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Lunchbreak: NFC North Race Could Now Look Different

The Vikings are no longer the NFC North's only team relying on a backup quarterback.

Yesterday's Border Battle became a matchup between Case Keenum and Packers second-string passer Brett Hundley, who stepped in after Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in the first quarter.

The Packers reported that Rodgers could miss the rest of the 2017 season, and ESPN's Courtney Cronin said the injury could change the way the division race shapes up, saying Green Bay "is no longer the clear-cut favorite." She wrote:

Before Week 6, Green Bay had a 64 percent chance of winning the NFC North, according to ESPN's Football Power Index, with the Vikings next in line with a 21 percent chance. If Rodgers is out for the remaining 10 games, the likelihood of Minnesota capturing its second division title since 2015 increases drastically – to 53 percent – according to FPI.

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The path to a division title suddenly is a lot more manageable, especially with the way the Vikings have looked through the first six weeks. Statistically, Case Keenum is performing like a top-10 quarterback. The run game is clicking even in [Dalvin] Cook's absence. As expected, the defense is dominating and can always be relied on to bail the team out if needed.

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Keenum is a 'fearless' quarterback

In his fifth game in Purple, Keenum was 24-of-38 passing for 239 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His passer rating was 78.7.

Mark Craig of the *Star Tribune *delved into a number of takeaways from Minnesota's 23-10 defeat of Green Bay, and one observation he made was about Keenum's "fearlessness" on the field. Craig wrote:

*Case Keenum with only one interception in 159 attempts is hard to believe. He plays with a fearlessness that would suggest more mishaps than the one he threw in Sunday's 23-10 victory over the Packers.  *

"He's an extremely competitive guy," [Adam] Thielen said. "I think that's why he's able to make those plays."

*Keenum lacks ideal arm strength but knows how to change speeds for the situation. On a 16-yard completion to Kyle Rudolph, Keenum threw a looping changeup that floated over safety Kentrell Brice and dropped in front of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. *

"He makes all the throws," Rudolph said. "You can't be afraid to make a throw. Keep him on his feet, he'll make every throw."

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Thielen Recounts Path to NFL in 'Players' Tribune'

Before Thielen had another standout performance – nine catches for 97 yards – against the Packers yesterday, he recounted part his unlikely path to the NFL.

Thielen acted as a contributor for The Players' Tribune. In an Oct. 12 post, he shared a handful of stories leading up to his current role as one of Minnesota's starting receivers, including a potential internship with a dental company, receiving a $500 scholarship to play Division II football at Minnesota State, Mankato, and paying his own way to participate in a regional combine. Here is an excerpt of the latter experience:

At the combine, I ran the 40, did some drills, lifted some weights and got measured. When it was over, I was given a login to a website where my results would be posted — I wasn't told when they would be up, just that it would be within the next couple of days. So my buddies and I left the combine, went and got a Chicago deep-dish pizza — my first cheat meal since I had started training seriously for the NFL — and went back to our hotel room. I basically just sat at the desk all night with my laptop out, clicking the refresh button every few minutes and hoping my results would show up.

Thielen wrote that he remembered thinking, "It all comes down to my 40 time." He felt that if he had a time that fell in the 4.4-4.5 range, he "might stand out enough on paper" to get to the next level.

*I will say that it's a pretty nerve-wracking feeling to have the fate of your childhood dream come down to one click of the refresh button — and I don't think I took my finger off it the whole night. *

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Out of nowhere, the whole screen populated. I sat up in my chair and my buddies stood up and leaned over behind me, scanning the page for my 40 time … and there it was:

4.45.

I jumped out of that desk chair for the first time all night. We started screaming and high-fiving, and then I immediately called [my now-wife] Caitlin and told her the news.

To read the story in its entirety, click here.

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