Vikings: WR Justin Jefferson making his case for NFL MVP

Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings dives for a touchdown while Julian Love #20 of the New York Giants defends in the fourth quarter of the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 24, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the G ((Photo by David Berding/Getty Images))

If he hadn’t done it already, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson might have solidified his case to be the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player in 2022 on Saturday.

Jefferson had 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in a 27-24 win over the New York Giants as the Vikings improved to 12-3, and held onto the No. 2 seed in the NFC Playoff picture. His last catch might have been the most important of the game. It was a tunnel screen that set up the game-winning 61-yard field goal for Greg Joseph, the longest of his career.

Had Jefferson slipped the last tackle, it might have gone for a game-winning touchdown. Harrison Smith might have said it best in the locker room after the Vikings got their 11th win in as many tries when it’s a one-score game for Minnesota in the fourth quarter.

"I think we’ve gotten spoiled because it’s just another game for him and that’s a ridiculous thing to say. I’m saying that as a compliment, he’s just crazy," Smith said.

That’s right, 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown is just another day in the office for Jefferson.

"He can’t amaze me anymore. The things he’s able to do week in and week out, and able to sustain that level of success, is remarkable," defensive back Patrick Peterson said. "It’s very rare that you see guys with his talent come in with the head space that he’s in. He has a great head on his shoulders. He’s just taking advantage of it."

Jefferson entered the record books yet again in the win. He set the Vikings’ single-season record for catches (123) and yards (1,756). He passed Randy Moss in that department, who put up 1,632 yards in 16 games in 2003.

"Any time you’re breaking a record that was held by a guy named Randy Moss, you’re doing something special," quarterback Kirk Cousins said.

Jefferson, in just his third season, did it in 15 games. But he wants more. He wants a Super Bowl, and he wants to be in the Hall of Fame.

"It's a blessing, it’s an honor to break his records and be in the conversation with him. But he has the golden jacket, that’s what I want at the end of my career. I’m still chasing," Jefferson said.

He’s already made the catch of the season, an insane one-handed grab in Buffalo on 4th-and-18 with the game on the line. Saturday, he came up big yet again with a 17-yard touchdown on 3rd and 10 for a 24-16 lead with three minutes to play.

Kevin O’Connell is grateful to have the NFL’s best wide receiver.

"I just told him after that third down catch it’s a pleasure and an honor to coach a player like that, can show up in the biggest moments. One of his best routes that I’ve seen him run, and he’s run of lot of great ones," O’Connell said. "I just told him he’s a special player and I absolutely love him to death. It’s never a bad thing to tell somebody you love them."

Jefferson leads the NFL with 123 catches and 1,756 yards. His eight touchdowns are tied for fifth. He gave all the credit after his latest historic game to the offensive line, his wide receiver teammates and Cousins, who has to get him the ball.

Jefferson has 10 100-yard receiving games this season. He had a single-game career-high and franchise record 223 yards at Detroit, and has four games with at least 150 yards. Jefferson needs 208 yards in the final two games to match Calvin Johnson’s 1,964 yards, the current NFL record.

He’s averaging more than 14 yards a catch, despite often seeing double teams and being the focus of an opponent’s game plan every week.

"Just get him the rock, it seems to be working week in and week out. He’s special man, he really is," right tackle Brian O’Neill said.

The NFL MVP award typically goes every year to the quarterback that had the best season. It’s never gone to a wide receiver, and it’s time to change that. Regardless of if Jefferson gets to Johnson’s yardage record or not, he’s consistently been the best player in the NFL this year. He should be the MVP.