As we reach the final stretch of the season, a dark horse MVP candidate is emerging in the North. With Case Keenum leading the charge, can the Vikings continued success propel him to the front of the MVP race? Here is the case for a Case Keenum MVP campaign.
The season shouldn’t be going the way it is for the Minnesota Vikings. Key injuries to both Sam Bradford, who was already filling in for the injured franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and elite rookie Dalvin Cook should have derailed this season and no one would have blamed the them for it. It’s basically the same team that went 8-8 while ranking in the bottom third of the league in most major offensive categories the year before. What makes this year different? It’s what it usually boils down to in the NFL: the quarterback. This time it’s Case Keenum.
Looking over his shoulder isn’t anything new for Case Keenum. He spent the majority of last season going 4 – 5 as the Rams quarterback in their return season to Los Angeles before Jared Goff took over. After being let go by the Rams, Keenum wasn’t even sure where he would play this year as Carolina wide receiver and offseason training buddy Russell Shepard recounted for ESPN’s David Newton.
“The Vikings called him last minute. They wanted him, kind of in his mind from what he was telling me as a camp body, an extra guy, knowing the injuries at quarterback with Teddy Bridgewater getting hurt,” Shepard said.
The role in Minnesota was all too familiar for the undrafted free agent. Bridgewater was on the mend and Keenum needed only to give the coaching staff one reason, one slip-up to bench him.
Going 8-2 as the starter and 9-2 in games played (he replaced Bradford against the Bears in week 5) ,third-stringer Case Keenum has been playing better than anyone could have expected resulting in eight straight wins while putting up numbers comparable to Cam Newton‘s 2015 MVP season with five less quarters under his belt. His MVP case has grown stronger given Minnesota’s five straight wins in which Keenum has thrown for 1,381 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing 72% of his passes. Wins over this stretch include leading to impressive wins against the NFC West-leading Rams and NFC-champion Falcons and taking the lead for the top seed in the NFC after the Eagles loss at Seattle.
Perhaps Case Keenum’s largest platform in his MVP campaign is turning around a Vikings offense ranked 28th in total yards, 23rd in points per drive and 28th in redzone percentage last year to now being in the top 10 in each of those categories – 5th, 7th and 8th respectively. Keenum’s connection with emerging star wide receiver Adam Theilen has Minnesota’s offense hitting big plays that are drawing comparisons to the 1998 season that saw rookie Randy Moss‘ and Hall of famer Cris Carter revitalize Randall Cunningham‘s career. This big play ability has secondaries respecting the pass and playing back which has now reinvigorated Minnesota’s run game that ranked dead last in yards and is now 6th this year.
Case Keenum’s road to the MVP isn’t an easy one. His main competition includes stars like Tom Brady, Carson Wentz, and Russell Wilson who all rank ahead of Keenum in most major passing categories. This is predictable since he’s played about a game less than everyone else. Despite this, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Keenum to come out on top.
Russell Wilson may be the toughest to get past. Seattle relies on him to do literally everything on offense but catch the ball. Seattle’s playoff hopes are not guaranteed though with key injuries to Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor and a rough schedule to finish the season. Should the Seahawks falter down the stretch and miss the playoffs, Wilson’s MVP chances could take a big hit.
Wentz’s biggest obstacle will be the Eagles schedule. All 10 of the Philadelphia’s wins have come against opponents with records under .500 and both of the team’s losses have been against opponents with winning records including last week’s missed opportunity against a short handed Seattle defense. His game this week against the Rams should tell a lot.
Tom Brady suffers from GOAT syndrome. In much the same way that Lebron James could win the MVP every year in the NBA, so too can Tom Brady. He is again having an MVP-caliber year at age 40 but voters have seen this before and will continue to see it for the foreseeable future which will lead voters to pursue a different narrative. Does Brady really need another award?
If Case Keenum can continue Minnesota’s success, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be considered a top contender for Most Valuable Player. The Vikings look built for more than a one-and-done run in the playoffs with much of their success due to Keenum’s quarterback play. Should the Vikings win their final four games, Keenum’s claim only gets stronger and harder to ignore. It’s amazing to think how much a difference a year makes. From being cast off into back-up oblivion to now making a claim for MVP on a contender playing for a home game in February. The future looks good for Keenum.