Who Improved In The Conference With Minnesota Out Of The Race?

Teddy Bridgewater

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 3:49 PM GMT

Devastating news for the Vikings and their backers as starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending injury in practice. As expected that has impacted their win total at sportsbooks.

Vikings Join Cowboys In The Dumps
So much for that Cowboys-Vikings NFC Championship Game! We made it through the first two weeks of the preseason without any major injuries. But then Dallas quarterback Tony Romo suffered a fractured vertebra last week in the team's third preseason game against Seattle. He's going to miss anywhere from 4-10 weeks, but at least the Cowboys appear to have a promising in-house replacement in rookie Dak Prescott.

The Vikings were about 25 minutes into their final practice Tuesday ahead of this Thursday's preseason finale at home against the Los Angeles Rams. As I'm sure you are aware of or have seen on "Hard Knocks," quarterbacks aren't touched in practices as they wear those red non-contact jerseys. And Bridgewater went down in a heap without contact Tuesday, but reports are it was gruesome-looking right away. Teammates were throwing their helmets in disgust, swearing and praying on the field right after. Bridgewater was taken to the hospital in an ambulance (pretty unusual) and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer canceled the rest of practice immediately.

The diagnosis came down late Tuesday night: torn ACL, a dislocated knee and other structural damage but no nerve or arterial damage. So Bridgewater's season is over and he has a lot of work to do just to be ready for Week 1 next year.

It's a crushing injury for a team that had legitimate Super Bowl hopes with one of the NFL's rising defenses and arguably the league's best running back in Adrian Peterson, the defending rushing king. The Vikings had a wins total of 10 on NFL odds when this week started. Now it's 7.5 at most online sportsbooks, although the over is favored.

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It's Shaun Hill's Team Now
Bridgewater is in his third season out of Louisville. He took over as the starter early in his rookie year. In 2015, he played in every game and completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 3,231 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a rating of 88.7 that was 22nd in the NFL. But Bridgewater was a Pro Bowler last year and his 64.9 percent career completion percentage is the highest of any quarterback over his first two seasons in NFL history. By all accounts, Bridgewater had improved greatly this year -- he was 18 of 23 (78.3 percent) for 253 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the preseason -- and the Vikings added a big receiving weapon for him in the first round of the draft by taking Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell, whose Rookie of the Year hopes probably just vanished.

Can the Vikings win the Super Bowl with 36-year-old journeyman Shaun Hill as their starting quarterback? No. They are now +1200 on NFL picks to win the NFC title and +3000 to win the Super Bowl. Last year, Hill got into three games and was 2-for-7 for 15 yards. But he has starting experience, going 16-18 as one in his career. He last started in the 2014 season with the Rams and played nine games overall, completing 63.3 percent for eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. Hill also started Minnesota's second preseason game this year against Seattle with Bridgewater hurt and was 10-for-12 for 129 yards. The guy is a solid backup and this will be his fourth time filling in for a former first-round pick, following Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford, and Sam Bradford.

Also, consider that the Vikings still were going to be run-heavy with Bridgewater. The Vikes' 454 pass attempts in 2015 were the fewest in the NFL. This team is going to pound the ball with Peterson and win with ball control and defense. I do believe the Vikings will have to go out and get an experienced quarterback to back up Hill and perhaps take over for him eventually. The only other QBs on the roster are 2016 undrafted free agent Joel Stave, who wasn't even very good at Wisconsin, and 2015 undrafted free agent Taylor Heinicke.

Some names you hear bandied about for the Vikings are Denver's Mark Sanchez if the Broncos release him this weekend, Cleveland's Josh McCown, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, Houston's Brandon Weeden, Buffalo's EJ Manuel and the New York Jets' Geno Smith. Kaepernick would clearly have the highest upside, but his $12.9 million salary is guaranteed and the Vikings have only $6.2 million of cap room so something would have to be worked out. And, no, Peyton Manning isn't coming out of retirement.

Minnesota was as high as a 3.5-point favorite on NFL picks at sportsbooks for Week 1 at Tennessee but it's now a pick'em at BetOnline.

The Vikings will now finish second in the NFC North -- no team benefits from this injury more than Green Bay -- but could potentially win nine games and get a wild-card spot. That's if the defense steps up and Peterson plays in every game. But how reasonable is that with Peterson now 31?