Vikings: Jefferson avoids significant injury, who's the starting QB at Cincinnati?

Nick Mullens #12 of the Minnesota Vikings reacts after the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 10, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  ((Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images))

It appears the Minnesota Vikings avoided another serious injury with Justin Jefferson.

The star receiver returned Sunday for the first time since injuring his right hamstring Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs. He lasted just 14 offensive plays, and left the win over the Las Vegas Raiders about midway through the second quarter.

Jefferson made a catch for a 15-yard gain, and paid the price with a hard hit from former teammate Marcus Epps. He went to the medical tent and eventually the locker room with a chest injury. He was taken to a Las Vegas hospital as a precaution to rule out any serious internal issues.

Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said Monday he’s day-to-day. Jefferson made two catches for 27 yards Sunday before having to leave the game.

"I consider Justin day-to-day with a good chance to hopefully be with us playing on Saturday in Cincinnati. He’s doing pretty well today," O’Connell said.

That’s a huge sigh of relief for the Vikings and their fans, coming home with a 3-0 win and a 7-6 record. They’re two games behind the Detroit Lions for the lead in the NFC North Division with four games to play. Two of Minnesota’s four games left are against the Lions.


O’Connell had no choice but to pull Joshua Dobbs in favor of Nick Mullens on Sunday. He probably should’ve done it sooner, but he made the move with 9:10 to play with the game still in a scoreless tie and Minnesota’s defense playing lights out.

The numbers for Dobbs, quite frankly, were ugly. He was 10-of-23 for 63 yards, and got sacked five times. At one point in the third quarter, he had 16 net passing yards. His nine drives with the offense resulted in eight punts, and a missed field goal. It wasn’t the performance the Vikings had in mind after Dobbs had four interceptions in the loss to the Bears before the bye week.

Mullens’ first pass went to T.J. Hockenson for 26 yards, after a deflection from a Raiders’ linebacker. Mullens got the Vikings their only points of the day, getting into field goal range for Greg Joseph in a game they absolutely had to have to feel good about their NFC Playoff hopes moving forward. Mullens finished 9-of-13 for 83 yards.

O’Connell wouldn’t commit to Mullens being the starter moving forward, saying that decision will be made in the coming days. The Vikings got home late Sunday night, and O’Connell wants to evaluate all the offensive plays and talk to the players before the decision is public. That said, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Mullens running the offense Saturday at Cincinnati.

"As we move forward in the week, we’ll make a decision on the starting quarterback. We’re in the process of solidifying that as a staff. We’ll inform the players and make an announcement in the next couple days," O’Connell said.