NFL Talking Point: Can Cooper Kupp break Calvin Johnson's receiving record?

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Much like the fight for the Lombardi Trophy, this season's MVP race is wide open.

A lack of consistently convincing performances from quarterbacks, who have enjoyed a monopoly over the MVP award since running back Adrian Peterson won it in 2012, has led to discussion over a skill-position player potentially taking home the most prestigious individual NFL honour.

And among the leading non-quarterbacks in the conversation is Los Angeles Rams star Cooper Kupp.

Kupp has established a phenomenal rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford in the latter's first year with Rams.

That connection has seen Kupp emerge as the clear number one receiver in the NFL from a statistical standpoint.

However, with reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers on a charge for a Green Bay Packers team with the number one seed in the NFC in their sights, the prospect of Kupp actually taking home the prize look slim.

Yet he could still end the 2021 NFL season with a slice of league history.

Kupp has 1,625 receiving yards and 122 receptions so far this season, making him the first NFL player to have 1,600+ receiving yards and 110+ catches through his first 14 games of a season.

With one first already secured, another is not out of the realms of possibility.

No wide receiver has ever totalled 2,000 yards in a single season and Kupp would need to average 125 yards over the final three games to achieve that feat.

Cooper Kupp
Cooper Kupp

Given he is averaging 116.1 yards per game, that aim may prove to be out of his reach, but Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving record could be attainable.

Johnson racked up 1,964 yards in the 2012 season. That would likely also be beyond Kupp in a 16-game season, but with the advent of the 17th regular-season game, Kupp has a clear opportunity to overhaul him.

Indeed, if Kupp averaged 116.1 yards over the next three games that would take him to 1,973 yards and a place atop the all-time list.

And the schedule is a favourable one as Kupp looks to continue producing at such a rate.

Week 16 sees the Rams face a Minnesota Vikings defense conceding 380.6 pass yards per game, the third-most in the NFL, before they then face a Baltimore Ravens team that has given up more passing plays of 20 yards or more (61) than any other in the league.

A matchup with a San Francisco 49ers defense that entered Week 16 ranked 12th in yards per pass play allowed with 5.31 would present a distinctly tougher challenge. However, even in the Rams' blowout loss to the Niners in Week 10, Kupp still caught 11 passes for 122 yards.

Kupp has received double-digit targets in all but one game in 2021 and is doing an excellent job of continually creating separation from defenders.

He has registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, 63.6 per cent of the time, above the average of 60 per cent for wideouts with at least 25 targets.

His burn yards per route average of 4.1 is the best among receivers who meet that threshold, indicating that no wideout in the NFL is generating more separation than Kupp when he beats his defender.

Kupp is a skilled separator who receives a consistently heavy workload. That may not be a recipe for him winning MVP but, given what he has done with his target share to this point, it is a mix that can put him in position to end the regular season in record-breaking fashion.

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