The Minnesota Vikings will beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday, or at least they should, given that Chicago is starting Nathan Peterman at quarterback. Head coach Kevin O’Connell has said the purple would bring out starters, giving star wide receiver Justin Jefferson a chance.
No one flopped harder than Justin Jefferson did against the Green Bay Packers. After cornerback Jaire Alexander spent the week talking, the Vikings wide receiver failed to do anything that would shut him up. Following an early pass breakup, the NFL’s leading wide receiver got punked to the tune of his own signature move being danced over him. From that point forward, it was all downhill.
Can Justin Jefferson Shock the World?
Jefferson wound up hauling in just a single catch for 15 yards. Shockingly, that wasn’t a bad enough effort to be the low point of his season, but even the 14 yards against the Detroit Lions didn’t feel this hapless. Minnesota was blown away by their division rival, and despite chasing history, Jefferson never seemed involved.
Now, with one game left against an opponent that has no desire to win, Jefferson could right the ship going into the playoffs. To what extent remains to be seen.
Coming into Week 18, Jefferson still leads the NFL in receptions and receiving yards. He is 84 yards ahead of Miami Dolphins wideout Tyreek Hill, and his reception total is only seven more. Knowing he is set to play and the Vikings should be force-feeding him the football, those tallies can certainly remain at the top. Where Jefferson is aiming, no doubt, should be a bit higher.
At 1,771 yards to his credit, Jefferson is a whopping 193 yards behind Detroit Lions Calvin Johnson’s single-season record. Interestingly, he wound up with exactly that many yards earlier this season in the overtime win against Buffalo, and his 223 yards against Detroit set a franchise record. To say it isn’t likely would be obvious, but putting it as unfathomable also rings hollow.
There is no denying Jefferson is an otherworldly talent. Last week notwithstanding, it should be a straightforward argument to suggest that Jefferson is the best wide receiver in the league. He’s going to need that level of performance to chase down a record he fell off the pace from, but if there is anyone who can do it, it’s him.
We have never seen a wide receiver reach 2,000 yards in a single season, and that goal would be even loftier for Jefferson. He’d need 229 yards to get there, surpassing his own franchise record in receiving. Putting up that production level twice in a single season would be amazing, but it’s certainly not out of the question, given the parameters we’re dealing with.
It will be worth watching how O’Connell and the Vikings utilize their superstar on Sunday. Typically, professional teams don’t care too much about backing off the gas pedal, and if the Vikings get up while racking up passing yardage, I’m sure that’s something they’d be okay with. Jefferson will look to get going early with his quarterback Kirk Cousins, and being force-fed late could help him across the finish line.
Of course, this remains a doubtful proposition, but betting against Jefferson has never been a good idea. Why start now?
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.