If the Minnesota Vikings can beat the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, they'll advance to 9-2, the best mark of the conference outside of the NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles, and they'll do so with their Opening Day quarterback and star rookie running back on Injured Reserve.

That's in large part due to the emergence of journeyman signal-caller Case Keenum, whose success has not only lessened the blow of another Sam Bradford injury but postponed the triumphant return of Teddy Bridgewater. Undefeated in his last six starts, the veteran is fresh off logging a 100.8 passer rating against the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams and may very well be the safest option for the Vikings under center beyond 2017.

And yet the real X-factor of Minnesota's improbable surge to the throne of the NFC North, a feat that seemed much more feasible when Bradford and Dalvin Cook were lighting up the summer, isn't Keenum. It's the wide receiver who's almost single-handedly fueled Keenum's success. The NFL's best kept secret.

Adam Thielen.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer would never crown one player the champion of a single season, let alone a single game, and there's no denying that Minnesota's vaunted defense is what's most keeping the Vikings afloat -- no, dominant. But to overlook Thielen's production is to overlook the NFL's steadiest, most dangerous offensive weapon this side of Pittsburgh.

Set aside Thielen's story -- the Hollywood journey from Division II Minnesota State University, Mankato, to his hometown Vikings, the move from undrafted practice squad rookie to everyday starter. Besides exploding as a consensus top-10 fantasy wideout, the 27-year-old pass catcher has essentially become Minnesota's offense in the wake of Cook's absence and sporadic showings from speedster Stefon Diggs.

His 916 yards through 10 games are second in the NFL behind only Antonio Brown, the Steelers' perennial 100-ball catcher, and put him on pace for 1,466 yards -- a total that would rank second in Vikings history behind Randy Moss' 1,600-yard 2003 campaign.