Adam Thielen has been ruled out for Sunday’s noon CT kickoff against the Denver Broncos, marking the second straight week in which the Vikings’ star wide receiver will be inactive and essentially the fifth game in a row where he will be a non-factor. Thielen injured hamstring Week 7 against the Detroit Lions and sat out Week 8, but he returned for seven snaps against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 9 before the injury pulled him out again. He hasn’t practiced since for the Vikings.
Now, it sounds as though the two-time Pro Bowler return won’t come until Week 13 at the soonest with the Vikings on a bye in Week 12.
Thielen was struggling to get attention deserving of his talent from Kirk Cousins in the early parts of the season, earning just three targets in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons — all passes that he caught — and collecting a measly six yards in a 16-6 road loss at the Chicago Bears in Week 4. Vocalized frustration from both him and fellow starting wideout Stefon Diggs seemed to resonate immediately, as Thielen then caught seven passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns the very next week in a 28-10 romp at the New York Giants.
In just six healthy games this season, Thielen has 26 catches for 366 yards and five touchdowns, while his only catch before getting sidelined against the Lions was a 25-yard touchdown pass.
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Vikings Offense Filled With Playmakers
While Thielen’s numbers would be expectedly better with more time spent on the field, the Vikings aren’t hurting for dynamic offensive players. Diggs was emerging as the favored target for Cousins even before Thielen’s injury, and he currently leads the team with 41 receptions for 759 yards and four touchdowns, logging more than 100 yards in four different games this season.
The Vikings also have the benefit of star running back Dalvin Cook, who is nearly just as active in the passing game as Diggs. Cook has 40 catches for 424 yards with his receiving responsibilities seeing a recent uptick in Thielen’s absence. None of that has slowed him down in the run game, either, as he has chugged along for 991 yards and 10 touchdowns to give him a league-leading 1,415 yards from scrimmage ahead of both Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey and Green Bay’s Aaron Jones.
For those reasons, along with Cousins hitting his groove, the Broncos aren’t going to take the Vikings lightly this Sunday afternoon. In fact, Denver head coach Vic Fangio said he sees no difference in Minnesota’s offense without Thielen in the lineup.
“None,” Fangio told reporters Thursday. “The guy (Bisi) Johnson that’s been playing for him kind of looks like he’s been studying Thielen and trying to be “Thielen the Second” and kind of looks like him on tape.”
Johnson has made the most of his limited receptions this season with two touchdowns in just 18 reception, averaging more than a first down on each catch. The Vikings have also seen Laquon Treadwell step up Thielen’s absence, making a season-high three catches for 58 yards in Week 9 against the Chiefs.