Case Keenum leads Vikings to first-place record at midseason

Vikings winning with interchangeable parts (0:53)

Jeff Saturday credits Minnesota's depth and the Vikings' doing everything they need to do to win four in a row. (0:53)

Here's a look at the first half of the season for the Minnesota Vikings and a preview of what to expect the second half:

First-half snapshot: If someone would have told you that the Vikings would be 6-2 at the halfway point without Sam Bradford or star rookie running back Dalvin Cook, you would have thought they were crazy. Case Keenum did the improbable in relief of Bradford, leading the team to five wins including critical division victories at Chicago and against Green Bay and shattering every expectation tied to his role as a backup. Minnesota’s No. 4-ranked defense continued to be the backbone of this team, providing insurance as the offense navigated through murky waters. Overall, the Vikings were better equipped to handle injuries as the first half wore on because they’ve faced that adversity time and again.

Grade: Near perfection

Midseason MVP: Minnesota saw big payouts after rebuilding its offensive line through free agency and the 2017 draft. The offense’s success is a direct correlation to this unit, which featured new starters at every position, including a rookie at center. A year ago, the Vikings struggled to run the ball more than 75 yards per game. Today, they have the league’s ninth-best rushing offense. Keenum’s mobility is one of his most underappreciated skills, but he has been pressured on only 28 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Info, thanks in part to an O-line that has allowed him to be one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in the league.

Best moment: The Vikings' path to an NFC North title became a lot clearer when they beat the Packers and took hold of first place in the division. The outlook for the rest of the season changed that day, as Minnesota would no longer have to rely on the fate of other teams to determine its own destiny. After a loss to the Lions in Week 4, defensive end Everson Griffen laid out the team’s goal of going 4-0 in the second quarter of the season. Despite some less-than-favorable circumstances with injuries, the Vikings were able to achieve that goal.

Worst moment: Dalvin Cook's season-ending ACL tear after he cut to avoid a tackle against Detroit was devastating. Anthony Barr's tackle on Aaron Rodgers that broke the quarterback’s collarbone is a close second because the controversy surrounding the hit has only ignited further fire in the Vikings-Packers rivalry and a public feud between the linebacker and quarterback.

Second-half outlook: A difficult stretch is on the horizon. The Vikings play five of their last eight games on the road and will face five top-12 defenses in the second half. Matters will only get more complicated at quarterback when the Vikings decide what they’re going to do with Teddy Bridgewater and Bradford, if he’s able to return. All the momentum swung Minnesota’s way in the first half. That’s a good thing, and the Vikings will want to hold on to as much of it as they can when their road toward a playoff berth picks up after the bye week.