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Vikings vs. Raiders: 5 things you can count on

Justin Jefferson's return headlines Sunday's matchup in Las Vegas.
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The Minnesota Vikings will look to continue their playoff push as they take on the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday afternoon.

With Justin Jefferson's return making headlines, the Vikings will enter Sunday's game in the middle of a tight race for a NFC playoff spot but the Raiders also have big implications as they come into Sunday's game at 5-7.

Vegas can be unpredictable but here are five things you can count on as Minnesota tries to snap its two-game losing streak.

1. Justin Jefferson's return

Vikings fans (and fantasy football players) can rejoice as Jefferson will return after missing the last seven games with a hamstring injury. The Vikings fared well without Jefferson in the lineup, going 5-2 without their superstar, but Jefferson's presence can only mean good things moving forward.

Jefferson was on pace for a monster season before his injury, ranking third in the NFL in receiving behind Miami's Tyreek Hill and Los Angeles Rams receiver Puka Nakua at the time.

The centerpiece of Kevin O'Connell's offense, Jefferson will give Josh Dobbs an elite target while potentially opening up opportunities for T.J. Hockenson and Jordan Addison to thrive in single coverage.

No matter who gets the ball, Vikings fans will be happy to see No. 18 back on the field and it could jump-start Minnesota's offense in Vegas.

2. A short leash for Josh Dobbs

Dobbs started his Vikings tenure well, scoring five total touchdowns in wins over the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints, but he has tailed off in recent weeks in losses to the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons.

Head coach Kevin O'Connell spent the bye week considering a change to Nick Mullens or Jaren Hall but ultimately decided to stick with Dobbs.

"There's all kinds of things that we could we could do better," O'Connell told reporters on Wednesday. "We could coach better. Josh has continued comfort in our offense and how we play but also our offense and our staff's ability to evolve and help Josh thrive is [part of] our plan.”

Even with a vote of confidence, Dobbs could experience a quick hook if he turns the ball over. According to Pro Football Focus, Dobbs's turnover-worthy play rate of 4.3 percent ranks seventh among qualifying quarterbacks and with six turnovers in his last two games, O'Connell may be quick to go to Mullens if things don't straighten out.

3. Another challenge for Brian O'Neill

O'Neill has been solid at right tackle for the Vikings this season but he's coming off the worst game of his career in Minnesota's Week 12 loss to the Chicago Bears.

O'Neill allowed a career-high six pressures including two sacks going up against Bears edge rusher Montez Sweat and it was just the second time in his career he's allowed more than five pressures in a game. The bad news is the other game happened in Minnesota's Week 9 win over the Falcons and he's allowed four or more pressures in a game four times this season after it happened just five times in his previous five seasons combined.

Things won't get easier this week as he goes up against Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby. Crosby is listed as questionable but is expected to play after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday after developing bacteria in his knee before the Raiders Week 12 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Even with the setback, Crosby is still one of the league's most feared pass rushers, ranking sixth with 11.5 sacks and 64 pressures this season according to PFF.

O'Neill's season-ending Achilles injury last December may have played some role in his performance but the bye week could have helped him and leave him fresh for a difficult matchup.

4. Plenty of field goals

There are a lot of big names at the skill positions for Sunday's game but the most common names taking the field could be Greg Joseph and Daniel Carlson.

The Vikings and Raiders are among the worst teams in the NFL at scoring touchdowns in the red zone this season with Minnesota ranking 24th with a 50 percent touchdown rate and Vegas tied with Tampa Bay for 27th with a 47.06 percent touchdown rate.

While Vikings fans naturally fear a revenge game for Carlson, who served as Minnesota's kicker for two games before being released in 2018, seeing him kick a field goal is better than being destroyed by Davante Adams, Jakobi Myers or Josh Jacobs. 

The same goes for Raiders fans who would rather see Joseph kick a field goal than see Jefferson hit The Griddy in the end zone.

Either way, expect the kickers to play a key role in Sunday's game.

5. A Vikings win in Vegas

The Vikings will be on the road on Sunday but they won't be alone. ESPN's Kevin Siefert tweeted earlier this week that Vivid Seats forecasts 54 percent of Sunday's crowd to be Vikings fans and that could provide a pseudo home-field advantage at Allegiant Stadium.

Even with the SKOL chant breaking out, the Vikings have enough to win on Sunday. Jefferson's return should spark the offense and Kolton Miller's injury should allow Danielle Hunter to terrorize Raiders rookie Aidan O'Connell all afternoon.

Put it together and it should lead to the Vikings getting on a heater in Vegas to get back in the win column.

Prediction: Vikings 20, Raiders 17