Prediction No. 1
T.J. Hockenson will catch at least 10 passes
The biggest question heading into Sunday’s game is how the Vikings will replace Justin Jefferson. Jefferson caught 36 passes for 571 yards and three touchdowns through the first five games, and with a running game that hasn’t clicked and a bevy of secondary weapons that have been mostly average, it’s not clear who will take over the alpha role in the offense.
But Kevin O’Connell indicated on Wednesday that he may need to shift his philosophy to account for Jefferson’s absence. While that could mean an increased presence of Cam Akers and Alexander Mattison in the backfield, it could also mean safer throws to get Kirk Cousins in a rhythm.
This would play into the wheelhouse of T.J. Hockenson, who has become a security blanket for Cousins. Hockenson has had a fine statistical season with 30 catches, but he hasn’t been used as a deep threat with an average depth of target of 6.4 yards this season.
Although his big-play usage could increase, short passes to Hockenson could help the Vikings control the time of possession and have a more plodding pace designed to keep their defense off the field.
There are some issues to this as Hockenson committed a pair of drops in last week’s loss to Kansas City and admitted that his rapport with Cousins will come with time – something that was damaged while Hockenson “held in” with ear and back injuries in search of a new contract.
But this could be the game that gets Hockenson back on the map and makes him a big part of the Vikings’ offense.