ESPN’s Early Season Advice for Vikings

ESPN's Early Season Advice for Vikings
Dec 10, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports.

Sitting atop the NFC North, even after a disappointing defeat at the Philadelphia Eagles, the Minnesota Vikings are 1-1 with the Detroit Lions coming to town.

And ESPN has some advice for Minnesota — get the ball to Adam Thielen.

ESPN released its Week 3 power rankings on Tuesday, detailing one “big adjustment” each team should make through two weeks of regular season action. For the Vikings, it was fairly simple with the Thielen recommendation.

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Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Kevin Seifert wrote about the Vikings necessary adjustment, “One of the more curious aspects of the Vikings’ season is the relatively low involvement of receiver Adam Thielen. He took a clear back seat to teammate Justin Jefferson in Week 1, but even when Jefferson was slowed Monday night by the Eagles, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins looked elsewhere.”

Indeed, Jefferson has emerged as a beyond-the-shadow-of-a-doubt WR1, curiously disqualifying Thielen from meaningful targets in 2022. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Seifert continued, “If defenses focus on Jefferson, Thielen needs to be a more prominent option.”

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Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Thielen has been criminally undertargeted in games versus the Packers and Eagles. Folks just didn’t care after Week 1 because the Vikings thumped the Packers, and who can complain about that? Still, as Minnesota’s offense succumbed to early-season mortality in Philadelphia, “back to the drawing board” is a popular topic in the Vikings community. Involving Thielen more frequently feels like a no-brainer.

To date in 2022, in Quarters 1 thru 3, Thielen has been targeted three times in the first two games. Three measly times. He wound up leading the Vikings in receiving yards after the loss to Philadelphia (52 yards), but that stat was hollow as Thielen did the damage in the 4th Quarter via “garbage time.”

Thielen is the NFL’s 66th-most targeted player through two weeks. And nobody understands it. Last year at this time, he ranked 21st in targets (17) through two games and was only two behind Jefferson (19).

Jun 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell talks to wide receivers Adam Thielen (left) and Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

After Monday Night Football, Thielen told reporters about his performance, “I got to look myself in the mirror. The first thing I do is go look myself in the mirror, go watch the film and see what I could have done better to get open.”

And with Detroit’s 30th-ranked defense (per EPA/Play) rolling into Minneapolis this weekend, it’s a safe bet to assume Thielen won’t be ignored anymore.

Overall, ESPN wasn’t doom and gloom about the Vikings through two games, though. It ranked Minnesota as the NFL’s 11th-best team, even with the lifeless loss to the Eagles.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).