Justin Jefferson’s Return from IR Gets Cloudier

The Vikings 2022 Offense by the Numbers: After Week 14
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You may not see Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson return to a regular season field for 20 more days.

Justin Jefferson’s Return from IR Gets Cloudier

The club lost Sunday night to the Denver Broncos, 21-20, after a week of will he or won’t he play regarding Jefferson’s status. The reigning Offensive Player of the Year has missed six consecutive games due to a hamstring injury.

The Vikings have a 5-1 record during that span, but Sunday’s loss to the Broncos accentuated how much Minnesota needs Jefferson to ensure its offense hits on all cylinders. Down the stretch at Empower Field at Mile High, the Vikings’ Josh Dobbs-led offense desperately needed prolific pass-catchers, especially on Minnesota’s final drive, and Jefferson could’ve been useful.

Return from IR Gets
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But no cigar, as the franchise is acting ultra-cautiously with Jefferson.

And now, with the Chicago Bears and a Monday Night Football matchup one week away, head coach Kevin O’Connell didn’t sound terribly optimistic Monday about Jefferson’s availability.

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ESPN Kevin Seifert tweeted, “Kevin O’Connell termed WR Justin Jefferson as ‘questionable’ for next Monday’s game vs. Bears. He also acknowledged “we do have to be smart” about bringing him back, knowing the Vikings have their bye the following week and could get add a ‘free’ week to his 21-day window.”

Indeed, Jefferson’s status could theoretically become rosier in the next few days, but all signs point to a return versus the Las Vegas Raiders — in 20 days. Minnesota still lives firmly in the NFC’s No. 7 playoff seed, and even after the loss in Denver, the Vikings own a 78.4% probability of reaching the postseason, according to ESPN.

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If Jefferson does not play in Week 12, the club will again lean on pass-catchers Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson, and K.J. Osborn, among others. The trio didn’t have much luck against the Broncos, at least compared to the previous five games, but Denver’s defense is hot, and well, the Bears’ is not.

Moreover, the bye week factoid is accurate. Should the Vikings prefer slow-rolling Jefferson’s hamstring recovery out of an abundance of caution, the bye week provides an extra recovery week to situate Jefferson with optimal health.

Justin Jefferson insulted
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Minnesota certainly needs Jefferson now — the loss at Denver was proof — but it might be able to eek by the Bears with a win using the Addison + Hockenson + Osborn combo. We shall see.

The Vikings are favored by three points to take down the Bears next week and haven’t lost to Chicago since December 2020.

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.