The Vikings' season might've just ended -- in late August, during practice, and less than two weeks before the season starts. That's because the one player they couldn't afford to lose, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, suffered a serious injury.
CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reports that the team is fearing a season-ending injury. At a press conference, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer admitted that it was a possibility. He added that a sedated Bridgewater is undergoing an MRI at the hospital.
"Teddy suffered a significant knee injury," an emotional Zimmer said. "We don't know the extent of it yet. He's going through tests at the hospital."
According to multiple reporters at Vikings practice, Bridgewater went down in the pocket with a non-contact left knee injury. The team immediately stopped practice as trainers rushed to Bridgewater's aid. His teammates began swearing and praying. Roughly 10 minutes later, an ambulance showed up.
If the injury is season ending, then the Vikings' Super Bowl hopes are all but over. Entering the year, the Vikings figured to compete with the Packers for the NFC North title. Their roster featured a promising, young third-year quarterback in Bridgewater, arguably the NFL's best running back in Adrian Peterson, a blossoming, young receiving crops, and a nasty defense led by Zimmer.
Without Bridgewater, though, the Vikings won't be able to take down the top teams in the conference. They won't keep pace with the Packers, based on simulations run by SportsLine.
The team might be built around its defense and running game -- and that might still be enough to beat bad teams -- but Bridgewater would've put them over the top. Last season, he completed 65.3 percent of his passes, threw less than 10 picks, and posted an 88.7 passer rating. In this year's preseason, he was Pro Football Focus' second-highest graded quarterback. This was, up until now, supposed to be the year Bridgewater turned the corner.
Now, the Vikings will be forced to ride with a 36-year-old Shaun Hill, or scour the free-agent and trade market for a better candidate.
As CBS Sports' Dave Richard pointed out, offensive coordinator Norv Turner has previously worked with quarterbacks like Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder, but acquiring any of those quarterbacks would require a trade and, frankly, none of them are talented enough to adequately fill in for Bridgewater. And it seems unlikely that Cassel and Ponder would be onboard with a second stint in Minnesota. Weeden, however, might be available if he's cut by the Texans after failing to win the No. 2 spot behind Brock Osweiler, but he'd then be forced to learn a new offense in less than two weeks.
It's a bad list.
Geno Smith could be available given the Jets' crowded quarterback room and Mark Sanchez might make sense, but again, neither of them are realistic solutions for the problem. The Chargers cut Zach Mettenberger, but he's Zach Mettenberger. There's also the possibility of a trade for a more-established backup like AJ McCarron or Mike Glennon, but they won't come cheap.
There is no solution to the problem. Whichever route they choose, they're doomed.
According to SportsLine, their chances of winning the division drop from 27.8 percent to 11.6 percent. Their playoff chances take a huge hit. Their Super Bowl chances are sunk.
If Bridgewater is out for the long-term, the Vikings are done, unless Peterson manages to pull off another 2,000-yard season and drags them into January.