Adam Thielen’s Season-Ending Ankle Injury Delivers a Crushing Blow to the Minnesota Vikings’ Already Dwindling Playoff Hopes
The Minnesota Vikings are on the outside of the NFC playoffs looking in, but they’re not out of it yet. However, the latest injury report could spell trouble for the team’s chances to make the postseason. Wide receiver Adam Thielen suffered a devastating injury, which will cost him the rest of the regular season and likely the playoffs (if the Vikings even make it).
The Vikings placed Adam Thielen on injured reserve
The Minnesota Vikings have officially placed veteran wideout Adam Thielen on injured reserve. According to ESPN, Thielen underwent season-ending surgery on his left ankle.
The 2-time Pro Bowler suffered the ankle injury in the Week 13 loss to the Detroit Lions. The Vikings were thrilled to get him back on the field against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16. However, he re-injured the same ankle after recording three receptions for 40 yards.
When healthy, Thielen and Justin Jefferson form one of the NFL’s most dangerous wide receiver tandems. The 31-year-old has been a model of consistency in Minnesota over the past several seasons. This team will desperately miss his production down the stretch.
Adam Thielen ends his eighth NFL season with 67 receptions, 726 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns.
Thielen’s absence puts pressure on Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson
Now that Adam Thielen is officially out for the remainder of the 2021 season, the Minnesota Vikings must regroup and figure out ways to win without him.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins is having one of the best statistical seasons of his NFL career. Still, he understands the importance of having Thielen out there.
“Adam was battling through an injury and showing his toughness by playing against the Rams,” Cousins said. “But we’re not going to have him the rest of the way. We just have to ask that much more of some of our other receivers and give some younger players a great opportunity to play and put some stuff on tape and show what they can do.”
Justin Jefferson is a player who’s already been giving maximum production to the Vikings’ offense. The second-year wideout has avoided the sophomore slump and even taken his game to another level.
Jefferson has caught 97 passes for 1,451 yards and nine touchdowns through 15 games. He earned his second-straight Pro Bowl nod and will need to keep playing at an elite level to help this team down the stretch.
Mike Zimmer will also need young receivers like K.J. Osborn and Ihmir Smith-Marsette, and tight end Tyler Conklin to step up and help fill the void left by Adam Thielen.
Still, Cousins has Jefferson and running back Dalvin Cook at his disposal. In these last two pivotal games, he must rise to the occasion for the Vikings to have a shot at the playoffs.
Minnesota must win out to have a shot at making the playoffs
The Minnesota Vikings currently hold a 7-8 record, five games behind the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North. While winning the division is not possible, Mike Zimmer’s squad can still make the playoffs.
Minnesota is sitting at the 8-seed in the NFC, putting them out of the playoffs if the season ended today. Luckily, they still have two games to play, and the 2021 season has been wild.
The Vikings’ remaining two games are on the road against the Green Bay Packers and a home tilt against the Chicago Bears in the season finale. The good news for Minnesota is they’ll be facing two division opponents, so that familiarity could play an important role.
Even if the Vikings win out, they wouldn’t be a lock for the playoffs. They would need some help.
The San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles hold the final two wild-card spots, both with an 8-7 record. The Niners finish up against the Houston Texans and the LA Rams. San Francisco beat Minnesota head-to-head, though. The Eagles will face the Washington Football Team and the Dallas Cowboys in the last two weeks.
The Adam Thielen-less Vikings will be hoping for either team to lose out the rest of the way. Mike Zimmer and company can’t concern themselves with that, though. If they don’t take care of business, it won’t matter what anyone else does.
Minnesota’s season would end in disappointment.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.