Why Christian Ponder Must Improve If Vikings Want to Reach the Postseason

Thomas GaliciaFeatured Columnist IVOctober 26, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 25: Christian Ponder #7 of the Minnesota Vikings is sacked by Daniel Te'o-Nesheim #50 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter of the game on October 25, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Christian Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings are in great shape to make a playoff run despite their 36-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night.

Ponder already has weapons around him that many quarterbacks wish they could have. Could you imagine Tom Brady or Peyton Manning having a running back like Adrian Peterson (with Toby Gerhart backing him up) and a wide receiver like Percy Harvin that can create big plays whenever he touches the ball?

Minnesota has weapons on both sides of the ball, which is why it stands at 5-3. Things look bright with Christian Ponder at the helm of the offense, but he's only a second-year quarterback with plenty of things to work on before he can be considered elite—and before the Vikings can be considered a true playoff team.

The Vikings cannot survive on having Adrian Peterson carry the ball 20-plus times per game. While he has been unbelievable this season in returning from injury, his knee is still something to be monitored, and every carry only leads to more wear and tear—especially on the hard turf inside the Metrodome.

While Harvin has been great as well, the Vikings need him to get out into space more than he does. Currently, Ponder is only averaging 6.6 yards per pass, as Minnesota's passing game relies more on short and efficient passes. While that has been working for the Vikings all season long, it doesn't do much to spread out the offense and give space for Peterson to run.

Ponder's numbers have been decent, but he has had problems taking care of the ball. To go along with his 65 percent completion rate, 1,743 yards and 10 touchdowns, Ponder also has seven interceptions and three fumbles.

For the Vikings to succeed, Ponder has to improve on his ball security. He also has to do a better job of avoiding sacks, as he's been taken down 19 times.

Minnesota has a tough schedule ahead, with Seattle and Detroit, followed by a Bears-Packers-Bears sandwich that follows its bye week. Seattle and Chicago both claim tough defenses that are great at stopping the run, while Green Bay has been able to hold its own on defense in recent weeks and will likely force Minnesota to beat it in a shootout (a very difficult proposition for even the best offenses in the NFL).

Ponder will have much more pressure on him to perform. Defenses will stack the box to counter Peterson, while secondaries will key in on Percy Harvin. It will be up to Ponder to find other targets on the Vikings offense if this team is to continue to thrive like it has in the first eight games of the season.