We covered a lot of ground on this week’s Access Vikings podcast, but the question I keep thinking about came via Twitter. The gist: Is Vikings QB Case Keenum a viable candidate for NFL MVP. Here’s the full tweet:
@RandBall Hot take question idea for your next #AccessVikings Pod: Is Keenum in the top 10 for NFL MVP so far? I never thought I’d even be asking that question, but he’s playing incredibly well at the most important position on a team that could be a SB contender.
— Not Luke Jeffers (@J_Alan_Luker) November 20, 2017
I’m glad the question laid out the context needed to examine the answer. Yes, it would have seemed absurd to think such a thing at various points this season. Yes, there is still a debate about how much credit Keenum should get for the Vikings’ six-game winning streak and his overall play. Yes, there’s even debate over how long Keenum will keep his starting job.
But he also checks some important boxes — two of them, as noted, being that he has played well and done it for a contending team.
Vikings beat writer Andrew Krammer weighed in on the podcast to say that no, Keenum is not a top-10 candidate. But I’m not so sure.
Let’s consider this ESPN midseason MVP voting piece published just two weeks ago. There were 11 players listed, and Keenum wasn’t among them. Eagles QB Carson Wentz was the runaway winner, with Patriots QB Tom Brady a solid second. Those two are still the front-runners, in that order.
But No. 3 was Alex Smith, who’s slowed down considerably after a hot start. The Chiefs are now 6-4 after losing 12-9 to the woeful Giants last week. Todd Gurley, No. 4 on the list, was slowed down by the Vikings on Sunday as the Rams lost. Drew Brees and Russell Wilson (5 and 6) are still solid, but Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (No. 7) has struggled the last two weeks, with Dallas scoring just 16 points combined in two losses. Deshaun Watson (No. 9) sadly will fall off out of contention because of his season-ending injury.
Does that leave room for someone like Keenum to enter the discussion? Well, five NFL teams are 8-2 or better. Three of them have QBs in the top five of that ESPN list (Wentz, Brady and Brees). Ben Roethlisberger is the other, with the Steelers instead represented by running back Le’Veon Bell (No. 10).
If there is going to be a Vikings representative on that list, you could argue it should come from the defense. But who would you pick out of so many standouts? On offense, wide receiver Adam Thielen should get some consideration. But a wide receiver has never won the AP NFL MVP award. It’s almost always a QB or running back.
Keenum is No. 2 in Total QBR in the entire NFL behind just Watson. He’s thrown 12 touchdown passes and five interceptions with a 65.7 percent completion rate overall, while helping the Viking win six consecutive games.
If he keeps up this pace and the Vikings finish as one of the top two teams in the NFC, it wouldn’t stun me to see Keenum get some MVP votes. He’s not deserving of being the winner, but top 10? Maybe.