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One of the league’s most-improbable breakout players of the past decade, Adam Thielen was tremendous again on Sunday. After exploding for 69 catches last season — his third in the NFL — Adam Thielen is in line for a bigger role in the Vikings’ offense. The 27-year-old wideout caught eight of 12 targets for 166 yards and one touchdown against a Redskins defense that has been soft against slot receivers, but very good against wideouts overall this season.
Not even 24 hours after the catch that catapulted the Vikings into the NFC Championship Game at the last possible second, the shock factor hadn’t completely worn off for Thielen and his teammates. Thielen is now the No. 3 scoring fantasy wide receiver this season after posting the eighth-most points during the 11 games he played at least two-thirds of the snaps last season.
The real matchup to watch will not be Keenum taking on the New Orleans defense, or even Adam Thielen vs. Marshon Lattimore (not sure how often Lattimore will see Thielen across from him Sunday). Rather, it’s Brees against Mike Zimmer’s defensive unit. The Saints’ franchise quarterback set an NFL record for completion percentage this season at a whopping 72.0. Minnesota set the pace for all scoring defenses, giving up a scant 15.8 points per game.
Minnesota’s Adam Thielen got into the spirit of things by showing up for the game wearing a personalised Arsenal shirt. I got some push-back with Thielen headed into drafts. A lot of people were all-in on Stefon Diggs. For good reason. Actually, in our NFL Network Fantasy League I grabbed Diggs in the fifth and wasn’t afraid to swing back around for jerseys cheap Thielen in the seventh.
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Minnesota’s receivers haven’t relished these types of accomplishments for years. But it’s the story behind Thielen’s journey from an undrafted Division II star to one of the best receivers in the NFL that has captivated many, including Moss. “We just still can’t believe it in the locker room, honestly,” Thielen said. “I woke up morning and made sure that it wasn’t a dream and made sure it was a real deal.”
Keenum deftly avoided turnovers this season, tossing just seven interceptions to 21 touchdowns. That trend must continue for the playoff neophyte. While Diggs likely will face Lattimore in one-on-one matchups on the outside, Keenum should find Pro Bowl wideout Thielen with regularity out of the slot.
If those guys were dropping those balls, all of that would hurt. But for the fact that you have guys scoring, making big third-down catches, that doesn’t hurt. Y’all keep bringing it. I know this story is about Thielen, but Keenum’s doing some good things, too. When you look at the overall production from the passing game, that’s scary.
This offseason, the Vikings showed their trust in Thielen as more than a one-year wonder by signing him to a three-year contract extension. With an impressive season and a new deal under his belt, he will be on the radar for opponents no matter where he lines up.
Thielen’s production has helped carry the Vikings into their bye on a high note. It’s time he starts getting credit that’s long overdue. He’s performing like one of the NFL’s best receivers because he is one of the league’s best receivers.
Much credit is due to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who has turned Thielen into one of the best receivers in the NFL. Thielen’s production has helped carry the Vikings into their bye on a high note. It’s time he starts getting credit that’s long overdue.
As he talked about his development in the NFL on Tuesday, Thielen was asked to think back to the scene in Cincinnati last August, when Bengals cornerbacks refused to cover him because they wanted to go “against some dogs.” He said he expects more teams will pay attention to him, now that he’s proved himself and earned a sizable raise, but Thielen didn’t sound like he was about to leave his roots or the tenacity they helped create.