Boy, you sure have to hand it to NFL scouts. They couldn’t find Tom Brady but labeled Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell can’t miss prospects.
Brady will go down as the greatest QB ever. Leaf is in jail and was the biggest bust in NFL history. Russell washed out of the league in three years and was also arrested post football. NFL scouting is about as scientific as art appraising and wine testing.
Minnesota Vikings QB Case Keenum went undrafted in 2012. There were 11 QB’s drafted that year. Only Andrew Luck, Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson are starting. The others are either out of the league or barely hanging on.
You can’t blame the scouts for missing Keenum. All he did is break nine NCAA passing records including TD’s, passing yards and completions for the Houston Cougars. He passed for five TD’s in a game 11 times and even had one game where he threw nine touchdowns. He did play in a pass-happy, spread offense for Kevin Sumlin, which had the scouts questioning him for NFL play. At 6 feet tall, he was deemed too small to compete at the next level.
Keenum was signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and spent the entire season on the practice squad. He bounced between awful Houston and St. Louis teams from 2013 to 2016. He actually played well more often than not but still found himself as a free agent following the 2016 season.
The Vikings signed him to a one-year deal as insurance for the often injured starter, Sam Bradford. Keenum has started every game since week one except a Monday Night game in week 5 at Chicago. That was when we might have seen the last of Bradford. He has since gone on IR.
Keenum is 8-2 as a starter (9-2 if you count his second-half relief of Bradford at Chicago). He is getting better each week as his confidence continues to grow. He has had four straight 100-plus Quarterback Ratings (three of which were 117-plus) and has reached that mark in 6 out of the 11 games he has played. By comparison, Tom Brady has 7, Russell Wilson 6 and Carson Wentz 5. Those are the three players most mentioned as the league MVP.
Despite his success in college and his sizzling 2017 play, head coach Mike Zimmer hasn’t fully committed to his QB for the remainder of the season. He has Teddy Bridgewater sitting in the wings after rehabilitating his knee over the past 16 months. The comments by Zimmer going into an important Rams home game three weeks ago led one to believe Keenum had to play flawlessly to force Zimmer’s hand. In those three games, Keenum has gone 73 for 98 (75%) for 789 yards and 5 TD’s. More importantly, he’s thrown zero interceptions and his QB ratings were 100.8, 121.8 and 120.4. He went 13 for 13 in the second half in Sunday’s win at defending NFC Champion Atlanta. Pretty flawless, I’d say.
Keenum won’t win the league MVP. What is the MVP anyway? It’s the most valuable player to one’s team. A player so important that without him, the team would be dramatically worse. Obviously the Patriots without Brady would be a shell of itself and the Seahawks without Wilson would have long ago been eliminated from playoff contention. But the Vikings without Keenum would have been in a lot of trouble, especially when you realize Kyle Sloter would have been starting for much of this season.
The Vikings are the 1 seed in the NFC with just one month to go. If Keenum continues his Pro Bowl play, the Vikings might be the first team to have home field throughout the playoffs, and by playoffs I mean through the Super Bowl. It is in Minnesota this year.
The Keenum story is fantastic. He was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for November. His leading receiver is Adam Thielen, a fourth-year player out of Minnesota State and a hometown hero for the Vikings. Thielen was also undrafted. You have to wonder how Mel Kiper keeps his job.
Week 14 NFL Spot Plays
New Orleans (9-3) at Atlanta (7-5): Atlanta hasn’t lived up to their 2016 Super Bowl form but this is a must-win home game vs. New Orleans, a team they beat twice last year in high-scoring games. The Falcons play the Saints twice in the next three weeks and could win the division with a sweep. New Orleans is coming off an important win against the Carolina Panthers. Expect this to be another high-scoring game with a Falcons cover.
PLAY: ATLANTA -2, OVER 55
Oakland (6-6) at Kansas City (6-6): The Kansas City Chiefs have lost their way. They looked Super Bowl bound after a 5-0 start but have won just once since then. They are now in a three-way tie for the division lead with the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders. The Raiders smell blood as the Chiefs lost at the New York Jets despite an early 14-0 lead. Expect Kansas City to play tight in this one and the half-point hook over a field goal could loom large.
PLAY: OAKLAND +3.5
Washington (5-7) at Los Angeles Chargers (6-6): Washington laid an egg at Dallas. This is a team that has had too many injuries to overcome. The Chargers are 6-2 after starting 0-4. They finally went back to what makes them a great offensive team: Phillip Rivers to Keenan Allen. They were lethal before Allen got hurt early last year and are unstoppable now. But they are not a great play this week. They may be peeking ahead to the road game at Kansas City in week 15. Rivers and company have never handled success well. Look for Washington to jump out early and keep it close throughout.
PLAY: WASHINGTON +7
The fifth race at Fairgrounds on Friday is the $40,000 Magic City Classic at 1 Mile. This race is anything but classic as it is restricted to Alabama-breds, of all things. There is a horse who cannot be beat unless he falls, and even then could still win. No. 1 BUGGIN OUT won this race the last two years and might be 15 lengths best here.
He’s nibbled vs. allowance runners while many of these have been destroyed in maiden claiming. He’ll be 1-5 odds again so the play is who to key him over in the exotics. Look for No. 6 ARNINA to fill out a trifecta or superfecta. He was a reclaim last out for $10,000 just for this race and is getting first time Lasix. He is 15-1 on the morning line. Post time is 1:05 PST.