Just days before Justin Jefferson is eligible to return from injured reserve, Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell is unsure if the star wide receiver is ready.
O’Connell addressed local media on Friday, November 3, ahead of the Vikings’ Week 9 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. Sunday’s game will be the fourth game Jefferson has sat out since landing on the injured reserve list following a Week 5 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The window for Jefferson to be activated off the list opens next week, but O’Connell was not certain of Jefferson’s return.
“I do not have that information as of right now,” O’Connell said regarding the status of Jefferson and backup quarterback Nick Mullens, per ESPN’s Kevin Siefert. “I think we’re going to have some end-of-week assessments and see where those guys are at and we’ll continue those on into the next week, and when the time’s right to get those windows opened up, we’ll do that and get those guys back practicing again.”
Jefferson’s placement on the list was deemed a significant blow to the Vikings’ chances of crawling out of a 1-4 start to the season.
However, Minnesota (4-4) has won three in a row since losing Jefferson with the offensive line and defense showing significant improvements and playing complementary.
Kirk Cousins‘ season-ending injury Achilles injury put a damper on the Vikings’ winning streak that has the team back at .500 on the season.
Jefferson’s return would bring more comfort as a reliable target for rookie quarterback Jaren Hall, who will make his first career start on Sunday in Atlanta.
However, the Vikings are adamant on not rushing Jefferson back into action. Minnesota could play cautious if the team begins dropping games without Cousins as well.
Leading all rookies with seven touchdowns through eight weeks, rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison earned Offensive Rookie of the Month honors after stepping up in place of Jefferson.
Scoring a touchdown in four consecutive games, Addison became the only Vikings rookie to do so alongside Randy Moss. Addison credited Jeffeson for teaching him to trust in his legs and his route-running this season.
“One thing he’s taught me is use my legs. The releases, transitioning out of breaks, be confident and trust my legs can get me out of anything,” Addison said on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.”
Vegas Bills Vikings as Underdogs vs. Falcons in Week 9
For just the second time in five seasons, the Vikings enter a meaningful regular-season matchup without Cousins at quarterback — and Vegas has adjusted its outlook on Minnesota accordingly.
MGM and FanDuel have the Vikings (4-4) as 3.5-point underdogs to the Falcons (4-4). Heavy’s projection engine Quarter4 has the game much closer, giving Atlanta just a 1-point edge over Minnesota.
Both teams feature quarterbacks who will get their first start of the year at a pivotal point in their teams’ seasons. The Falcons’ Taylor Heinicke, who has 25 career starts, will make his 2023 debut against Hall.
Atlanta’s offense has struggled this season, prompting the Falcons to bench Desmond Ridder for Heinicke.
The game is projected to be a low-scoring affair with the point total set to 37.5 points, tied for the lowest this week with the New York Giants and Las Vegas Raiders matchup.