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It's been almost three weeks since Adam Thielen returned from the hamstring injury that cost him roughly half of the 2019 regular season.

However, as the Vikings head into their wild-card game against the Saints on Sunday, it doesn't feel like the real Thielen has come back yet.

Even though he was declared healthy prior to Week 15, Thielen's impact on the Vikings' offense since then has been negligible. He caught three passes for 27 yards against the Chargers in his first post-injury outing, but wasn't needed much in a game where the Vikings forced seven turnovers. A week later, he was held catch-less on four targets against the Packers, including a drop on the type of play he's become known for making.

It was the first time Thielen had gone without a catch while seeing multiple targets since his NFL debut in September 2014. He also received two carries on end-arounds since returning – one each in Weeks 15 and 16. Those plays went for a total of five yards.

Asked after the loss to Green Bay if it had been difficult to reintegrate Thielen into the offense, Kirk Cousins deflected the question and downplayed any concerns.

"Every game is its own entity," he said. "Last week we just didn't throw it that much, only 25 attempts, 19 completions. So, you're not going to have a lot. This week, we had the third down ball. We just didn't connect on it. And when you don't convert third downs you just don't have a lot of opportunities for anybody to catch the ball."

Along with many other starters, Thielen didn't play a single snap in Week 17.

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That means that Thielen enters this massive playoff game having caught three passes since he first injured his hamstring on October 20th. Regardless of what Cousins may say, that's a concern.

If the Vikings are going to have a chance to beat the Saints in New Orleans, they need the old Adam Thielen back. They need the Thielen who was one of only five players – along with Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, and Julio Jones – to total 200 receptions and 2,600 receiving yards across 2017 and 2018. They need the Thielen whose route-running, athleticism, and contested-catch ability made him one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL, especially on third down and in the red zone.

Thielen isn't worried about his ability to get back to that level this weekend.

“This is the best I have felt for a long time,” he said on Monday. “I feel honestly better than I did when I first entered the league. For me, I just have to make sure I stay on top of it and just prepare and when you have opportunities to make plays, you have to make them.”

Facing a Saints team that averaged 40 points per game over its last four games, the Vikings know they'll need to put up points of their own to pull off the road upset. Having Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison back helps with that. But they'll need to do plenty of passing as well, and getting Thielen back on track would go a long way for Cousins and the Vikings' aerial attack. When he's productive, that only makes things easier for Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, and others.

Thielen was off to a roaring start this season, with seven touchdowns in the first seven games, including an 8-catch, 130-yard, 2-TD outing against the Giants. But while scoring that seventh touchdown early in Week 7 against the Lions, he injured his hamstring. Thanks to a setback that occurred when he tried to return a couple weeks later, the injury ended up costing him nearly two months.

He's healthy now. The production just hasn't shown up yet. If he's a non-factor again this weekend, it's hard to see a path to a Vikings victory.

But if he can get back to playing like his pre-injury self, Thielen could be a catalyst for a big day from the Vikings offense. In his past three games against the Saints, he has 22 catches for 334 yards.

“I always want success for my guys, especially a guy like [Adam]," Diggs said on Wednesday. "He battled an injury. Coming back he’s fought to get back with his teammates, so I look forward to him having a big game."