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I don’t know…I kinda felt like Minnesota was the better team here. They just played a really good team and didn’t capitalize on their opportunities like Carolina did. The Vikings are 10-3…in their 3 losses, I thought they outplayed their opponent in two of those losses (DET and CAR). Only Pittsburgh really handled them. Since Case Keenum has become Joe Montana (right after the Steelers loss), I don’t think the Vikings have been lesser than any of their opponents in any game. They really may be the best team in football right now.
I still think they’re going to fall short in the end. Too many good teams are about to pile into the NFC playoffs with Dallas reemerging and Green Bay back to life…too many teams with elite or great QBs, and there’s Minnesota with Case Keenum, who’s playing very well…but he’s the reason they lost this game. He just missed too many red zone opportunities. It happens to the best of them, but we all sense Keenum is going to be more prone to this the higher the stakes go.
When I watched this live, I felt like Carolina manhandled the Vikings and then the Vikings scurried back into it. After a re-watch, I feel it was more Carolina is good and played a good game, and capitalized on opportunities early…and Minnesota had more chances, played a better game (technically) and then choked settling for more FGs that could have been TDs…dropped passes, slightly miss thrown timing passes in the end zone. Minnesota was so close to planting 35+ points on Carolina, but they didn’t.
This was a huge game for Carolina. Had they lost, and fallen to 8-5, I think they would have slid right out of the playoffs with a 9-7 finish and getting bumped. This win almost locks them into at least 10 wins and a playoff spot. Carolina is dangerous in any one game, but I don’t think Cam can string three good games in a row together to carry them from wild card to the Super Bowl.
The Vikings have CIN-GB-CHI ahead, at least two wins there…a 12-4 finish and a #2 seed most likely. I cannot see them beating two quality NFC teams in a row to get to the Super Bowl. Minnesota is so good and so sound right now, but not ‘great’. I don’t feel like there’s another level they can go to when the playoffs call for it against other high-end teams. I wouldn’t bet against them, but I’m not betting on them either.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- The thing I’m impressed with most about this ‘run’ Case Keenum (27-44 for 280 yards, 2 TD/2 INT) is on – he’s not doing this against bad teams. His 6-game stretch of goodness has been against gritty Washington, the Rams, a decent Lions defense, a rising Falcons defense and in this game, in particular, something happened to Keenum that hasn’t happened all year -- and he still dropped 280 yards and 2 TDs.
That thing that happened…he was sacked 6 times. Part of Keenum’s great run this season has been that teams can’t lay a finger on him. Keenum had only been sacked 5 times in his previous 8 games…which is crazy, and explains part of his ‘magical bounce’. Missing two key OLs…Keenum was under pressure more than any time this season.
Keenum has thrown for 280+ yards and 2 or more TDs in five of his last 6 games.
Also, note – Keenum’s last 4 games of rushing yardage totals in each game: 20-20-(1)-40. He also ran for a TD in there.
This week Keenum faces one of the easiest matchups he’s had in his golden run – he takes on Cincy at home, indoors. Cincy is down a few CBs, a few LBs…this Cincy team is just swirling down a drain and got whacked by the Bears last week. The Vikings will kick Cincy while they're down.
Week 16…Keenum is at Green Bay, possibly the worst secondary in the NFL, which should be great for FF-production.
Week 17 hosting the Bears works fine as well.
I say trust Keenum the rest of the way until he proves you shouldn’t.
-- Totally under my nose, I missed the fact that Damiere Byrd (5-37-0/5) caught 5 passes this game until this re-watch. He had one catch, his first catch of the season last week…then fired out of the gates with 5 catches here.
I re-watched them back…very nice showing by Byrd, a player we tapped as a top (very) deep sleeper name for 2017. He didn’t play much early in the season and then missed most of the season with an injury, returning back Week 13.
Byrd was catching passes in traffic, downfield, had a nice bubble screen…he looked like he belonged, and as he did you could see Cam gaining trust. Byrd’s been flashing signs the past couple of preseasons. Considering Carolina has Devin Funchess, injured foot Olsen, and Christian McCaffrey as pass game weapons…Byrd may start to matter in the way we thought he might – as a Ted Ginn-ish type fill-in…speed to burn and a better receiver than given credit.
For more of my work and thoughts on Byrd, here’s an article I did in August 2017: https://www.fantasypros.com/2017/08/very-deep-sleeper-damiere-byrd-fantasy-football/
-- Jerick McKinnon (7-46-0, 2-9-0/3) had a couple carries in this game where he put on moves that were breathtaking. He just hit the edge and made quick jukes in the open field and broke defender’s ankles and he left them in the dust. He’s so, so good. So underrated, so underutilized.
He got banged up in this game and is questionable for Week 15. For my money, McKinnon is the secret key to the Vikings making a Super Bowl run. He could carry them with more touches, or get ignored and underused as the Vikings try to win by getting ahead and then throttling back to run the clock. McKinnon on the loose can get Minnesota scoring 30+ points a game easily.
-- Adam Thielen (6-105-1/13) had another gem this week. He’s the best WR in football…I’ll just keep saying it. He had a TD in this game but was sniffing around two more. He almost had a monster game.
He’s so far ahead of Stefon Diggs in Keenum’s targeting/heart that’s it’s not even debatable on Thielen as a WR1, top 5 fantasy option each week.
This week vs. banged Cincy could be epic.
-- Jonathan Stewart (16-103-3, 0-0-0/1) scored 3 TDs out of nowhere. Great game, but I’m not buying a change/uptick in his usage. He has scored at least one TD in three straight games, but his yardage in games is typically under 30-50 and he hasn’t caught a pass since Week 7. He’s a feast or famine on a TD guy. Not my cup of tea.
Snap Counts of Interest…
45 = Funchess
38 = Byrd
23 = Shepard
03 = Clay
59 = Olsen
33 = Dickson
42 = McKinnon
32 = L. Murray