Tank Mode? Justin Jefferson Isn’t Interested.

all that matters
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings have two more games to reach the playoffs. They must win both of them and still hope for some help from other teams. Either the Seahawks or the Rams must lose one of their remaining contests. Just a few weeks ago, the Vikings were in a comfortable spot, sitting at 6-4 and having the advantage of various tie-breakers.

Tank Mode? Justin Jefferson Isn’t Interested.

Tank Mode? Justin Jefferson Isn't Interested.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

But without starting QB Kirk Cousins in the lineup, the organization lost their leverage, dropping four of the last five games. Those dwindling playoff odds and the absence of any reliable quarterback play triggered the obvious response from fans and media who think a tanking Vikings team would be the smartest move. Securing a higher draft pick is more important than a playoff spot as a massive underdog. At least in theory.

The players don’t view it that way. They have invested too much, working day in and day out, suffering injuries, and playing through wounds and pain. T.J. Hockenson played through a hurting rib injury for weeks when the Vikes needed him during JJ’s absence and now suffered a devastating knee injury.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Jordan Hicks experienced brutal pain when he was rushed to the hospital, where his leg was sliced open to reduce the pressure. Just a month of rehab later, he was back on the field. Others like K.J. Osborn enter free agency, and their future salary depends on performing well in the upcoming two weeks.

Explaining to those guys, among many others, that they might not want to win the upcoming divisional matchup against the Packers, or even showing it by playing an inferior quarterback option, makes the obvious and perhaps logical tanking route suddenly much harder.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Superstar receiver Justin Jefferson hasn’t given up hope of reaching the playoffs. He was asked about the playoff race, and his response was that of a leader, a true face of the franchise.

I feel like that’s the question for the whole team to answer. I’m gonna give everything I can for this team, for this organization, for us to keep winning. I always will be that leader, that captain on this team. I will definitely carry that C on my chest with honor. As long as we have opportunities to go out there and play this game, they’re going to get the best out of me every single week.

Justin Jefferson

Jefferson is a rare wideout without any diva tendencies, and he takes his role as the leader of the Minnesota Vikings very seriously.

The three-time Pro Bowler is a player who has every reason to call it a season and enter his offseason after playing without a new contract. He has been eligible for a contract extension, but the team and the receiver put the negotiations on ice when the season kicked off in September, intending to resume those talks in the upcoming offseason.

A griddy game
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

A big injury would be a big blow to his leverage, but he is too invested; he wants to play meaningful football in January and keep the minor Super Bowl chance alive as long as possible. Continuing to put his body on the line, Jefferson had a phenomenal day on Sunday, perhaps playing one of his best games, including making an improbable snatch that will be included in all feature JJ highlight tapes.

Of course, players never tank, and neither do organizations, as long as there is a chance to reach the postseason. Jobs are on the line, and losses ruin the culture in the locker room. Expect the team to play as hard as possible on national television on Sunday. If they were to be eliminated, that course might change.

Jefferson needs 177 yards in the final two games to reach his adjusted season goal of 1,000 yards.

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