Ja'Marr Chase meets old friend Justin Jefferson in Saturday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 9 and NFL Network) at Paycor Stadium that pits the two best wide receivers in the league as a sidebar in a 7-6 interconference playoff skirmish between Chase's Bengals and Jefferson's Vikings.
At least that's how Chase sees it.
After confirming he'll play following Wednesday's limited practice with an ankle issue, Chase said he's the NFL's No. 1 receiver and Jefferson, his former LSU teammate and stat soulmate, is No. 2.
"I'm always going to put myself first," Chase said. "He's so quick, he's so explosive. You watch film and he makes it look so easy. We probably can do the same move, but just because he's twitchier, and more explosive sometimes on some routes, he just has that look in his routes that just makes defenders fly."
The numbers can get kind of eerie. After both helped Joe Burrow win the Heisman Trophy in LSU's undefeated 2019 season, Jefferson went to the Vikes and set the NFL rookie record with 1,400 yards in 2020. After Chase sat out that year, he smashed Jefferson's record with 1,455 yards in 2021. The first 101 came in the only NFL game they've met, also Chase's debut, when the Bengals beat Minnesota on the last play of overtime in the '21 opener.
Since then, they've been chasing (sorry about the pun) the same decimal points. A few weeks ago, Chase joined Jefferson, Randy Moss, and Odell Beckham Jr. as the only players in NFL history to average at least 80 yards per game in each of their first three seasons.
Jefferson has the most yards anyone caught in their first two seasons, Chase is fifth on the list. Jefferson has the most in the first three seasons (Chase can't catch him after missing four games last season), and if Jefferson gets 90 yards Saturday he'll have the most in anyone's first four seasons.
Meanwhile, Chase leads the NFL in 50-yard touchdown catches since he came into the league with the trait he says makes him the best in the league:
"My yards after catch. More of a running back threat is what people may say."
Jefferson has the NFL all-time lead in yards per game with 96.8 while Chase is third with 85.6. They sandwich Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Calvin Johnson's 86.1 and while Chase isn't giving up the chase, he's not watching, either.
"I'm not racing with him. This is a marathon. I'm not racing with him anymore," Chase said. "We're out of college."
It gets even more eerie. They're both on the injury report limited a few days after rare sub-par games. Jefferson went to the hospital with a chest injury during Minnesota's 3-0 win over the Raiders where he had two catches for 27 yards, his sixth-lowest game of his career. His coach says there's a good chance he'll play at Paycor.
Chase revealed Wednesday he hurt his ankle on his first catch of Sunday's 34-14 win over the Colts. Early on he reached back to grab a ball across the middle and ended up with three catches for 29 yards, his fourth fewest ever. But he says the ankle had nothing to do with it and pointed to the effectiveness of the running game. He played 87% of the snaps, not far off his season pace of 93.
"It's 100% percent I'll play," Chase said. "Just getting treatment and seeing what I can and can't do."
Chase checked in with Jefferson after he got out of the hospital to make sure he was OK, but he says they won't talk in the days before the game. "Hope you're feeling good. Please don't score." Chase says when they do talk, it's not about football. "We talk about work and football all day."
He sums up their college careers as well as anyone could on a team that turned out to have what looks to be two Hall-of-Fame receivers.
"I'll tell you what, we made our job easier for each other," Chase said. "He opened it up for me. Hell yeah, I did for him, too. We were in the right place ."
FAST TALK: Right tackle Jonah Williams called running back Chase Brown's 22.05 miles per hour speed on the GPS during Sunday's 54-yard catch and run touchdown "insane." He also noted left guard Cordell Volson had a big-time clocking on the same play as he got out in front on the screen.
"CV had a 17.6. Pretty remarkable speed for a lineman. A shoutout to my guy," Williams said.
That was the play after Chase hurt his ankle. Chase, who had 18 MPH in practice Wednesday ("It didn't feel like I was moving,") went in motion to the other side so he had a great view as he looked at the scoreboard during the run.
"It looked like it was in slow motion. Just seeing everybody fall in front of him and just gliding past everybody, It was a perfect play," Chase said.
Bengals radio voice Dan Hoard told him he had the 11th fastest time of the season, a 21.5 MPH on his 63-yard touchdown catch in Arizona that Joe Burrow moon-balled over his helmet down the middle of the field. "I'm slow," said Chase, who wanted to know how fast he was on his 72-yard touchdown against Kansas City at Paycor in the next-to-last game of '21 when he set the rookie record with 266 yards.
That was 60 yards after the catch where he flayed the Chiefs from left to right. Hoard told him that was 21.7 MPH and Chase didn't know how that could be slower than, well, any play.
He just shrugged. "Maybe I'm just slow."
JOE-JAKE: Is there a more aware guy in the Bengals locker room than Chase?
He admits there has been some mental gymnastics adjusting to life without Burrow, the only quarterback he's basically had since he left Archbishop Rummel.
"For me mentally, I was just telling myseIf I can finally show off who I am without being Joe and Chase for a moment," Chase said. "Just showing off what I can really do without my favorite quarterback.
"It's a mental challenge for myself I feel like. Just seeing where I could be at. Just making myself better at the end of the day."
Here is Chase's scouting report on the different personalities of Burrow and Browning:
"Jake's more playful than Burrow. Jake's going to smile with you. Joe's just going to walk past and look at you and keep going. He's just not going to smile all the time. Joe is just more tunnel vision than Jake. If I can describe the difference, Joe comes to work in a suit and a tie. Jake comes to work in a suit with no tie."
Chase had to disagree with Jonah Williams' observation that Burrow and his sunglasses are flashier than Browning and his T-shirt news conferences.
"Can't say that," Chase said. "Two different tax brackets."