Week 11 presents the return of a familiar NFC rivalry in which one team’s bona fide star might see a little too much of himself in his opponent.
The Packers (8-2) travel to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings (4-5) this weekend in a matchup of two teams that differ in overall record, but might not be so different after all. Both are coming off bounce-back wins in Week 10. Both have star running backs, though Green Bay’s Aaron Jones won’t play Sunday. And both have incredible No. 1 receivers.
Green Bay’s Davante Adams carries with him a weighty reputation for devastating defenses with his premier route-running, his body control and most importantly, his hands. He and Aaron Rodgers go together like beer and cheese curds.
Yet, when Adams sees Justin Jefferson making plays for Minnesota, the Packers star sees a legitimate threat to surpass him in purple and white.
“I see a six-year vet when I watch him play,” Adams said of Jefferson this week. “He reminds me of, I don’t even know how to, I haven’t seen anybody come in in a while and play like the way that he’s playing right now. He really strikes me as somebody that has it figured out, whatever that means. ‘Cause I wasn’t playing that fast in my first and second year.
“Last year, he already looked like he’d been playing for four years at that point, so he’s kind of aging like a dog right now and I mean in its purest form because he’s a dog out there and I respect what he’s doing and it’s really fun to watch. I truly hope that it doesn’t look like what’s it’s been looking like the last couple weeks against us, but it’s definitely fun to watch.”
Jefferson almost singlehandedly held off the Chargers in a much-needed win for the Vikings last weekend, catching nine passes for 143 yards. Two of those highlight-reel grabs came in crucial moments, with the first putting the Vikings into Chargers territory on a drive that ended in a touchdown and regained the lead for Minnesota. The second helped the Vikings ice the victory, as Jefferson won outside positioning with a stutter-step and explosion up the sideline, turning, leaping, catching and managing to get both feet in bounds to convert a third-and-7 with less than three minutes remaining. Because of that catch and a fourth-and-1 conversion by Cook, the Vikings were able to maintain possession through the end of the game, winning 27-20.
Perhaps it’s a matter of confidence. After all, Jefferson was essentially given a direct path to the No. 1 receiver role in Minnesota when the Vikings sent Stefon Diggs to Buffalo for the Bills’ first-round pick, which Minnesota then spent on Jefferson.
But plenty have been given an opportunity similar to the one presented to Jefferson, and most have failed to live up to expectations. Not Jefferson, who nearly won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 after finishing with 88 receptions for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns.
Adams is right: It took him until his fifth professional season to break 1,000 receiving yards. But it was worth the wait for Green Bay, which boasts a premier receiver in Adams.
Minnesota believes it can say the same about Jefferson. Adams seems to agree, as long as Jefferson isn’t a premier producer this weekend.
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