It’s okay if, as a Minnesotan, you have been daydreaming lately of the Vikings as one half of the NFL Superbowl line. On Thursday, the Vikes won their seventh straight game (their longest streak since 2000), but, in addition to fans enjoying a surge of local pride, bettors have been reaping a more tangible reward. As it turns out, the Vikings have covered the NFL betting spread in their last six games straight, including a 30-23 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday as 2½-point favorites. And the most impressive thing of all is that Minnesota has accomplished all of this under the unlike signal-calling of one Case Keenum.
— Jeremiah Sirles (@Sirles71_HSKR) November 23, 2017
Keenum has, to paraphrase both his head coach Mike Zimmer and Mick Foley, a great deal of ‘testicular fortitude.’ “Case is playing outstanding,” Zimmer said following Thursday’s game. “He’s a great competitor, studies his rear end off, works extremely hard. Today, he seemed like he was more settled. There’s times when he gets a little bit excitable and kind of goes off the reservation a little bit. But today, even throughout the course of the game, he seemed like he was in a pretty good mindset.” Like London during WWII, Keenum is especially effective against the blitz. The Houston product beat the blitz after being pressured by the Lions on 33% of his dropbacks. More generally, his nine passing touchdowns against the blitz this season are more than he had had in the entirety of his career. Whether Keenum can make the Vikes one half of the NFL Superbowl line remains to be seen, but he has already exceeded expectations.
The passing game is not the only part of the offense that is excelling, though. The Vikings are averaging 124 yards a game on the ground on 31 carries, even without rookie running back Dalvin Cook, whom they lost early in the season. Meanwhile, Adam Thielen became the first Minnesota player to top 1,000 receiving yards since 2009, and Kyle Rudolph is on pace to for 67 receptions, while Stefon Diggs is on pace to for 62 catches and 930 yards.
The current state of the Vikings’ offense is a pleasant little surprise, but credit is due the defense as well, which is performing as expected, that is to say, up to a high standard. The Vikes haven’t allowed an opposing team to score more than two touchdowns in 10 of 11 games, and they even won the one in which they did. Moreover, Minnesota has held opponents under 20 points in nine of those 11 games, and has gone 8-1 in those games. And this is nothing new, either; the Vikings have held opponents to fewer than 20 points in 28 of 43 games going back to 2015, and gone 25-3 in those 28. Back to this season, the Vikes have 29 sacks, and allow just 22 carries and 75 rushing yards per game. The Vikings’ defense has always been stout, but now that the offense is also firing on all cylinders, they could conceivably become one half of the NFL Superbowl line.