Justin Jefferson Smashes the Mystery

Justin Jefferson Quietly
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson will play at the Cincinnati Bengals this Saturday.

The source is his lips.

Justin Jefferson Smashes the Mystery

Reporters asked the reigning Offensive Player of the Year if he’d be on the field this weekend, and he succinctly replied, “Yeah, yeah.”

Jefferson Smashes
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Pressed about full availability, Jefferson responded, “Yep,” seeming to squash any theory about a pitch count. Of course, the coaching staff will have final say on Jefferson’s availability and role, but it would be quite odd for Jefferson to proclaim a greenlight and walk it back in the next three days.

Jefferson was sidelined for seven games in October and November due to a hamstring injury, while Minnesota fired up a 5-2 record in his stead. He made a would-be triumphant return at Las Vegas on Sunday — which lasted for about 30 minutes.

defense shines
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

The young wide receiver grabbed a hectic pass from quarterback Joshua Dobbs, got pounded by Las Vegas Raiders safety and former Viking Marcus Epps, left the game because of the collision — and headed to the hospital. Somehow, Minnesota held on, beating the Raiders 3-0 in a defensive thriller.

After the game, Vikings skipper Kevin O’Connell said Jefferson had a “hopefully good chance of playing with us in Cincinnati.” And he wasn’t exaggerating.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Without Jefferson from Weeks 6 through 13, Minnesota clocked five wins to just two losses, a season-saving swing that has sideways positioned the Vikings to enter the postseason as a wildcard participant. As of Wednesday morning, Minnesota has a 63% probability of making the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).

The Vikings’ coaching staff proceeded with extreme caution during Jefferson’s first injury stint this season, but this chest malady evidently isn’t the same animal. For weeks, stacked upon weeks, it was a no-brainer that Jefferson would not play because of the hamstring; this week and recovery struck a different tone. The man is good to go by Wednesday.

Warm Up to Nick
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The Bengals’ pass defense ranks 17th leaguewide per DVOA. Minnesota is a three-point underdog Saturday, and the point spread did not change with Jefferson’s announcement.

If the Vikings find a victory in Cincinnati, it’ll be their first in the Queen City since 1992. Veteran quarterback Nick Mullens will start as Dobbs was benched versus the Raiders, and the aforementioned O’Connell has elected to stick with Mullens.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.