Can the Vikings have an Offense without Justin Jefferson?

Under the bright lights of Lambeau Field, the Vikings succumb against Green Bay, 17-41, as they lose their border battle. After a blocked punt, the Vikings offense was stationed on the Green Bay one-yard line and had to settle for a field goal. The four-point swing set the tone for the game as Keisean Nixon returned a 105-yard kickoff touchdown after the field-goal possession by the Vikings.

A common theme that has occurred when the Vikings get blown out this season is Justin Jefferson. Or rather, the lack of him. The standout receiver has averaged 32 yards and three receptions throughout the three lopsided losses this season. Opposing teams have exceptionally limited Jefferson’s production and presence throughout these losses. On top of that, the Vikings’ offense has only averaged 264.3 total yards. The Vikings are 9-1 when Jefferson has over 100 yards and 3-3 when he fails to eclipse this mark, showing the Vikings depend on Jefferson a bit too much. Considering the arsenal of skill position players the Vikings have, you would think the Vikings would involve Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and K.J. Osborn more when Jefferson is unavailable. Jefferson attracts double-teaming coverages quite often, which theoretically should open the doors for more production from Thielen and Osborn. In fact, since the Vikings face a lot of two-high coverage, it would be easier to turn around and give the ball to one of the better running backs in the league, Cook. But unfortunately for the offense, the Vikings average 95.0 rushing yards per game, which is 28th in the league.

Playoffs are all about which team is more prepared for its intensity. While Kevin O’Connell has done a phenomenal job for the Vikings in his first year, there have been moments where he has been out-coached and out-schemed. And that is all that matters in the playoffs: coaching and scheming. Kevin O’Connell and the offense must figure out how to move the ball and score if their best player can not be an option. While the Vikings have transitioned into a pass-first offense, attacking the two high coverages they receive throughout most games by running the ball with Cook and Mattison can be effective. It sets up play-action more smoothly, which Kirk Cousins is comfortable with, and it can lead to scoring more efficiently and quickly.

The type of season the Vikings are having is inexplicable. 11 out of their 12 wins are one-possession wins, and their four losses have been by an average of 22.3 points. They have a mind-boggling -19 point differential at a 12-4 record. Memorably, Justin Jefferson pointed out after their loss to Green Bay, “when we lose, we lose bad.” No one knows what to expect from this team, but with their unpredictability, it seems they will either lose badly in the playoffs or go on a Cinderella run and win their first-ever Super Bowl.
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