Four weeks ago, nearly everyone who follows the NFL had written off the Minnesota Vikings. The nicest thing anyone could muster up was “well, they’re still ‘mathematically alive.’” Not many people had faith in mathematics, though.
Minnesota’s offensive issues that don’t pertain to running the ball are well chronicled, and the loss of star pass catcher Percy Harvin gave the Vikings a serious lack of depth at receiver. Coming off a loss to the Bears in week 14, Minnesota still had Green Bay, St. Louis, Houston, and a rematch with the Bears on their schedule to finish off the year. It led people like me to emphatically count out the Vikings, only to be fumbling for an explanation after each surprising win.
As much as Adrian Peterson’s legendary season coming off of knee surgery has lifted the Vikings to the postseason, he hasn’t been able to do everything. Christian Ponder isn’t exactly drawing rave reviews, but he’s doing what is necessary to win games (evidenced by the fact that the Vikings have been winning games). He still has some baffling plays every game, but it is still the same quarterback that has made huge plays down the stretch of games to help the Vikings
But can he take the Vikings to the next level and lead them to a victory at Green Bay? Minnesota may have beaten the Packers at home last week, but going into Lambeau in a playoff atmosphere is a whole other animal.
There’s also the matter of how Ponder was able to complete big passes when the Vikings needed him. Minnesota’s one-track offense isn’t exactly a secret to NFL defensive coordinators, and against Green Bay last week and in other recent victories, opposing defenses have basically dared Ponder to beat them. Teams are leaving all receivers in single coverage and stacking the box, and Christian Ponder has been able to take advantage of this setup. If Minnesota stays neck-and-neck with the Packers or even owns a lead, this is unlikely to change. Ponder would have to demonstrate immense improvement to make up for the fact that every defense fears Adrian Peterson like the Grim Reaper, but if defenses don’t have to respect the run it may not go so smoothly.
Christian Ponder has done what he needed to do over the last four weeks, and he’s put the Vikings in a position that few thought they’d be in. The regular season is over, though, so it’s time to see what this kid is made of. At the end of his second year, even the most optimistic Vikings fan can’t be feeling great about their starting quarterback. With three sensational rookie QBs showing off this season, the Vikings have less reason to be patient with a struggling QB. This is Ponder’s chance to shine, and how he plays against Green Bay (and possibly beyond) will likely determine his NFL future.