Case Keenum’s magical run is not without precedent.
There have been a number of backup quarterbacks to get their opportunity and run with it. There have also been a number of quarterbacks who got hot for a stretch, then reality set in.
So is Keenum the next Jake Delhomme? The next Rich Gannon? Or the next Derek Anderson or Nick Foles?
The Minnesota Vikings’ next two games are likely to tell us whether he’ll be leading them into the playoffs or cheering on Teddy Bridgewater from the sidelines.
On Friday, head coach Mike Zimmer confirmed what we already knew: Keenum will start next week. The Vikings will travel to Atlanta next Sunday, then to Carolina the following week, making for matchups with two teams in the thick of the playoff hunt – and two clubs playing as well as anyone in the NFL.
After a mid-season rough patch, the Falcons have won three of their last four – with the lone loss coming by three points on the road in Carolina. Quarterback Matt Ryan took time to adapt to a new offensive coordinator, but during the last four games, he has a 106.3 quarterback rating.
We don’t generally think of the Falcons as a stout defense, but they sit fourth in the NFL in yards per pass allowed and 13th in points against.
Carolina’s defense may offer the biggest challenge of the season. Across the board, they have dominated, ranking fifth in points against, seventh in yards per play, fifth in defensive expected points and sixth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA statistic.
He will also have to outduel Cam Newton. The 2015 league MVP hit a rough patch during the middle of the season, but he is coming off a four touchdown performance against Miami and has three games this season with QB ratings of higher than 120.
Wins on the road against teams that passes well and slows down opponents’ passing attacks would add significantly to the sample size of quality wins for Keenum. Performances on the road in Washington and Detroit already have increased confidence that he can win even when his defense struggles at times.
At 9-2, the Vikings’ eyes are solely on becoming a legitimate Super Bowl-caliber team by the time the playoffs begin. They have all the makings of a top contender with two star receivers, a top-10 running attack, an elite defense and a creative offensive coordinator.
If Keenum’s magic runs out over the next two weeks, Zimmer will have to find out whether Bridgewater can find his 2015 form and fit into Pat Shurmur’s offense.
If he continues to roll, Keenum will have done enough to prove he belongs under center for the postseason.