Kevin O’Connell won’t win the NFL Coach of the Year award, and Za’Darius Smith ran out of gas in the Defensive Player of the Year hunt, but Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson can wrap up the Offensive Player of the Year trophy in Chicago this Sunday.
Jefferson is the odds-on favorite to win OPOY, holding -800 odds entering Week 18, and his closest suitor is Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins at +1400.
At the Green Bay Packers last weekend, Jefferson tallied just 15 receiving yards on one reception, dampening his pursuit of the NFL’s all-time receiving yards mark held by Calvin Johnson in 2012. Jefferson had the league’s first 2,000-yard receiving season in his purview, but that too is unlikely to occur.
Justin Jefferson Can Wrap up OPOY in Chicago
Per his words, Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell is planning to play starters, likely trying to spark momentum heading into the playoffs. Before this year, Minnesota hadn’t reached the postseason since 2019. The Vikings need all the help they can get, and O’Connell evidently prefers the “finish on a high note” approach. There’s a small chance that O’Connell’s plan is a ruse and starters won’t play. We shall see.
If O’Connell was honest about his play-the-starters plan, Jefferson is close to a shoo-in for OPOY. He leads the aforementioned Hill by 80 receiving yards, and Jefferson doesn’t typically fire up back-to-back quiet weeks. What’s more, Vegas creates betting odds with purposes, so it is clued in more than anyone on Jefferson’s outlook to win the award.
Jefferson will have 60 minutes to lock down OPOY and perhaps conquer history. And he’ll do it against a Bears defense that ranks 31st in the NFL per passing defense DVOA. To put it plainly, Chicago’s defense is terrible.
The LSU alumnus needs 194 receiving yards to overtake Johnson’s NFL record. The other number to monitor is 229 — that’s the total required to hit the 2,000-mark. And for a regular wide receiver, these goals could seem foolhardy, just Jefferson isn’t regular.
Meanwhile, Hill is no stranger to monster games. He’s lost momentum to win Offensive Player of the Year, as the Dolphins season has veered off the track as of late. Miami began the season with an impressive 8-3 record, topping the AFC North with the Buffalo Bills at one point. But now Hill’s Dolphins are 8-8 and fighting tooth and nail to reach the postseason. Per FiveThirtyEight.com, the Dolphins have a 41% probability of advancing to the postseason tournament.
If Hill has a monster week against the New York Jets, surpassing Jefferson in yards and touchdowns, though, he could take home the trophy.
In five career games against the Bears, Jefferson has registered 37 receptions for 547 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).