BRONCOS

The Broncos won’t see Justin Jefferson on Sunday night

Nov 18, 2023, 2:08 PM

Justin Jefferson went through the practice paces this week. He even held a press conference. And when his coach, Kevin O’Connell, was questioned about Jefferson’s potential availability Friday, O’Connell went coy and tap-danced around the answer.

But in the end, O’Connell opted to hold Jefferson out for at least one more week.

Minnesota will not activate the All-Pro wide receiver from injured reserve in time to play Sunday night against the Denver Broncos, meaning the Broncos will get to face the Vikings not only without starting quarterback Kirk Cousins — who suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon against Green Bay on Oct. 29 — but Jefferson.

HOW NOT HAVING JUSTIN JEFFERSON CHANGES THINGS

This will make life a bit easier for the Broncos in coverage.

Granted, Minnesota doesn’t lack for quality pass catchers. Rookie Jordan Addison has 7 touchdown catches, placing him second in the NFL along with Denver’s Courtland Sutton and Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs. Meanwhile, T.J. Hockenson leads all NFL tight ends in receptions with 71 — 14 more than the next-closest player, Kansas City’s Travis Kelce.

Taking Jefferson out of the mix significantly impacts the challenge faced by Denver’s secondary. Now, the Broncos can turn more attention to Addison and Hockenson, setting up more favorable coverage matchups.

However, the Vikings have adapted nicely to life without Jefferson. They haven’t lost a game since he injured his hamstring against Kansas City in Week 5. Their average points-per-game also increased, from 22.0 with Jefferson to 24.4 in his absence — including a season-high 31 points two weeks ago in a comeback win at Atlanta.

Not having Jefferson guarantees nothing for the Broncos. But it does mean the Vikings can ask fewer difficult questions in their attack.

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