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Could the Vikings make the playoffs with Case Keenum starting?

When the Minnesota Vikings signed Case Keenum to a one-year, $2 million contract, they hoped he would never hit the field. But general manager Rick Spielman made Keenum one of the 10 highest paid backup QBs in the NFL for one reason: Insurance.

With 26 starts under his belt and a 9-7 record in his previous 16 games, the Vikings figured the former Houston Texan and St. Lous/Los Angeles Ram had enough experience to give them a fighting chance if something happened to starter Sam Bradford.

Well, something happened.

Bradford suffered a knee injury during his 346-yard, three-touchdown win over the New Orleans Saints, forcing Keenum into action against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now it is unclear how many games Bradford will miss. The Vikings’ starter will not play against the Tampa Bay Bucs and is seeking a second opinion on his knee according to ESPN.

“Hopefully it continues to get better each day and we’ll look back in a few days or whenever that time is and hopefully it’s something that we’re not having to deal with again,” Bradford said Wednesday. “If it’s something that lingers and we have to deal with it”

It appears there is a real chance Keenum could start multiple games.

In his first start as a Viking, Keenum went 20-for-37 with 167 yards in a 26-9 loss and provided little confidence in the Vikings’ odds to win with him under center.

But one game doesn’t tell us much. The loss came on the road against a legitimate Super Bowl contender and the Vikings’ defense committed costly penalties.

So what are the real odds that the Vikings could still have a successful season if Keenum is under center for half of the season or more? They might not be as good as with Bradford, but Keenum’s career numbers suggest nobody should be throwing in the towel yet.

Keeping the ship afloat

There is nothing exciting about Keenum’s 24:20 career touchdown-to-interception or 77.8 career quarterback rating, but those numbers lack context. They don’t tell things like: When did his interceptions happen? How many touchdowns came in important situations? In 2011, with this problem in mind, ESPN invented a statistic called QBR.

The network worked with former quarterbacks as well as statisticians to, by its definition, “measure the degree to which a quarterback contributed to scoring points for the team, and also to a win by the team.”

In more simple terms: A touchdown in the final moments is worth more than one scored while down 30 points.

By no means is QBR the be-all-end-all of quarterback stats, but it uses a 1-100 scale to paint a picture of whether a quarterback gave his team a realistic chance to win. For example, Bradford’s magnificent game against the Saints registered a 95.2 on the QBR scale, while his loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last season scored a 6.1.

One way to tell if Keenum could lead the Vikings to the postseason is to look at the distribution of his game-by-game QBR scores over the past three years.

What should stand out is that the former Houston University star was rarely terrific but also rarely terrible. You should also notice that his start against Pittsburgh, which registered a 24.7 QBR, was below a normal start. He’s usually better than what Vikings’ fans saw on Sunday.

More often than not, Keenum’s starts are somewhere in the middle, leaving it up to the rest of his team whether they come away with a victory.

What Keenum needs to win

Winning with Keenum starts on defense. In his six wins in “Below Average” starts, Keenum’s defenses allowed just 15.3 points on average and over 20 points only once.

The Vikings are certainly capable of holding opposing teams’ offenses in check, but routinely keeping opponents under 20 is a difficult task in today’s high-scoring NFL. Last year, the Vikings ranked sixth in the league in points allowed and gave up 19.2 points per game.

In order to succeed, Keenum will also need protection. He went just 6-for-16 while under pressure from the Steelers’ defense on Sunday and managed only a 37.0 rating while facing a pass rush last season.

When he is given an opportunity to sit in the pocket, Keenum can have success. In 2016, he went 21-for-52 on passes that qualified as “deep throws” by NFL official play-by-play. Keenum’s 40.4% completion percentage on deep throws was higher than that of Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton and Matt Stafford.

The Vikings will also need more from their running game of they are going to stay above water with Keenum under center. Last week, rookie Dalvin Cook finished with 64 yards on 12 carries, but he only gained three yards on six rushes in the first half.

Luck is always a factor in the NFL, too. There won’t be much room for missed extra points, turnovers or injuries to other key players.

The bottom line on the Vikings’ chances with Keenum at the helm is: His play alone will not sink the season, but everything else – from defense to the running game to health – has to go the Vikings’ way in order to succeed. And that’s a lot to ask.

  • GoodByeBlueMonday1

    No. And with the defense now ranked 28th in the league playoffs are out.

    • RobSkolVikes

      We have just as good a chance as anyone else. Two games early in the year, against two very good offenses are a VERY small sample size. I suspect we will be at least top ten in overall defense by years end. As far as wins and losses, It will boil down to overall team health and playing clean, penalty free football. But we can win any Sunday if we play well. If we manage to steal some wins until either Bradford or Bridgewater can return, we will be just fine.

    • linus

      “With the defense now ranked 28th in the league…” It’s foolish to make a statement like that after just two games. Example: the same average yards per game would have ranked them in the top ten last season, and that’s after playing two teams whose offenses are routinely among the best in the league.

  • cka2nd

    Filling in for a game or two, fine. Even for a stretch with a definite return date for Bradford, OK. But if Bradford is out for an indefinite stretch, it will be time to bring in Kaepernick. And I would sign Heinicke to the PS right now, even if we have to let him go again in a few weeks.

    And no, I’m not convinced that Bridgewater will be able to play this year. That’s a Jake Long scenario waiting to happen.

    • Daxquartermain

      Agreed. Teddy not so great in 2015 and with a brace on he will be hit hard and often.

    • Troy Ricklefs

      Speilman will never bring in Kaepernick. Not because of kaepernick…. but because once upon a time he brought in Josh Freeman. I doubt he’ll ever forget that embarrassment. Its bradford or bust… Probably bust.

      • disqus_TOr7ZrIRYP

        you just jinxed it Spud Speilman will now bring Kap in lol #curse

    • David Prestin

      No no no…kaep is rg3. Flash in the pans. 1 yr wonders. Vikes just need a QB without chicken legs.

    • Jason

      Sign Kaep is a smart thing for this team if Bradford is out for the foreseeable future

  • Maurice White

    In one word? No. In several more words? This guy Case Keenum sucks!

  • Steve Jensen

    No. Having a bad offensive line AND a bad QB is brutal combo. The offense was bad enough with Bradford and he has a strong , accurate arm. They have no shot with Keenum and having him in there means trouble for our defense because they are going to be on the field for 40 minutes a game.

  • David Prestin

    If he gets hot or things finally click…sure. we’ve won games with far worse or the same. Our defense has to play well and special teams too. You never know where the next franchise QB is going to come from. May be on the roster right now….or not. Let’s play the games and see where it leads.

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  • Miles Paw

    A. The vikings will never win with the Wilfs as the owner. Evil businessman = Evil person.why would the state of Minnesota give this ahole 500 million + after he paid 100 million in fines in new jersey. ..
    B. Case keenum sucks dick and the scared Vikings should sing Kyle kap…by going wih case the Vikings are saying they dont care if they win they just want your money…fuck the vikings ansd fuck ziggy wilf!!!!!

    • Eric

      You are one said individual, if u that kap is the answers ur delusional

    • Mike Kano

      Zygi doesn’t care about you. Poor people can’t afford tickets to the game.

    • Doug Pitre

      Well you are a foul POS.
      At 6-2, it sounds like you are a DF addition.

  • styx rogan

    Teddy will save the day in 5 weeks….

    • MarkWattsUp

      I cannot wait for the return of a QB who isn’t good at passing.

    • Mike Kano

      Bridgewater should retire as a player and become the team mascot. That job better plays to his strengths.

  • Brett Bentley

    Bring Vick out of retirement

  • Chris Salberg

    No….with Dalvin out, a mediocre line, Diggs possibly hurt for a while along with O-Lineman Easton and the fact that he has a TERRIBLE rating when under pressure = 8 and 8 at best. Our defense will keep many games close but Kenum against a team with a good pass rush (see the Pittsburgh game) doesn’t stand a chance as he is a really bad quarterback when pressured.


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