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17 moments that shaped Week 11 -- and the 2017 NFL playoff race

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Perine can be the workhorse for rest of season (0:42)

Mike Clay breaks down the fantasy impact Samaje Perine can make the rest of the season, where he can handle the bulk of the carries in Washington, but won't catch as many passes. (0:42)

It took millions of decisions, opinions and steps to make this considerably weird 2017 NFL season go. Some of the essential figures off the field made moves that are decades old: Think back to Jerry Jones buying the Cowboys in 1989, or Bill Belichick resigning as coach of the Jets to take over the Patriots in 2000. Others choices were made as recently as this week, like a certain team benching a certain quarterback under brutally flawed logic.

There's still a lot of time left on the docket for 2017, but in light of a Week 11 in which the league's four best teams -- the Eagles, Patriots, Steelers and Vikings -- each pulled away from the pack with statement victories, let's examine 17 of the most meaningful moments from the past 12 months and break down how they impacted Week 11 and will continue to impact the playoff race to come. This is in relative order of importance, and let's start with that benching to which I alluded:


17. The Bills bench Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman.

No hindsight is required to tell you that Bills coach Sean McDermott made an incoherently shortsighted decision to bench his starting quarterback after an ugly 56-yard performance against the Saints in Week 10. The arguments for benching Taylor were flimsy and predicated upon false pretenses. McDermott reportedly conducted a "long study of their offense" to find that they had too many three-and-outs, which had more to do with leaving Taylor with the league's third-most yards to go for third downs as it did with his conversion rate, which was ninth in the NFL at the time of his benching. Taylor also supposedly missed open receivers in the flow of the offense, which is true of every quarterback in the league and would be reflected in his impressive statistics if it were truly a hindrance. (And these were the best of what were admittedly some truly bad arguments.)

The underlying issue is that the Bills brought in a new coaching staff and decided that it was more important to mold Taylor to new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison's scheme than it was to mold their offense around Taylor's skills, which seems bizarre given that Dennison is likely making less than $2 million and Taylor is taking home $14.5 million this season.

It also was weird to see the Bills make a change at quarterback despite the fact that they were still in the thick of a playoff race at 5-4. While it's their prerogative to move on from the 28-year-old Taylor if they believe he doesn't represent their quarterback of the future, Buffalo still had around a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs in a wide-open AFC before the move after Week 10.

Even weirder, they were benching Taylor to evaluate a rookie fifth-round pick in Nathan Peterman. The track record for late-round picks as rookies is remarkably brutal; since 1990, fifth-rounders like Peterman had combined to complete just 50.6 percent of their passes as rookies, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt while tossing up more interceptions (36) than touchdowns (28). Peterman had thrown for 79 yards and a touchdown while down by multiple scores against the Saints in Week 10, but there was virtually no data suggesting he would be a superior option to Taylor, even if he did promise to get the ball out quicker and make more aggressive decisions with the football.

You saw what happened. Peterman went 6-of-14 for 66 yards with five interceptions in his first career start. He generated minus-6.96 fantasy points on Sunday, which would be the worst single-game fantasy football performance since Joe Namath in 1976. After insisting that they wanted to evaluate their quarterback of the future for the remainder of the season, Peterman was benched at halftime for Taylor, who looked competent in what amounted to a half of garbage time.

It's not fair or fun to bury Peterman, who was rushed onto an NFL field long before he was ready. The coaches who buried Taylor by knocking him for projected skills Peterman clearly doesn't yet have deserve the blame for lighting their quarterback room on fire. Even worse, McDermott didn't regret the decision after the game, chalking the result up to a bad outcome as opposed to a wrong call.

During the broadcast, the announcers noted how the Bills players they had spoken to had mixed feelings about McDermott's decision but respected their coach and trusted his insight into making the choice. That's fair. Players also are smart enough to recognize when a decision goes wrong and aren't particularly inclined to place their faith in a coach who refuses to recognize that mistake. If McDermott goes back to Taylor this week, he will have made a huge blunder and cost his team any shot of winning a crucial game in the breathtakingly mediocre race for the sixth spot in the AFC. If he sticks with Peterman, though, McDermott might lose the locker room.

For whatever Taylor might lack as a possible franchise quarterback, he isn't the problem with the Bills. Their running game has badly suffered, falling to 25th in DVOA heading into this week after ranking first in DVOA last season with virtually identical offensive personnel. Some of the blame has to fall on Dennison's new scheme. In 2015-16, 76 percent of LeSean McCoy's carries came out of the shotgun, where he was significantly more effective: Shady averaged 5.3 yards per carry out of the shotgun and 3.9 yards per rush when Taylor was under center. Dennison has come to town, and McCoy has promptly run the ball out of the shotgun on just 30 of his 170 rushing attempts this season. He has been more effective under center, averaging 4.2 yards per carry to 3.7 yards per attempt out of the shotgun, but the overall package is way down.

The Bills also have been gashed by opposing offenses in three consecutive games after trading away Marcell Dareus, especially via the ground. With Dareus on the field this season, the Bills allowed opposing rushers to generate just 2.5 yards per carry on 54 rushing attempts, scoring a pair of touchdowns. With Dareus on the sideline or in Jacksonville, Buffalo's opponents have run the ball 195 times for 916 yards and 12 touchdowns, an average of 4.7 yards per attempt. As strong as the business case and the locker room case might have been for dealing Dareus, the Bills might have sacrificed their playoff chances -- now down to 8.7 percent, per the Football Power Index -- by making a pair of aggressive decisions.

16. Andrew Luck experiences pain in his shoulder and shuts down his comeback attempt.

The Colts probably weren't going to be in great shape to compete during what has been a rebuilding year, but with flawed teams like the Chargers, Ravens and Titans competing to sneak into the playoffs as the sixth seed, Indy might not have needed much more than Luck and, well, some luck to sneak into a possible playoff berth in the AFC.

Now, with Luck out for the year, all kinds of questions and changes are afoot. Coach Chuck Pagano will likely be fired after the season, although most have admittedly been expecting that to occur for each of the past two seasons. Jacoby Brissett has emerged as a viable NFL quarterback, giving the Colts both Luck insurance and an interesting trade asset. There are even questions about whether Luck will ever be the same quarterback again, given that the Colts clearly expected him to recover in time to play during the first half of the 2018 season and he has spent time in Europe seeking treatment.

15. Odell Beckham Jr. sprains his ankle in the preseason.

Nothing good ever comes from preseason ankle injuries, especially when players try to rush back onto the field. As superhuman as Beckham seems to be at times, the Giants' franchise wideout was no exception. He suffered a nasty-looking high ankle sprain in August during a preseason game against the Browns, an injury that has sapped star receivers such as Roddy White and Rob Gronkowski in recent years. White tried to avoid missing time and looked like a shell of his former self for weeks in 2013 while gritting through the pain before finally taking time off.

Beckham went down with an ankle injury in August, and while the Giants never confirmed whether it was a high ankle sprain, he missed the season opener against the Cowboys before returning to play in Week 2, about four weeks after his initial injury. Beckham put together a respectable 302 yards over four games before fracturing the same ankle, costing him the remainder of the 2017 season and depriving the Giants of their star wideout. While they upset the Chiefs on Sunday, the 2-8 Giants are in the middle of a lost season.

14. Alshon Jeffery turns down a multiyear deal from the Vikings to sign a one-year deal with the Eagles.

Has a free-agent decision ever made two teams as happy? While the terms weren't disclosed, the Vikings made a run at signing the former Bears wideout to a long-term deal this offseason, only for Jeffery to decline his shot at staying in the NFC North. The Vikings presumably would have pushed Jeffery into the lineup at the expense of Adam Thielen, who was entering a one-year deal with the Vikings as a restricted free agent. Two weeks later, Minnesota re-signed Thielen to a four-year, $19.2 million extension that looks to be a bargain, as Thielen's 916 receiving yards rank second in the league behind Antonio Brown.

Jeffery eventually decided to take a one-year deal to try to rebuild his value with the Eagles, and he's rounding into shape as a No. 1 receiver on the league's only nine-win team, though he's not hitting the heights of his Bears heyday. An impressive touchdown catch against the Cowboys on Sunday marked Jeffery's third consecutive game with 60 receiving yards and a touchdown, as the 27-year-old has racked up 321 yards and four scores in his past five games. Crucially, Jeffery has been able to play every game this season, which will only help his résumé in free agency next offseason.

13. The Chiefs trade up for Patrick Mahomes in the first round of the 2017 draft.

Obviously, we have no idea whether the Chiefs will eventually be happy with their decision to trade up with the Bills and draft the former Texas Tech quarterback with the 10th pick this past April. What we did know, though, is that the trade was the first step in Kansas City's succession plan in moving on from Alex Smith, who will be entering the final year of his contract in 2018.

Crucially, the trade for Mahomes planted a seed in the head of every Chiefs fan who was dissatisfied with Smith. If nobody in town is more popular than the backup quarterback, nobody is more desirable than the toolsy backup quarterback who seems to possess the upside your steady starting quarterback does not. Ranting against Smith with no obvious replacement was one thing; bemoaning the fate of a competitive team with a low-ceiling quarterback and a possible superstar looming on the bench is far more satisfying.

Smith's hot start to the season kept the doubters at bay, but as the Chiefs' offense has slowed down, the seams have begun to show for Smith. After posting a 125.8 passer rating during Kansas City's 5-0 start, Smith has posted a 79.7 mark over the past three games, including three interceptions and a lost fumble. (Coach Andy Reid's other quarterbacks also haven't helped, as both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have thrown picks on gadget plays.) Smith had 12 completions on passes traveling 25 yards or more through the first seven games of the season; he has just two such completions on eight tries over the past three games.

Smith on Sunday against the Giants failed to hit the high floor that is supposed to represent his calling card. The Chiefs were 3-for-11 on third down, with Smith throwing two picks and having a third called back for pass interference. On a windy day in which the Chiefs held the struggling Giants offense to 12 points in five quarters, Smith's offense could muster only three field goals.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that the Chiefs should bench Smith. Mahomes is a raw prospect, and while other teams have had success pushing rookies into the lineup after injuries, trades or devastatingly bad play, Smith is a good enough quarterback with whom to win games, even in the playoffs. The Chiefs are still huge favorites to win the AFC West, with the Football Power Index giving them a 90.7 percent chance of winning the division for the second consecutive time. Once they traded up for Mahomes, though, the clock started ticking on Smith's time in Kansas City. If that clock inspired Smith to take more shots and get more aggressive earlier in the season, it's also going to inspire frustrated Chiefs fans to want Kansas City to be more aggressive when he struggles.

12. The Jaguars sign A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell.

While the Jaguars quietly leaped from 26th in defensive DVOA to 12th last season, their defense was still missing a few critical components. General manager David Caldwell had assembled a young core of talent around players such as Yannick Ngakoue and Jalen Ramsey, but his forays into veteran free agency had mostly struck out, with guys such as Davon House, Jared Odrick and Dan Skuta all failing to make the grade and losing their jobs.

You would have forgiven both the front office and ownership if they had decided to sit out free agency and build around their young core, but the Jags went back into the veteran market and signed a pair of gems. Campbell has wreaked havoc up front, racking up 11.5 sacks, which ties him for the league lead. He also has taken pressure off emerging star (and Perfect 53-Man Roster member) Ngakoue, who racked up 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles on Sunday, including the game-sealing strip of DeShone Kizer in the fourth quarter.

Bouye, who really had only one season of notable effectiveness in Houston, has joined forces with Ramsey to form the best cover duo in football. Teams terrified of throwing Ramsey's way have looked toward Bouye and been burned, with Bouye victimizing Kizer for the UCF product's fourth interception of the year on Sunday. The Jaguars have been remarkably healthy on defense -- their 11 starters and top three reserves have all made it through 10 contests without missing a single game because of injury -- but their big-money free agents are playing like difference-makers.

11. The Packers turn down a Brett Hundley trade in April.

The Aaron Rodgers injury obviously dramatically impacted the Packers' chances of competing, but Green Bay was confident about its situation behind Rodgers with a homegrown backup in the fold. The Packers reportedly turned down an offer for Hundley during this year's draft and decided to keep Hundley as the primary backup to Rodgers as the UCLA product entered his third season in the league.

While the Packers might have envisioned a Jimmy Garoppolo-esque haul for Hundley after he impressed, they would be lucky to get a Ryan Mallett-sized package for Hundley now. He has posted a 63.1 passer rating since entering the lineup in Week 6, throwing just two touchdown passes against seven interceptions. Only Kizer has posted a worse passer rating over that time frame. Even more distressingly, Hundley doesn't appear to be getting better; he turned the ball over four times during Sunday's embarrassing home shutout loss to the Ravens and took six sacks, two of which came on fourth-down conversion attempts.

If the Packers had correctly evaluated Hundley to be an unplayable backup, they would have traded him in April and gone into the post-draft free-agent market for a credible fill-in passer. This also raises questions about coach Mike McCarthy, who angrily shot down any suggestion that the Packers would look to sign Colin Kaepernick by expressing his faith in Hundley and third-stringer Joe Callahan. The Packers promptly made overtures to Brian Hoyer, and McCarthy hasn't been able to squeeze any life out of Hundley. Given the complaints about McCarthy's stale scheme with Rodgers in the lineup and the 13.4-points-per-game average the offense has posted with Hundley under center, Packers fans might rightfully wonder whether their offense has much more to do with Rodgers' improvisational skills than McCarthy's work on the sideline.

10. The Broncos let Wade Phillips leave for Los Angeles.

Wade Phillips took over the Broncos' defense after it ranked fourth in DVOA in 2014. In 2015 and 2016, the Broncos ranked first in defensive DVOA. With the Broncos failing to give Phillips the combination of an extension and a raise after their Super Bowl win the previous year, Phillips chose to leave for Los Angeles, taking over a defense that ranked 15th in DVOA last season. After nine weeks, the Rams ranked ... first in defensive DVOA.

Sunday wasn't the best day of the season for the Rams' defense, but I suspect coach Sean McVay is quite happy with his defensive coordinator. (McVay's hiring would fit on this list, too!) Los Angeles eventually allowed 24 points to the Vikings in a 17-point loss, with injuries as the key culprit. The Rams lost both Kayvon Webster and Nickell Robey-Coleman during the game, forcing Phillips to turn to undrafted free-agent cornerback Dominique Hatfield, who had played just 28 defensive snaps heading into the game.

The Vikings then mercilessly attacked Hatfield, culminating in the play that broke open the game. Phillips sent a seven-man blitz at Case Keenum, who immediately went to his hot route and hit Thielen on a hitch route versus Hatfield. The rookie corner took a poor route to Thielen, who ran past him and turned upfield; with the other defensive backs in man coverage, the result was a 65-yard touchdown.

As for the Broncos, they already had fallen to 12th in DVOA before allowing the Bengals to leave town with a 20-17 win on Sunday. Andy Dalton threw for only 154 yards, but his 25 passes produced three touchdowns. Two of them came past Bradley Roby, who also threw in a critical pass interference penalty against A.J. Green on a rough day. Even with the Rams losing, I suspect they miss their old defensive coordinator in Denver.

9. The Rams sign Andrew Whitworth.

Again, while Sunday wasn't a shining day for the Rams on offense, they'll look back happily at the day they convinced Whitworth to move out West. The 35-year-old longtime Bengals left tackle immediately solidified the Rams' offensive line, making everyone else's job easier while protecting Jared Goff's blind side. And while Goff was under pressure for long stretches Sunday, he was sacked only twice. Whitworth was the guy matched up against Tashawn Bower on the second of those sacks, but it was a clear coverage sack on fourth down, trailing by 14 points with 19 seconds left. The Rams are extremely happy with their left tackle, and there are about 29 teams in the league grumbling about their offensive line who are asking themselves why they didn't go after one of the league's most underrated players at any position.

8. Miami lures Jay Cutler out of retirement for $10 million and hands him the starting job.

When Ryan Tannehill went down with a torn ACL last year, Matt Moore filled in and looked competent enough as an injury replacement, posting a 105.6 passer rating in 87 passing attempts. When Tannehill suffered the same injury this preseason, the Dolphins turned down the opportunity to give Moore the job and signed Cutler out of the announcing booth on the strength of his work with coach Adam Gase in Chicago.

Cutler has been a disaster. The veteran threw three interceptions in the first 19 minutes of the game Sunday against the league's 28th-ranked pass defense by DVOA, giving him nine picks and a 36.4 Total QBR for the season, the latter of which is just ahead of Joe Flacco in 27th place. Cutler left at halftime with a concussion and turned things over to Moore, who was making his second appearance of the year as an injury fill-in. In the first, Moore threw for 188 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Dolphins back from 14 points down for a comeback win over the Jets.

On Sunday, Moore threw for 282 yards and a touchdown in the second half against the Bucs, bringing Miami back from a 20-7 deficit to tie the score with three minutes left, only for his defense to allow a game-winning drive to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Moore did post an absolute dud in his lone start of the season against the Ravens, but it's clear that he's better than Cutler. The Dolphins have just a 2.5 percent chance of making the postseason after losing four straight games, but with Moore an impending free agent and Cutler surely returning to the booth after the year, should they really be in a rush to stick Cutler back into the lineup?

7. The Seahawks lose Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor to injured reserve in the same week.

Sherman entered the league in 2011 and took over as a starting cornerback in Week 8. Since then, the Seahawks have faced 3,916 dropbacks by opposing quarterbacks. And 3,845 of those dropbacks (98.2 percent) have come with either Sherman or Chancellor on the field. The Seahawks have faced just 71 dropbacks without both Chancellor and Sherman in the lineup. Quarterbacks have posted a 91.0 QBR on those precious few opportunities. Both are now out for the season.

If you're a Seahawks fan who wants to remain optimistic, last year's Earl Thomas injury spooked general manager John Schneider into investing in his secondary. Rookie Shaq Griffin has impressed at cornerback. Jeremy Lane has looked competent after returning from his failed Texans trade, and the Seahawks have historically gotten more out of the returning Byron Maxwell than anybody else in the league. Fellow third-rounder Delano Hill and free-agent addition Bradley McDougald could figure in as Chancellor replacements. There are options who weren't here a year ago. There's also realistically no way to fully replace Chancellor and Sherman.

6. Oakland lets Bill Musgrave leave to promote Todd Downing to offensive coordinator.

Few eyebrows were raised when the Raiders chose to move on from their incumbent offensive coordinator this offseason. The issue had less to do with Musgrave and more with quarterbacks coach Downing, who was beginning to attract serious attention around the league as a possible coordinator after his work with Derek Carr. With some public complaints about Musgrave getting away from running the ball and Downing in danger of leaving town, the Raiders sacrificed one successful coordinator in the hopes of retaining a guy who had struck a groove with the team's $125 million franchise quarterback.

It hasn't worked out. As Ted Nguyen noted on the Nickel Package, the Raiders have shifted toward more and more outside zone runs at the expense of other running plays this season, which might not play to the strengths of their offense. Downing has been loath to employ play-action, with the Raiders executing a league-low 38 play-action passes this season despite posting a 103.1 passer rating on those plays. And when the Raiders have struggled, Downing hasn't been able to adjust or make notable improvements as games go on. It took a month to move Amari Cooper into the slot, and while he blew up with a 210-yard, three-touchdown game against the Chiefs, Cooper has just 134 yards and one garbage-time touchdown since.

5. David Johnson dislocates his wrist in Week 1.

Arizona's plans to replace its star halfback just haven't worked. Kerwynn Williams and Chris Johnson combined for just 119 yards in 36 carries over three games before losing their job share. Andre Ellington, who was expected to figure in as a passing-down back, was a healthy scratch Sunday.

Instead, the Cardinals traded for and then installed Adrian Peterson as their primary back. Peterson ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns against Tampa Bay in his Cards debut, but he has been running through molasses since then. Peterson has failed to top 30 rushing yards or even average a mere 2.0 yards per carry in three of his other four games. And while he was split out on the Larry Fitzgerald touchdown in Sunday's loss to the Texans, Peterson has caught only four passes as a receiver over the past four games.

4. Tyron Smith's back flares up.

Smith has a back injury dating to last season, when Dallas' star left tackle played through a bulging disk without missing any meaningful action. The four-time Pro Bowler didn't undergo any procedures during the offseason, but rest didn't solve the issue. Smith's back has been giving him problems since training camp, when the Cowboys were forced to rest him for stretches of time. He made it through the first half of the season and looked great, but the pain became too much to bear in recent weeks, forcing Smith to miss games against the Falcons and Eagles.

It's not ideal to have Smith's injury coincide with the time at which Ezekiel Elliott started his suspension, and Dallas misses its franchise lineman dearly. The 26-year-old's absence was felt against the Falcons, when Adrian Clayborn whipped fill-in tackle Chaz Green for five of his six sacks. That was enough for the Cowboys to push Byron Bell into the lineup against the Eagles, but while Bell didn't single-handedly bring the offense to a halt, he was no Smith. Philly harassed Dak Prescott into three interceptions and four sacks Sunday night, and while Bell appeared to be responsible for only one of those sacks, it was the most important one: Derek Barnett got past Bell and stripped Prescott, with Nigel Bradham returning it for a touchdown. Pressure around Bell's edge by Barnett also forced Dak into a quicker throw in the first quarter, with his pass tipped at the line and subsequently bouncing off of Terrance Williams's hip before being picked off.

Consecutive losses in the NFC have dropped Dallas' playoff chances precipitously. After the Cowboys beat the Chiefs to improve to 5-3, FPI gave Jason Garrett's team essentially an even-money shot -- 49.9 percent -- of making the playoffs. The Cowboys have subsequently lost their two ensuing games by a combined score of 64-16. Their playoff odds are now all the way down to 6.5 percent.

3. Deshaun Watson tears his ACL.

I already wrote about the Watson injury earlier this season. The only reason it isn't more impactful is because the Texans were 3-4 even before Watson's injury after tough losses to the Patriots and Seahawks on the road. They were in much better shape with Watson over the long term, but the Texans are obviously worse with Watson off the field in the short term.

Sunday was the first time the Texans' offense has looked competent with Tom Savage under center since Watson went down. We're throwing out a very low bar for competence, as Savage turned over the ball to the Cardinals twice and had desperate throws to the likes of Stephen Anderson turn into key first downs, but the Texans generated 364 yards of offense against a league-average Cardinals defense.

2. The Saints draft Marshon Lattimore and Ryan Ramczyk in the first round.

It's hard to ask for more in terms of immediate impact at positions of need than the Saints got out of their two first-rounders this year. Ramczyk, acquired with the pick the Saints received in the Brandin Cooks trade, has played both tackle positions after both Terron Armstead and Zach Strief went down with injuries. Stats LLC had him credited with just one sack allowed this season before Sunday, when he allowed a second to Ryan Kerrigan.

Lattimore has been the more impressive rookie and is likely the current favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. His impact may, unfortunately for the Saints, be revealed by his absence. He missed time earlier in the year with a concussion, and he had to leave the game after rolling his ankle while defending a Kirk Cousins fade route on Sunday. He returned briefly before leaving the game again, this time for good.

Cousins went back to that side later in the first half, hitting Josh Doctson for a 32-yard fade past fill-in corner P.J. Williams. Lattimore typically patrols the right side of the defense (the left side of the offense). Since returning from his concussion, Lattimore had shut down that side of the field, with the Saints allowing a 67.6 passer rating on throws to the left side of the field. On Sunday, with Lattimore mostly missing, Cousins went 12-of-16 for 182 yards and a touchdown with a 132.8 passer rating on throws to the left side of the field.

The good news is that Lattimore appears to have escaped without a major injury. The Saints will desperately want him back for a meaningful game against the Rams next week.

1. Case Keenum signs with the Vikings.

It's hard to believe, right? Keenum had posted competent but underwhelming numbers during his time with the Texans and Rams, so while I put him on the Perfect 53-Man Roster this August, it was only because the Vikings had managed to sign him to a bargain-basement deal for one year and $2 million to serve as their nominal backup to Sam Bradford and possible bridge to Teddy Bridgewater later in the season. If Keenum spent extended time in the lineup, Vikings fans would know something had gone wrong.

Instead, nothing could be further from the truth. The Vikings have relied on Keenum since Week 2 after Bradford's knee locked up in the opener, and all he has done since is play like a superstar. Keenum's QBR jumped up to 73.9 this season, placing him second in the league behind Watson. He continues to hold on to the football, having gone down to just five sacks and zero fumbles in eight starts. Keenum cycles through his options and repeatedly finds either a safe target or a downfield throw where his receiver will have an advantage and opportunity to make a play. The touchdown pass to Thielen on Sunday was a long run after catch, but it was on Keenum to recognize the blitz and quickly find his hot read. Keenum has posted the league's best QBR (94.1) against the blitz this season, nearly five points better than anybody else.

Even if the Vikings do turn to Bridgewater eventually, Keenum has given his career a big boost. Teams will be evaluating him as a possible starter this offseason, which should allow for a huge raise. Give credit to the Vikings' receiving corps of Thielen and Stefon Diggs, but they're also both playing better with Keenum in the lineup than with anyone else.

I wouldn't say Keenum is the primary reason why the Vikings are 8-2. The defense has obviously played great, and the running game has done its part despite losing rookie second-round pick Dalvin Cook to a torn ACL. Keenum is holding up his end of the bargain, though, and making plays way too frequently for a guy who was basically available for nothing in March.