The Minnesota Vikings will try to bounce back without their top playmaker when they visit the Chicago Bears in a matchup of NFC North rivals Sunday.
Minnesota (1-4) is coming off a 27-20 loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs, which marked its fourth single-digit defeat of the season. The loss stung even worse as star wide receiver Justin Jefferson injured his hamstring late in the game and was forced to leave.
This week, the Vikings put Jefferson on injured reserve with a right hamstring strain. He will be out for at least the next four games and possibly more.
This weekend will mark the first time Minnesota has played without Jefferson on the field since he joined the team in the 2020 season. He has 36 catches for 571 yards and three touchdowns in five games this season, and last year, he caught 128 passes for 1,809 yards and eight scores.
Minus Jefferson, the Vikings could lean more heavily on other receiving targets such as rookie Jordan Addison, fellow wideout K.J. Osborn and tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell acknowledged that this week will be different.
“Are we going to see as much shell coverage as we’ve historically seen?” he said. “And if not, how do we have to retool our run and pass game?
“There’s no real excuse to say (after the game), ‘Aw, shucks, it was different.’ We’ve got to plan accordingly for both, and that’s where I feel comfortable with our system doing that.”
Chicago (1-4) is looking to put together back-to-back wins after a 40-20 victory over the Washington Commanders in Week 5.
Justin Fields passed for 282 yards and four touchdowns in the victory. He also rushed for 57 yards as the Bears built a 27-3 halftime lead and never looked back.
Bears tight end Cole Kmet said he and his teammates should not feel satisfied just yet.
“We shouldn’t be throwing parades here or anything; we still have a lot to prove,” Kmet said. “We’ve got a lot of ground to make up, and I think we can make (it) up because of the talent we have on this team. I really believe that.”
Kmet was added to the Bears’ injury list this week. He was limited by a hamstring injury in the first full practice in preparation for the Vikings but practiced in full Friday.
Running backs Khalil Herbert (ankle), Roschon Johnson (concussion) and Travis Homer (hamstring) were ruled out Friday, meaning D’Onta Foreman will get the start. Herbert was placed on IR as was wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. Quarterback Nathan Peterman was signed from the practice squad.
Cornerback Terell Smith (ankle/illness) was ruled out, while cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson (hamstring) and Kyler Gordon (hand) practiced Friday. Safety Eddie Jackson (foot) was limited and deemed questionable.
In addition to losing Jefferson, the Vikings placed backup quarterback Nick Mullens on IR because of a back injury. That means rookie fifth-round pick Jaren Hall will be Kirk Cousins’ backup against the Bears.
Cousins said he deliberately has ignored public chatter about the Vikings and speculation about his future with the team.
“I’m just very focused on the Bears and going 1-0 this week,” he said. “And anything else is just not worth my time or energy or attention.”
Minnesota has won its past four games against Chicago. The Vikings lead the all-time series 65-56-2.