Vikings

Do the Vikings Have The Best Wide Receiver Duo In the NFL?

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker (USA TODAY Sports)

The Minnesota Vikings’ top two receivers reminded the football world how potent they are last week. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen combined for 20 targets, 16 receptions, 251 yards, and three touchdowns in a home victory over the Green Bay Packers.

While the Seattle Seahawks (with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett), Tennessee Titans (A.J. Brown and Julio Jones), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Mike Evans and Chris Godwin), and Dallas Cowboys (Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb) are some of the more frequently mentioned combos that strike the most fear in opposing defenses, the play from Jefferson and Thielen this season has forced them into the conversation.

For the sake of this piece, I’m going to look at some of the league’s top receiver duos and show where Jefferson and Thielen stack up in relation to volume, efficiency, and passer rating when targeted.

What’s most notably different this season for Jefferson and Thielen is their volume of targets. Following Thursday’s games for Week 12, the Vikings currently have the fourth-most combined targets allocated to their top two wideouts throughout the league. Below is a snapshot of the seven teams that currently have the most combined targets for their top two receivers.

With Minnesota’s substantial uptick in passing this season — the Vikings currently rank ninth in pass attempts after ranking 27th last season — the offense has prioritized both Jefferson and Thielen in offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak’s first year. For the sake of context, the three teams that have more combined targets for their top-two wideouts than Minnesota currently rank 11th, fourth, and eighth in pass attempts.

Next up, let’s dissect how efficient these pass catchers have been with all of this volume. As it stands, Jefferson and Thielen lead the pack in catch rate with a combined 74.7%. Below you’ll see where the other six duos stack up.

  • Minnesota Vikings: Jefferson & Thielen = 121 rec / 162 targets = 74.7% combined catch rate
  • Buffalo Bills: Diggs & Beasley = 129 rec / 174 targets = 74.1% combined catch rate
  • LA Rams: Kupp & Woods = 130 rec / 180 targets = 72.2% combined catch rate
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Evans & Godwin = 110 rec / 154 targets = 71.4% combined catch rate
  • LA Chargers: Allen & Williams = 120 rec / 174 targets = 70% combined catch rate
  • Dallas Cowboys: Cooper & Lamb = 94 rec / 137 targets = 68.6% combined catch rate
  • Seattle Seahawks: Metcalf & Lockett = 93 rec / 137 targets = 67.9% combined catch rate

As the numbers above illustrate, Jefferson and Thielen have maximized their opportunities more than any other receiver combo throughout the league. Many Skoldiers spent the offseason clamoring for a more pass-friendly shift in offensive philosophy, and this is exactly the type of production that folks had in mind.

Last but most certainly not least, let’s take a look at how these receiver tandems stack up in combined passer rating when targeted. Similar to catch rate, Jefferson and Thielen lead the pack. Furthermore, Thielen and Jefferson are currently No. 1 and No. 2 among all wide receivers throughout the league in passer rating when targeted.

With Jefferson and Thielen head and shoulders above the other top receiver duos in combined passer rating when targeted at 261.4, the Vikings are clearly in a class of their own when it comes to receivers. Below you’ll see where the other receiver tandems stack up in combined passer rating when targeted.

  • Minnesota Vikings: Jefferson & Thielen = combined passer rating of 261.4
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Evans & Godwin = combined passer rating of 239.0
  • Dallas Cowboys: Cooper & Lamb = combined passer rating of 229.9
  • LA Rams: Kupp & Woods = combined passer rating of 228.4
  • Seattle Seahawks: Metcalf & Lockett = combined passer rating of 228.3
  • LA Chargers: Allen & Williams = combined passer rating of 214.3
  • Buffalo Bills: Diggs & Beasley = combined passer rating of 195.9

With Minnesota’s receiver tandem leading the way in combined catch rate and combined passer rating when targeted, it’s pretty difficult to argue against Jefferson and Thielen as the league’s top wide receiver duo. And make no mistake about it, Kirk Cousins is having a career year in large part because of the Vikings’ game-breakers on the outside.

Jefferson and Thielen will need to have their fingerprints all over this game in order for the Vikings to come out of Santa Clara with a victory over the 49ers to help solidify their playoff chances. San Francisco currently has the third-best pass defense in the league, so Skoldiers will find out a ton about the Vikings’ passing game in this one.

With another dominant performance out of Jefferson and Thielen on Sunday against one of the league’s best defenses, it will be all aboard the hype train for the home stretch of the season.

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