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NFL receiving yards record: How Justin Jefferson can pass Calvin Johnson in Vikings’ Week 18 game vs. Bears


With the NFL regular season now spanning 17 games and wide receiver talent off the charts, it feels inevitable that Calvin Johnson’s single-season record for receiving yards will eventually fall. 

Cooper Kupp made a serious run on the record last season, falling just 17 yards short, but two latest candidates emerged early this season in Miami’s Tyreek Hill and Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson.

Because the season has progressed, Jefferson has continued to pile up impressive numbers and position himself because the one player who can threaten Johnson’s record. A rough Week 17 hurt his probabilities of catching Johnson, but Week 18 offers Jefferson a likelihood at redemption.

IYER: NFL picks, predictions against the spread Week 18

Here’s what Jefferson has to do in Week 18 to interrupt Johnson’s record.

What’s the NFL single-season receiving yards record?

Calvin Johnson set the single-season receiving record in 2012, ending with 1,964 yards and clearing Jerry Rice’s previous record by greater than 100 yards.

Other players have come fairly close since then, with seasons of 1,800 yards by each Julio Jones and Antonio Brown plus last season’s near-miss by Kupp, but nobody has broken the record or hit the two,000-yard mark. 

How good is the Bears pass defense?

The Bears allow more yards per attempt than any team within the league, with a mark of seven.2.

Teams don’t pass often against Chicago. In truth, the Bears have faced the second-fewest pass attempts within the league, which is to be expected considering the Bears are 3-13 and teams are inclined to construct up an early lead against them.

A pass-happy Vikings team could look to throw the ball often against the Bears in Week 18 if the goal is to place Jefferson in position to interrupt the record.

MORE: NFL schedule Week 18: Latest updates, times, dates for each football game

What are Justin Jefferson’s probabilities of breaking the record?

On the surface, Jefferson’s probabilities of reaching Johnson’s record should not great. He only had one catch for 15 yards in Week 17, which suggests an enormous performance is required to complete with 1,964 or more yards.

Jefferson needs 193 yards to tie the record and 194 to interrupt it. While he has games of 223 and 193 yards already this season, it isn’t exactly a protected bet that Jefferson will approach 200 yards in a game that will not move the Vikings up or down within the standings so long as the 49ers beat the Cardinals.

MORE: Packers’ Jaire Alexander mocks Vikings’ Justin Jefferson, hits the griddy

With that being said, we have seen teams attempt to put players in position for records before. At the top of the 2020 season, the Buccaneers kept Mike Evans in a meaningless game until he recorded his seventh consecutive 1,000-yars receiving season.

That very same day, Derrick Henry entered 223 yards shy of a 2,000-yard rushing season but received a season-high 34 carries and reached the celebrated mark. 

If the Vikings realize they’ll carve up the Bears’ secondary, Minnesota might attempt to balance preserving Jefferson’s health with giving him enough targets to make a serious run on the record.

NFL single-season receiving yards leaders

1Calvin Johnson1,9642012
2Cooper Kupp1,9472021
3Julio Jones1,8712015
4Jerry Rice1,8481995
5Antonio Brown1,8342015
6Isaac Bruce1,7811995
7Justin Jefferson1,7712022
8Charley Hennigan1,7461961
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