Christian Ponder will be tested by the Buffalo Bills' new-look defense—at least for a series or two. This game could feel a lot like the latter part of last season for Ponder.
He was removed from the PUP list, and he was in pads for practice. But AP isn't quite ready for more contact just yet, per Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk. Toby Gerhart is expected to get the start in place of Peterson again for this one.
Ponder was less than spectacular in his preseason debut. He was 4-of-9 for 80 yards, but 52 of those yards came on a completion to Stephen Burton. The Vikes are hoping to see some progression from last season, and that wasn't it.
Buffalo had a tremendous and surprising start to the regular season last year, but fizzled badly to miss the playoffs.
The Bills spent a pretty penny to bring pass-rush extraordinaire Mario Williams to town. Williams was the biggest move in an offseason that saw the Bills go hard to improve their defense that ranked 19th against the pass and 28th against the run.
They drafted CB Stephon Gilmore with the 10th pick in the draft, and the unit looked decent in the preseason opener. They allowed only seven points to Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.
It will be interesting to see if the Bills' defense will continue to show improvement into the regular season.
Here's the when, where and how to catch this preseason clash, followed by some deeper analysis.
When: Friday, Aug 17 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Mall of America Field, Minneapolis, MN
Watch: Preseason Live in Buffalo (pay service), NBC KARE - 11 in Minnesota
Listen: Sirius Radio: 138 in Buffalo, KFAN (FM 100.3) and Sirius 113 in Minnesota
Live Streaming Audio: NFL.com Audio Pass ($29.99 for year, $27.99 team specific, $9.99 a month)
Per Oddshark.com, the Bills are a measly one-point favorite. It's preseason so these things are extremely difficult to predict. But I would guess the Bills should be favored by more with no Adrian Peterson.
What's at Stake?
The Vikings need Ponder to be sharp in the preseason. His opening-game performance wasn't exactly what the team is looking for from him.
If they are to improve on their abysmal 3-13 season in 2011, it has to start at the QB. For however long he's in the game, he needs to make plays.
Buffalo's defense must improve from last season. It's hard to argue with the moves the Bills' front office made in the offseason. Now it's time for some of these major acquisitions to perform on the field.
Williams was paid a king's ransom, and even though this is preseason, a glimpse of what he can bring in the regular season would be nice to see.
Vikings Injury Report
Adrian Peterson (knee) out
Bills Injury Report
None to report
What They're Saying
Bills' strong safety George Wilson chimes in on the organization's progression over his tenure in Buffalo. He is quoted by Mark Ludwiczak of CBS Sports:
My first training camp here was '05. Just seeing where we were as an organization and as a team in the past and to see where we are now, I really think this is the most productive camp we've had as a team overall.
Wilson must be speaking in terms of camp morale, because the Bills haven't had a winning season in the years he's been in Buffalo. They have hovered around the 6-10 and 7-9 mark consistently. He has to be referring to intangible improvement.
Hopefully the good vibrations he feels in camp will translate to the regular season.
On the Vikings side..
Adrian Peterson is the type of guy whose irrational thinking actually helps him accomplish things a more rational person could not. It also doesn't hurt that he's a freak of nature athlete.
He is well ahead of schedule on his recovery from a torn MCL and ACL, and he wants to play in the regular season opener. Speaking about his speedy recovery, he said this to Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN Sportswire:
Despite what everyone else had to say, that was my vision.
I seen a vision. I knew it was going to be a journey, a path, to get closer to that vision, and I'm closer. I see it. It's closer now. It was far away in the beginning, but I've been working hard and just moving forward.
So, hopefully, here in a couple weeks -- here in a couple weeks, not hopefully -- that vision will be right there in front of me in my lap. So, I'm looking forward to it.
Maybe AP got a hold of the book or DVD of The Secret. Whatever it is, it seems to be working, and I wouldn't bet against him being ready for the season-opener.
Bills Player to Watch: Mario Williams
Williams is supposed to be a game-changer at DE. This is only a preseason game, but fans and coaches would love to see him wreak havoc in the backfield in the limited action he's sure to see.
Vikings Player to Watch: Christian Ponder
Ponder needs to have a strong preseason. He didn't exactly grab the confidence of his teammates through 2011, but I don't think he completely turned them off either.
Now is the time for him to seize the moment and prove to his teammates, coaches and fans that he is the offensive leader of the team.
Key Matchup: Matt Kalil vs. Mario Williams
Can Joe Webb push Christian Ponder for his starting spot?
The moments will likely be brief, but when rookie OT Matt Kalil is lined up opposite Mario Williams, I will be watching. It is a great test for the young bookend tackle the Vikings took with the fourth pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
If he handles himself well, his stock will certainly get a boost heading into the regular season.
On the Hot Seat: Ponder
I'm not sure Ponder's position as the starting QB is as safe as it may seem. I don't think he could lose his spot before the beginning of the regular season, but I do believe that a poor preseason can get the wheels churning on a QB controversy.
Joe Webb is a dynamic performer that looks better and more comfortable every time I see him. Poor preseason performances from Ponder will make Webb look even better.
I'll take the Bills in this one. Without Adrian Peterson the Vikings don't have much offense at the top of their depth chart, let alone once the lower end of the roster takes the field.
The Bills will win it 17-7.
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