Five months ago, few predicted a Minnesota Vikings-Philadelphia Eagles NFC Championship Game matchup. Nobody would have guessed the quarterbacks who would helm those teams one step from the Super Bowl.
Case Keenum and Nick Foles both opened the season as backup quarterbacks, sporting reputations as journeymen who weren't likely to make a deep playoff run. Sunday's tilt will mark the first time since at least 1970 that two quarterbacks meet in the conference championship after neither QB started in Week 1, per NFL Research.
On Wednesday, Keenum glibly took a shot at the improbable nature of Sunday's NFC championship matchup.
"I know this is what all you guys predicted back in the day, was a Foles versus Keenum NFC championship. So, good job to all you guys that predicted that," Keenum said wryly.
Keenum was forced into the lineup in Week 2 after Sam Bradford injured his knee. The 29-year-old held onto the job full time since Week 5 with stellar play-making ability and fearlessness throwing down the field. Foles took over after MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14, doing enough to propel the NFC East winners into the championship game.
The improbable course for both Keenum and Foles stretches back to both quarterbacks being on the same roster in 2015 with the St. Louis Rams under Jeff Fisher. Foles started that season before being replaced by Keenum. The Rams sported one of the worst offenses in the NFL during the two quarterbacks' stints.
The 2017 season became a breakout season for Keenum, who consistently had his starting status questioned -- sometimes by his own coach -- despite long strings of strong play. In his last nine starts (eight wins) Keenum has thrown 16 touchdowns to just five interceptions, with a 100-plus passer rating in six of those tilts.
Keenum is buoyed by the best one-two receiver punch in the NFL in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and a solid rushing attack. The quarterback was asked Wednesday about whether he feels like a point guard on the football field.
"I try to get the ball out of my hands and get it to the fast guys," he said. "Whether that's handing it off, throwing it, screens, whatever it is that we got to do. Get it to the guys that can do something special with it. And doing it at the right time, with the right placement and being smart with it. I think that if that's what a point guard does, then, yeah, that's what I'll do."
Keenum got the ball to Diggs to earn a miracle victory Sunday and set up an improbable quarterback matchup with the winner playing for a Lombardi Trophy. Now the Vikings need the QB to pull it off again, against a good Eagles defense, to earn a home Super Bowl game.