Justin Jefferson in line to return as Vikings visit Raiders
Dec 7, 2023, 7:15 AM | Updated: Dec 8, 2023, 7:20 pm
(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
The Minnesota Vikings welcome back their best offensive player when they visit the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday afternoon.
All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson was a full participant in practice all three days this week and likely will return for Minnesota (6-6). Jefferson missed the past seven games because of a hamstring injury that he sustained Oct. 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The 24-year-old was off to a terrific start to the season before it was interrupted by injury. He hauled in 36 catches for 571 yards and three touchdowns and had at least 149 receiving yards in three of those five games.
Jefferson will play with quarterback Joshua Dobbs for the first time on Sunday. Veteran signal-caller Kirk Cousins went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon while Jefferson was sidelined, and the team brought in Dobbs from the Arizona Cardinals.
The Vikings, who are coming off a bye, have lost two games in a row by a combined margin of three points.
Dobbs maintained the starting job coming out of the bye despite recent struggles. He is eager to team up with his star wideout.
“J.J. being out there, he’s efficient and a dynamic playmaker, so that changes (the offense) having him in the lineup,” Dobbs said. “But for me, I still go through my same process and trust the plans and trust the game plan knowing that opportunities are there for him to get the ball, and he’ll go out and make a play.
“It’s great to have J.J. back, and we’re getting up to speed as quickly as possible so that we can hit the ground running.”
Like the Vikings, Las Vegas (5-7) also is coming off back-to-back losses. The team’s schedule has been unforgiving as of late, with its losses coming on the road against the Miami Dolphins and at home against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Interim coach Antonio Pierce is 2-2 since taking over for Josh McDaniels, who was fired on Oct. 31.
“I feel like we’re leaving plays on the field,” Pierce said. “We do have plays on the field. We got guys running down the field. We got some lanes to hit in the running game. Defensively, we got some opportunities to get the quarterback on the ground or to make a play on the ball. Or on the special teams, to take one to the house.”
Raiders quarterback Aidan O’Connell is set to make the sixth start of his rookie campaign. The Purdue product has posted a 76.4 passer rating while completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 1,194 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions.
As Dobbs has a top wideout in Jefferson, O’Connell has one in Davante Adams. The 30-year-old Adams leads the team with 69 catches for 814 yards and four touchdowns on the season, and he has 13 touchdowns in 15 career games against Minnesota.
Both teams also feature elite pass rushers.
Danielle Hunter leads the Vikings with 13 1/2 sacks, which ranks third in the league entering Week 14. Maxx Crosby is tops on the Raiders with 11 1/2 sacks, and he is looking to bring down an opposing quarterback for his third game in a row.
Crosby (knee) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, but returned in a limited form Friday. Crosby along with defensive back Brandon Facyson (shin) and inside linebacker Kana’i Mauga (knee) are questionable for Sunday’s game.
Guard Ed Ingram (hip) and defensive back Theo Jackson (illness) are questionable for the Vikings.
Las Vegas is 4-2 at home this season. Minnesota boasts the same 4-2 record on the road.
–Field Level Media