Justin Jefferson Can Still Break Those Nifty Records

Jefferson Smashes
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After the Minnesota Vikings were walloped by their most hated rival last weekend, the debate loomed whether head coach Kevin O’Connell would play starters in Week 18 at the Chicago Bears or opt for guaranteed good health heading into the postseason.

Per his words, 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.

Accordingly, all those conversations present last week about wideout Justin Jefferson shattering NFL records and norms can reasonably return. Jefferson fired up a quiet Sunday at Lambeau Field, tabulating one catch for 15 receiving yards — the quietest performance of his career.

Justin Jefferson Can Still Break Those Nifty Records

Unless O’Connell is bluffing, Jefferson will have 60 minutes to conquer history. And he’ll do it against a Bears defense that ranks 31st in the NFL per passing defense DVOA. In plain speak, Chicago’s defense stinks.

Justin Jefferson Can Still
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Approaching the Packers game in Week 17, Jefferson had a few feats in his purview:

  1. The all-time receiving yards record in a single season held by Calvin Johnson (1,964 yards in 2012)
  2. Becoming the first player to tally 2,000 receiving yards in a season
  3. Winning the 2022 receiving yards crown over Tyreek Hill

While achieving some or all of the items is unlikely, it is not impossible for Jefferson.

Explained: Fallout from Vikings Win over Jets
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

In theory, the marks wouldn’t be on the table if the tasks were up to a wide receiver like Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Jalen Reagor, or Jalen Nailor. But Jefferson is different — markedly different. Jefferson has a path toward history, and that’s because he is the one effectuating the path.

To achieve the aforementioned three feats, this is the lay of the land for Jefferson:

  1. Jefferson needs 194 receiving yards to overtake Johnson’s NFL record.
  2. Jefferson needs 229 receiving yards to hit 2,000.
  3. Jefferson must keep Hill at bay by 84 yards to earn the 2022 receiving yards crown.
The 'Other' Important Race for Justin Jefferson
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

No. 3 involving Hill also packs a heavier punch than expected because Jefferson is the frontrunner to win the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award, although betting odds aren’t updating per usual as of Wednesday because of Damar Hamlin’s injury. If Hill has a monster week against the New York Jets, surpassing Jefferson in yards and touchdowns, he could take home the trophy.

The rest is straightforward. Assuming Jefferson plays four quarters — the Vikings could shut down starters if they jump out to a handsome lead — “all” he needs is a vintage Jeffersonian game to make history.

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).