The news continues to get worse for the defending NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings as they have just one victory in 2023 and have lost superstar receiver and 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson to injured reserve. #SKOL had opened as 3.5-point favorites for this Sunday in Chicago but now are down to -2.5 as Jefferson is arguably the most “valuable” offensive non-QB in the league in terms off his value to a spread.
Jefferson is third in the NFL with 571 yards receiving but was held mostly in check Sunday with only three catches for 28 yards in a 27-20 loss to Kansas City. JJ had tweaked his hammy during the game and left late and now will have to miss at least the next four on IR – and it could be longer. The earliest he could be activated is for a Week 10 game against the New Orleans Saints. It’s quite possible that Minnesota is 1-8 by then if it loses in Chicago as games vs. San Francisco, at Green Bay and at Atlanta follow.
Jefferson had accounted for 38 percent of the Vikings’ air yards and 26 percent of the team’s targets over the season’s first five weeks – he had 53 of the team’s 199 targets in 2022 and had an even larger percentage of them last year, when he received 184 of the team's 641.
The former LSU star has never missed an NFL game. Last year on the way to winning OROY, he led the league with 128 catches for 1,809 yards to go with eight TDs. Jefferson wanted a big extension this year but hadn’t gotten it yet. If the Vikings are in the tank in four weeks, what is Jefferson’s incentive to rush back when he did not land the contract he wanted?
Rookie Jordan Addison figures to see more targets, along with veterans K.J. Osborn and Brandon Powell while Jefferson is out. Addison played a career-high 54 snaps on Sunday, with Jefferson missing the team's final 20 plays after the injury. Afterward, quarterback Kirk Cousins said the receiver was "the real deal," adding, "We hit on that draft pick.” Addison led the #Vikings with six catches for 64 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.
This could spur the Vikings to deal Cousins by the Oct. 31 trade deadline as he is scheduled to be a free agent after the year, though he has a no-trade clause that would allow him to prevent any deal he did not approve. Minnesota set an #NFL record with 11 one-score victories in 2022. It is 1-4 in those games in 2023.