Are the Vikings better off sticking with Case Keenum over Bridgewater, Bradford?

The NFC North has a quarterback problem.

While the Detroit Lions wonder if a sprained ankle had anything to do with Matt Stafford's five-turnover day and Green Bay Packers fans campaign for Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick and -- wait for it -- Brett Favre to replace an injured Aaron Rodgers, the Minnesota Vikings have their own decisions to make under center.

A year after his ultra-efficient Vikings debut, made with hardly a few weeks' worth of exposure to Minnesota's play book, Sam Bradford opened 2017 as his promising summer suggested he would -- with excellence. But recurring knee pain, which sidelined him for three weeks and left him immobile against the Chicago Bears has now, according to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, cast doubt on the remainder of his injury-riddled career. It has all but removed Bradford from the immediate picture at quarterback for the Vikings. 

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Bradford is seeking treatment for his knee, but all signs point to another absence for the starting QB. USATSI

No one is obligated to feel bad for a guy who's collected millions from three different teams despite being a frequent name on the injury report, but it's a shame for all parties if Bradford's knee, repaired twice for ACL tears during his time with the Rams, has been worn down indefinitely. Perhaps it makes easier Minnesota's looming decision regarding Bradford as a 2018 free agent, but it also removes the veteran with the highest floor from the team's QB room. For all his limitations, Bradford had been remarkably productive with the Vikes when given time to throw. In his last four starts he has thrown for nine TDs and one interception, and there have never been questions about his work ethic.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, for what it's worth, has downplayed the "career-threatening" headlines, and Bradford has been seeking additional treatment in New York, according to NFL Network.

But here are the pressing concerns: If Bradford does make a return to the field, it sure doesn't sound like it'll come before Teddy Bridgewater is eligible to make his own return, especially after the former starter was reportedly cleared to practice Monday. And by that point, which rehabilitating signal-caller gives the team the best chance to win a division that, ironically, is now without Rodgers? Does Bridgewater, who has not played a game since Blair Walsh infamously missed a field goal vs. the Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 10, 2016, really offer more than Bradford? Does he even offer more than overlooked backup Case Keenum?

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Case Keenum has been largely error-free while starting in place of Sam Bradford. USATSI

Keenum has seen hot flashes fizzle into mediocrity before, namely when he went in and out of the lineup for Jeff Fisher's Rams from 2015-2016, so his success as a gritty game manager in place of Bradford shouldn't be exaggerated. And yet, still, the fact that he's effectively gone 3-2 with error-free numbers (5 TDs, 1 INT, 93.1 QB rating) and without play-makers like Dalvin Cook and Stefon Diggs is admirable.

In fact, if Minnesota continues to rely on its pesky defense and finds ways to get the ball to Jerick McKinnon in space, there's an argument to be made that riding with Keenum is the safest ticket to the postseason. It sounds like a shoddy plan at best, but consider what the Vikings have to work with, then consider how quickly Green Bay's plans changed, and it comes off more palatable.

Now, depending on how up to speed Bridgewater is upon his return, the Vikings have a lot more to ponder. If Teddy is anywhere near as fluid as he looked in individual workouts during training camp, it'll be no surprise if Minnesota fans are clamoring for him to guide this team back to the playoffs, especially since the team could also see him hit the open market in 2018. If you're looking for the highest ceiling of the Vikes' QBs, you're probably looking at Bridgewater.

But it's also important to remember that back in 2016, the former first-round pick was still trying to assert himself as a true franchise quarterback in town. His last full-season TD-to-INT ratio (14:9) was pedestrian at best, and that was before his knee all but fell apart and sidelined him for more than a year. The bar can only be set so high.

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Bridgewater is the biggest unknown in the Vikings' QB room after more than a year away from the field. USATSI

The answers aren't clear, and more so than in any other case, only time will dictate what suits Minnesota (4-2) best as it attempts to recapture a playoff berth. That, however, is what happens when your QB depth chart consists of an overachieving journeyman and two very different but promising leaders who have knees so doctored that may or may not hold up. It's the new reality for the Vikings in an NFC North race that is wide open with Rodgers on the sideline.

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