Justin Jefferson just keeps impressing.
The rookie receiver didn't have his highest yardage total on Sunday, but he scored a pair of touchdowns in the Vikings victory over the Panthers. Through the first 12 games of his NFL career, Jefferson is already knocking on a 1,000-yard season; he has 52 catches for 918 yards and six touchdowns.
The former LSU standout has turned heads all around the league and continues to receive top-shelf grades from analytics site Pro Football Focus. In fact, Jefferson is the highest-graded rookie entering December.
PFF's Anthony Treash wrote:
Jefferson has been putting on a route-running clinic all season long. He didn't have his best day on Sunday against Carolina, earning just a 66.1 receiving grade, but Jefferson still flashed his route-running chops and grabbed a couple of explosive plays against single coverage.
Jefferson remains with an elite PFF grade for the season at 90.1 — second only to [Packers receiver] Davante Adams. When diving into his performance against press coverage, Jefferson leaps Adams for the top spot. On those plays, he has hauled in 23 of 26 targets for 437 yards and three touchdowns. Not too shabby for a rookie.
Jefferson's second two-touchdown game earned him a nomination for the Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Week. Vote for him here.
Coming in behind Jefferson for the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively, were Patriots offensive lineman Michael Onwenu and Buccaneers tackle Tristan Wirfs, the latter of which the Vikings will face on Dec. 13.
Wirfs netted 45 pass-block opportunities on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and put up a goose egg in the total pressures allowed column for just the second time this season. Week after week, Wirfs has been one of the top pass-protecting right tackles in the league. He has yet to produce a single game pass-block grade below 60.0 — something only five right tackles have done this year.
According to Treash, Wirfs is now tied for fourth at the position in pass-block grade on the season.
Week 14 at Bucs tabbed as Vikings 'most important' remaining game
Currently sitting at 5-6 and one game out of the NFC playoff race, the Vikings have the following games remaining on their schedule: versus Jacksonville, at Tampa Bay, versus Chicago, at New Orleans and at Detroit.
Which of the five contests holds the most weight? ESPN's Courtney Cronin said it's a little bit of a trick question but highlighted the Week 14 matchup against Tom Brady and the Bucs. She wrote:
The easy answer would be "all of them," given the Vikings are the No. 8 team in the NFC and one game out of the final [Wild Card] berth. Minnesota got this far after a 1-5 start by beating up on bad teams, with only one of the Vikings five victories coming against a team with a winning record (Week 8 at the Packers). A win on the road against 7-5 Tampa Bay is critical. In order to be taken seriously as a postseason contender, Minnesota needs to show it can defeat better competition. A win against the Bucs would up the Vikings playoff odds significantly.
ESPN's Jenna Laine answered the same question for the Bucs and also pointed to Week 14, which will follow Tampa's bye.
The Bucs have lost back-to-back games to the Rams and Chiefs. Laine said the NFC South team is "drifting further from contender status and closer to pretender" and needs a "statement win" coming out of their Week 13 bye.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.
Every game will matter, but they need a tone-setter. [Bucs Head Coach] Bruce Arians said they'll spend this time going over everything, which should include adjustments in philosophy and play-calling. The offense has been stagnant much of the time. There has been no play-action or motion, and Tom Brady's deep ball has been far too inconsistent. Further, they need to finally establish an offensive identity, as changing it week to week isn't helping with consistency.
Before they fly to Tampa, though, the Vikings will face another Florida team this week. ESPN's Mike DiRocco said Sunday's game at U.S. Bank Stadium will be Jacksonville's (1-10) most important.
The Jaguars have lost 10 consecutive games (a franchise record for a single season) heading into Sunday's matchup with the Vikings. The streak needs to end now because the Jaguars have Tennessee and Baltimore the following two weeks. Three more losses ties the longest losing streak in franchise history (last five games of 2012 and first eight of 2013).
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