This article isn't going to suprise you, but you might want to sit down for this ground-breaking revelation: The Minnesota Vikings' offense is better when Adam Thielen is a part of it.
Yes, I know, that's pretty surprising, right? Since Thielen went down with a hamstring injury in Week 7, the Vikings offense has performed pretty well. Kirk Cousins has continued to play at an MVP level and Stefon Diggs has taken off to produce a stretch that even Randy Moss would be proud of.
But as the Vikings prepare to take the field in San Die...Los Angeles on Sunday, they are welcoming back their two-time Pro Bowl receiver at the best possible time. That's not because they have a three-game stretch that they probably have to win to get into the NFC playoffs, but because the Vikings have left meat on the bone in Thielen's absence.
After Thielen spent the majority (outside of an opening drive in Kansas City) on the sideline, the Vikings' offense has produced well. In the past seven games, Minnesota has averaged 21 points per game and 305 yards of total offense. While both numbers are respectable, it's not the same without the impact that Thielen has on this offense.
Even looking back on the Vikings' start to the season, which included a near mutiny after the Week 4 loss to the Bears, Kevin Stefanski's unit had the makings of an offensive juggernaut by averaging 27.4 points per game and 391 yards of total offense. That's nearly a touchdown and 100 extra yards of offense when Thielen plays. Again...shocking.
But what you may not know is the impact that Thielen has had on the ground game. While he's not going to supplant Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison for lead running back duties, he did do enough to open things up and lead Cook to an MVP-type beginning to the season in the first seven games.
Looking at another set of splits, Cook was a monster in the first seven games toting the ball for 5.4 yards a carry and five 100 yard games. Since Thielen went down in Detroit, the effectiveness of the running game has gone down with Cook averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and hasn't run for over 100 yards in a game over the last seven contests.
While Cook was among a slew of targets that stepped up in the passing game to make up for it, the Vikings offense is at it's best when they can get big gains on the ground forcing opposing defenses to go on full tilt.
Sunday's game in L.A. is a good time for that to happen. Although the Vikings are currently in the six-seed for the NFC playoff picture, one unexpected loss could have them in the meat grinder along with a Los Angeles Rams team that suddenly looks rejuvenated after being demolished by Lamar Jackson on national television.
With the Chargers owning the fourth-best pass defense in the league, adding a second elite target along with Diggs should only mean good things for the Vikings and add the opportunity to exploit their middle-of-the-road run defense.
If Thielen is 100 percent as the Vikings claim (he was not listed on their final injury report), Minnesota should be full-boar down the stretch and that's bad news for the rest of the NFC.