Vikings Offense Must Step Up And Help Justin Jefferson

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For the final time this season, US Bank Stadium will host Vikings football as the Green Bay Packers are welcomed for a game with huge playoff implications. It’s not clear-cut, with many permutations possible, but if either team hopes to make the playoffs they need to win this game. If Minnesota is going to do that then the Vikings offense must step up and help Justin Jefferson.

Vikings Offense Must Step Up And Help Justin Jefferson

Vikings Offense
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Jefferson is a phenomenal player, at current pace he will go down in the history books as one of the greatest to play the game from the wide receiver position. However, he can’t do it for the Vikings on his own – though he will try – and needs some help from his teammates. Against the Lions, Jefferson caught six of 10 targets for 141 yards and a touchdown. One more catch could have won the game for Minnesota, but trying to engineer a game-winning drive Nick Mullens underthrew Jefferson and he was picked off for his fourth interception of the game.

Kevin O’Connell is trying to help Jefferson by giving him a fourth different quarterback, naming Jaren Hall the starter for this weekend’s game – Jefferson was injured when Hall played earlier in the season. The Vikings will be looking for Hall to move the ball down the field as Mullens was able to, without being so careless with the football. Mullens threw for 700+ yards and four touchdowns in the last two games, which would be great if not accompanied by six interceptions and two fumbles. There were too many mistakes and the Vikings HC opted to turn the keys to the offense over to his rookie for the final two games.

Can Hall find the consistency of play that Mullens and Dobbs were unable to? It’s a big ask of a fifth-round rookie, but he showed enough in his two brief cameos this season for there to be some optimism he can deliver. Hall doesn’t necessarily have to be as explosive as Mullens was through the air or Dobbs was on the ground. If he can be good at both and not turn the ball over at an alarming rate that might be enough for the Vikings to claim a win against Green Bay.

Can the Backup Playmakers Deliver?

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After playing a large chunk of the season without Jefferson, the Vikings get their star man back and the supporting cast has been decimated. Minnesota was dealt a massive blow with the news that T.J. Hockenson had torn both the ACL and MCL ligaments in his right knee during the Lions game. Jordan Addison was also knocked out of the Lions game with an injured ankle, and after managing just a couple of limited practices this week he is questionable to play this week. It remains to be seen if he will recover enough to play, early reports from the media suggest he will suit up, but how close is he to 100%?

With Hockenson, and possibly Addison out, Minnesota will once again need to lean on its depth players. K.J. Osborn could be in line for an increased role, and there is some good news in that regard. Despite a largely disappointing season, historically Osborn has fared well against the Lions and Packers. His stat line of 5 of 7 for 95 yards and a touchdown against Detroit last week was his best game of the season. Six of his 15 career touchdowns have come against the Lions or Packers, the Vikings may well need him to increase that tally over the next two weeks.

The Vikings will likely look to get Brandon Powell more involved again, especially with Jalen Nailor being ruled out of the game due to a concussion. Powell has stepped up in times of need this season and the Vikings could need him again. Lucky Jackson, N’Keal Harry, and Trishton Jackson are the options from the practice squad to add depth to the WR room this week.

The Mammoth Task of Replacing Hockenson

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The Hockenson injury poses a major problem for coach O’Connell. There is no ready-made replacement for Hockenson who is such a pivotal part of the Vikings offense. Josh Oliver’s role won’t change much, he’s not the playmaker that Hockenson is and his own role in the offense is also important. It is Johnny Mundt who will have to step into more of the Hockenson role, and Mundt simply isn’t as good.

O’Connell brought Mundt to Minnesota after working with him in Los Angeles with the Rams. He knows what he is capable off and it’s not going to be matching what Hockenson has done since landing in Minnesota, which has been elite level TE play. Can it be enough to play an important role on the Vikings offense over the next two games? Everyone of a purple persuasion will be hoping so.

Then there is the ever-inconsistent Vikings run game. If Minnesota wants to stop the Packers from pooling all their resources into stopping Jefferson, they need to be able to run the ball. Ty Chandler and Alexander Mattison have both been inconsistent, but whether it’s one stepping out – like Chandler did in Cincinnati – or a mix of both, they need a dependable ground game to help the rookie quarterback settle into the game.

Jaire Alexander (suspension) and Eric Stokes (injury) will miss the game for Green Bay, which weakens the Packers secondary considerably. Good news for Jefferson and his teammates.