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Vikings could be without the touchdown prowess of Thielen

Wed Nov 25 5:56pm ET
By BRIAN HALL
Associated Press

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen is congratulated by teammate Dakota Dozier (78) after catching a touchdown pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)


Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, left, catches a 3-yard touchdown pass ahead of Dallas Cowboys defensive back Rashard Robinson, right, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)


Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) catches a 2-yard touchdown pass ahead of Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown (30) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)


EAGAN, Minn. (AP) On a Minnesota offense that features Dalvin Cook, who leads the league in rushing yards per game, and has big-play rookie receiver Justin Jefferson garnering headlines, seven-year veteran Adam Thielen is still an important piece for quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Look no further than last week, when nearing the goal line against the Dallas Cowboys, Cousins looked often to his favorite end-zone target. Thielen scored a pair of short touchdowns in an eventual 31-28 loss.

Minnesota is hoping they don't get a reminder of Thielen's importance while he is absent.

Thielen, who leads the league with 11 receiving touchdowns, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week. His availability for Sunday's home game against Carolina was still in question as the team started its week of practice.

''Yeah, I don't know, honestly,'' Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of Thielen's potential to play Sunday. ''Obviously he's in the COVID protocol, and we'll just see. When you get in these protocols, it's always about, `What's the next test, and the next test?' So we'll just have to see as the week goes on.''

Thielen went from an undrafted surprise out of Minnesota State to being a two-time Pro Bowl receiver. Now the 30-year-old Thielen might be the unheralded cog in Minnesota's eighth-ranked offense with Cook and Jefferson attracting so much attention. The Vikings have a legitimate trio of playmakers to stress defenses.

Cook, while missing one game, is 10 yards behind Derrick Henry for the overall rushing lead with 1,069 yards. Jefferson has ably filled in for the traded Stefon Diggs, pushing for records in a standout rookie receiving class.

Cook, Jefferson and Thielen all rank in the top three graded players at their position by Pro Football Focus.

Jefferson's 848 receiving yards lead all rookies and are already the third most in Vikings history. It's the third-highest total for a player through 10 games, trailing just Anquan Boldin, who had 876 receiving yards in 2003 for Arizona, and Marques Colston's 869 yards in 2006 for New Orleans.

''I think he's a great example of a guy who does his job to a high ability,'' Thielen said of Jefferson. ''He's a guy who, when he gets man coverage and it's one on one, he does a great job of creating separation and getting open. . He's got a skill set that he can do a lot of things for this offense. When he gets a one on one, he's a tough guy to guard.''

With Jefferson keeping defenses honest, Thielen keeps producing on the other side. He is tied for third in the league in total touchdowns, three behind the league-leading Cook.

Thielen and Jefferson have nearly split the receiving load equally with 49 and 45 receptions, respectively, but Thielen has become an end-zone target for Cousins while Jefferson thrives with big plays.

Thielen has already produced his career high in touchdowns, two more than his previous best in 2018. He has at least four games with two receiving touchdowns this season, most in the NFL, three behind Minnesota's record set by Hall of Famer Cris Carter in 1995. Thielen's 11 touchdowns in the red zone are also the most in the league this season and the most since Carter had 13 such touchdowns in 1995.

''He's sure-handed,'' Jefferson said of Thielen's prowess in the end zone. ''His catching ability is phenomenal. He's able to make those hard catches that you have to adjust to. He can also get his two feet in, in the end zone as well, so he's got the toe tap.''

Thielen's productivity has pushed the Vikings to a league-best red-zone rate (78.3 percent). Of the 32 trips inside the 20-yard line, Minnesota has scored 25 times, including 24 touchdowns. The Vikings score at a 90% rate in goal-to-go situations.

''I look back now at 10 weeks and you see really good coaching, really good scheme that is continuing to get Adam open in those situations,'' Cousins said. ''That's why you see so much production from Adam. They're putting him in a position to create that, and he goes out and makes tremendous plays. It gives them all the more reason to go back the next week and get him opportunities again.''

NOTES: Minnesota activated guard Dru Samia from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday, but he was held out of practice. Guard Ezra Cleveland (ankle), defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo (shoulder/concussion) and safety Harrison Smith (neck) all missed Wednesday's practice. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. (groin/back) was limited.

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Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 12

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Carson Wentz Nov 25 6:00pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has been anything but good on the field this season, but he's still been the 14th-best quarterback in standard scoring fantasy formats. He's thrown two or more touchdowns in five of the past six games, and is always a threat to score on the ground. He's firmly in that category of QB where if he plays for your real NFL team, you hate him, but if he plays for your fantasy team, you're okay with him (especially in 2QB and Superflex formats). Week 12 presents an excellent fantasy matchup, as the Seahawks Defense is allowing the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks by a significant margin. If Wentz and the Eagles offense can't "get right" in this prime Monday Night Football matchup, then we may finally see Jalen Hurts do more than just run a predictable running play when he's on the field. Wentz, despite the pristine matchup, is a QB2 this week.

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Jared Cook Nov 25 6:00pm ET

New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook should be considered a lower-end TE2 in Week 12. Cook has struggled the past two games, only getting one reception for six yards on three targets. In nine games played this season, the TE has only eclipsed 50 yards three times. His role has been smaller than many fantasy managers had hoped for this season, and this makes Cook a risky play going forward. Only start him this week if you are lacking other options at TE, but it's worth noting the Broncos present a stiff matchup for fantasy TEs.

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Emmanuel Sanders Nov 25 5:50pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders should only be considered a flex piece this week against one of his former squads, the Broncos. Sanders has been streaky this season, to say the least. The WR posted four receptions for 66 yards on five targets last week but only had six total targets in the two games prior. In addition, the WR has only gotten more than 56 yards in four of eight games played. That sort of inconsistency makes him a risky play, and thus he should only be worthy of a flex play this week against a Broncos team that is middle-tier against fantasy wideouts.

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Allen Robinson Nov 25 5:50pm ET

Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II will go up against a Packers Defense in Week 12 that is allowing the 10th fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers. The Bears offense has been putrid all season but that hasn't affected Robinson from having another strong season. The 27-year-old is averaging 9.5 targets this season with 63 receptions, 755 yards and three touchdowns. The only snag in Week 12 from ranking Robinson as a WR1 is that the Bears do not know who their quarterback will be between Nick Foles (hip) and Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder). This uncertainty could impact Robinson's value heading into Week 12 and a decision on who will start may not come until Friday.

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Latavius Murray Nov 25 5:40pm ET

New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray is a flex option for Week 12. Murray posted 12 carries for 49 yards along with two receptions for 36 yards on two targets last week. The back has had a generally stable role behind Alvin Kamara this season and has gotten at least eight carries in nine of 10 games. He also has at least 47 rushing yards in six of ten games. This supports Murray's value as a fantasy flex and he is worth considering against a Broncos squad that is middle-of-the-pack against fantasy backs.

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Mitch Trubisky Nov 25 5:40pm ET

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky may have the inside track to start in Week 12 against the Packers, according to Chicago Tribune beat writer Brad Biggs. NFL's Ian Rapoport also has recently tweeted that Trubisky's right shoulder is healthier than Nick Foles hip at this time. The Bears season is teetering on disaster and, at 5-5, are in a must-win situation against NFC North leader the Packers. The move to go back to Trubisky is rooted mostly in the quarterback's ability to use his legs and athleticism outside of the pocket behind a banged-up offensive line. The veteran Foles has been a major disappointment, displaying a lack of accuracy and efficiency. The official news may not drop until after the holiday but neither quarterback will be fantasy viable in Week 12.

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Michael Thomas Nov 25 5:40pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is a WR1 against Denver on Sunday. He is currently still nursing that ankle injury that caused him to miss several games, but there is no sign right now that he is in danger of missing the game. Thomas posted his best numbers of the season last week, getting nine receptions for 104 yards on 12 targets. It was also a great sign that he had rapport with QB Taysom Hill. As he is bound to draw a number of targets due to his role as the WR1 on the team, Thomas is a solid play against a Denver team that ranks in the middle against fantasy wideouts.

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Marquez Valdes-Scantling Nov 25 5:30pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling will go up against a tough Bears Defense in Week 12. Valdes-Scantling has been wildly inconsistent this season but came down with a huge 47-yard catch to help tie the game at the end of regulation last week and is two games removed from a 149-yard performance. But he will face a Bears defense that is allowing the third fewest fantasy points to receivers this season and have allowed only five touchdowns to the position. The Bears certainly can be expected to key in on star teammate Davante Adams, so Valdes-Scantling could see some extra targets in single coverage. But the Bears defense is talented enough to make fantasy teams pause before they insert Valdes-Scantling into lineups. There should be sturdier options out there as Valdes-Scantling will rank no higher than a WR5/6 option in Week 12.

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Robert Tonyan Nov 25 5:30pm ET

Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan could factor heavily in the team's passing game against the Bears in Week 12. Tonyan found the end zone for the first time since Week 4 and caught five passes for 44 yards last week. He will go up against a Bears Defense that is allowing the ninth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, including six touchdowns to the position this season. Tonyan may not post top-five fantasy numbers among tight ends in Week 12 but has a solid floor to work with as the Bears have allowed 11 different tight ends to post six or more fantasy points against them.

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Alvin Kamara Nov 25 5:30pm ET

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara is an RB1 against Denver on Sunday. Kamara is dealing with a foot injury right now, but there is no indication that he is in jeopardy of missing the contest. The RB has a total of five touchdowns in the past three games and remains an integral factor in the rushing and passing game. Kamara has double-digit carries and at least seven targets in seven of 10 games. He remains a solid start against a Broncos squad that is middle-tier against fantasy backs.

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David Montgomery Nov 25 5:20pm ET

Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery (concussion) has cleared league protocol's, setting him up to return to the lineup in Week 12 against the Packers. Montgomery was unable to play last week but is poised to make his return to a Bears offense that is struggling immensely right now. It also has been a highly disappointing season for the second-year running back, who is posting only 3.6 yards per carry with 684 all-purpose yards and only two total touchdowns. Montgomery, however, will have a favorable matchup against a Packers Defense that is allowing the third most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Green Bay has allowed 14 touchdowns to the running back position and have surrendered 80+ all-purpose yards to eight different backs this season. Montgomery will slot in as a RB3 option with a low ceiling in Week 12.

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Davante Adams Nov 25 5:20pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams will go up against a Bears secondary that is allowing the third fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers this season. The matchup is tough but nothing seems to stop Adams these days. The 28-year-old is one of the hottest fantasy players in the game right now, posting 45 receptions for 594 yards and eight touchdowns over his last five games. Adams is averaging 11.1 targets a game for the season and will face a Bears Defense that has allowed five touchdowns to receivers all season. The matchup may seem daunting, but Adams needs to be active in all starting lineups across all fantasy formats for Week 12.

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Philip Rivers Nov 25 5:20pm ET

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Taysom Hill Nov 25 5:20pm ET

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill is a low-end QB1 against the Broncos in Week 12. Hill had an impressive debut as a starter in Week 11, getting 233 passing yards and 10 carries for 49 yards and two touchdowns. His rushing prowess makes him a more valuable fantasy player. The Broncos are middle-tier against fantasy QBs, making Hill a great streaming option for this week.

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Aaron Jones Nov 25 5:10pm ET

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones will have an unfavorable tilt against a talented Bears Defense in Week 12. Jones heads into the game with 795 all-purpose yards with eight total touchdowns on the season but will face a Bears defense that is allowing the ninth fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Chicago has allowed only two rushing touchdowns since Week 4 and have held down elite runners like Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Derrick Henry in recent weeks. Jones' numbers have dipped a touch recently and could struggle to post top-10 numbers among running backs in Week 12.

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Aaron Rodgers Nov 25 4:50pm ET

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take on a Bears Defense that is allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing passers this season. Rodgers is having a fantastic season, throwing for 280+ passing yards in seven of his last eight games and has 23 touchdowns during that span. The veteran passer is having an MVP-caliber campaign but will have a tough test in Week 12. The Bears defense has not allowed a 20+-point fantasy game to a quarterback all season and have allowed 12 passing touchdowns all season. Rodgers has plenty of experience playing the Bears over the years and, while he needs to be in starting lineups across all fantasy formats, Rodgers numbers could be suppressed in Week 12.

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Dalvin Cook Nov 25 4:40pm ET

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook will take on a Panthers Defense in Week 12 that is allowing the fifth most fantasy points to opposing backs. Cook is having a career season and already has 1,069 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns with a month left to play. He will go up against a Panthers defense that has allowed 20+ fantasy points to five different opposing runners this season and seven different runners have posted at least 90 all-purpose yards against them. Cook is one of the top fantasy players of 2020 and should provide top-notch production again in Week 12.

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Justin Jefferson Nov 25 4:40pm ET

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson will need to step up his game if teammate Adam Thielen (COVID-Reserve List) cannot play in Week 12 against the Panthers. The rookie is averaging 18.8 yards per catch and has emerged as one of the most explosive receivers in the NFC. Jefferson will take on a Panthers Defense that is allowing the eighth fewest fantasy points to the wide receivers position this season. Jefferson has four 100+-yard games under his belt this season and Carolina has allowed 10 different players to post 10 fantasy points or more against them. If Thielen cannot suit up, Jefferson is an easy WR2 call, with a ceiling for higher, in Week 12.

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Kenny Golladay Nov 25 4:30pm ET

Detroit Lions wide receivers Kenny Golladay (hip) and Danny Amendola (hip) and rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah (shoulder) have been ruled out for the Thanksgiving game on Thursday against the Texans. Golladay has been out since Week 8 and will miss his fourth straight game. With both receivers out, Mohamed Sanu was signed to the active roster, where he'll provide depth behind Marvin Jones Jr., Marvin Hall and rookie Quintez Cephus. The Lions passing attack should rely mostly on Jones and tight end T.J. Hockenson against Houston. Jones has 15 catches on 20 targets for 190 yards and two touchdowns in the last three games with Golladay sidelined. He'll be a strong WR2 for fantasy lineups on Thursday.

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Kirk Cousins Nov 25 4:30pm ET

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is playing his best football of the season heading into the team's Week 12 matchup against the Panthers. Over his last three games, Cousins has eight touchdown passes and is averaging 275.3 passing yards a game during that span. The Vikings will now face a Panthers Defense that is allowing the 12th fewest fantasy points to opposing passers. But offenses have had some success against Carolina over the last five games, however, as the Panthers have allowed 10 total touchdowns and an average of 291.8 passing yards a game during that span. Cousins has a chance to post top-12 numbers among the quarterback position in Week 12.

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