennis Green in 1992. Another way to clinch the NFC North would be a Lions loss, but the Vikings certainly want to control their own destiny and do their job to clinch.

Justin Jefferson Record Watch + Other Vikings Storylines

Defensive Improvements?

The Vikings allowed 400 offensive yards in five consecutive games, and seven of the last eight opposing passers record at least 300 passing yards. That included some quarterbacks that shouldn’t be hard to contain, like Mac Jones, Mike White, Teddy Bridgewater, and Kyler Murray.

How Much Can the Vikings Secondary Give?
Sep 30, 2022; Thundridge, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said all week that he doesn’t want to make fundamental changes with his unit. The problem is that the Vikings defensive approach is only working if the team can force some turnovers. If they can’t, even bad offenses can march up-and-down the field and score points. The Colts are one of those bad offensive teams. They rank dead last in DVOA and 31st in EPA/Play.

Quarterback Matt Ryan does not have what it takes anymore, and his age seems to slowly catch up to him and has been one of the worst passers in the league, but seemingly every quarterback has his best performance against the Vikings.

Running back Jonathan Taylor was the top runner in 2021, but his 2022 campaign has also been a letdown. He only ranks 10th in rushing yards after missing four games this season. He rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown in the 2020 game against the Vikings, his second appearance in the league. A big difference from last week’s game is the comeback of safety Harrison Smith, who missed one game with a neck injury.

Matchup of 2021 Draft Picks

Vikings Reinforcements on the Way
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

In his last draft as the Vikings front office guru, Rick Spielman picked Christian Darrisaw with the 23rd pick after trading down with the Jets. To get him, many teams had to pass on the left tackle, including the Colts. Longtime Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo retired right before the draft, so it was a true possibility that the Colts would try to replace him. However, they selected Michigan pass rusher Kwity Pay with pick 21.

The pass rusher is having a nice season and has already recorded five sacks in only eight games. Spielman was happy to select Darrisaw, and he needed only one year to become an elite left tackle. He will return after missing the last three games with a concussion. There’s a good chance that the two second-year players will go up against each other frequently.

O’Connell’s Experience Advantage

Vikings Reinforcements on the Way
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

For the first time in his career, O’Connell will be the more experienced head coach in a game. Jeff Saturday was named interim head coach after the Colts fired Frank Reich after the team started 3-5-1. The move was very controversial because Saturday did not have any coaching experience before the hire. His Colts managed to win the first game with Saturday at the helm when they faced the Raiders in Week 10 and then proceeded to lose three straight. O’Connell has a lot more experience as a coach in the NFL, and it might be a slight advantage.

Jefferson On Record Watch

Justin Jefferson Needs 3 Things to Happen for Serious MVP Consideration
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Justin Jefferson needs 133 receiving yards to set the all-time Vikings record for the most receiving yards in a single season. The wideout recorded more than that in six of the 14 games in 2022, averaging 115.4 per game. Getting the 133 yards against the Colts is a real possibility.

They will be without starting cornerback Kenny Moore but still have 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. Jefferson could see a heavy dose of Gilmore. He’s 32 years old but still plays at an extremely high level in 2022. Jefferson also leads the league in receiving yards by 40 yards over Tyreek Hill.

If he keeps up his level of play, he would be just three yards short of the NFL’s all-time record for receiving yards in a single season, set by Calvin Johnson in 2012, and 39 yards away from the first 2000-yard receiving season in NFL history.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt