When the Minnesota Vikings host the Green Bay Packers, rookie quarterback Christian Ponder will take the field leading the 1-5 Vikings in his first NFL start. Ponder couldn't be facing a bigger challenge as he makes his debut against the league's last standing unbeaten.
After starting the season 1-4 and getting blown out by the Chicago Bears, the Vikings decided to make the change late in the game.
Ponder provided a small spark for the otherwise dead Vikings completing nine of his 17 passes for 99 yards. After having limited success against the Bears, Ponder now gets to play the NFL's best team.
The Packers will look to get through the Vikings and go into their bye week with a perfect 7-0 record. As heavy road favorites, it is already looking like an incredibly tall task for the Vikings, but the move at quarterback could spark the desperate team.
The timing of the move isn't favorable for the Vikings as they will be outmatched in most matchups Sunday. It will help that the game is at home, but the Packers will have had all week to prepare for Ponder and dial up blitz and pressures in order to exploit weaknesses.
It would be wise for the Vikings to come out of the gates pounding the football with Adrian Peterson. In order to be successful, they will need to keep the Packers offense off the field by picking up first downs.
Starting the game off quickly will be important for the Packers in order to take Adrian Peterson out of the game and force the ball into the hands of Ponder. With each early score the Packers can put on the board, the pressure will rise on the young quarterback.
Defensively, the Packers will likely look to confuse Ponder with different blitz and coverages. Against the Rams, there was virtually no pressure created by the Packers' defensive line. In order to fully confuse Ponder and force turnovers, there needs to be more constant pressure from the likes of B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Jarius Wynn.
Getting healthier each week, Tramon Williams leads the secondary against a wide receiver group that was no help to McNabb during the first six games of the season. This should limit the impact of Packers' cornerback Sam Shields possibly missing the game with a concussion suffered after his fourth quarter interception against the Rams.
Against the Bears, the Vikings offensive line was thoroughly beaten up and exploited giving up plenty of quarterback pressures and sacks. Ponder showed good mobility, so the Packers must maintain their rushing lanes or could give up yardage on the ground.
The Packers defense has been extremely opportunistic creating a league-leading 14 takeaways. With Ponder at quarterback, the possibility for turnovers will be there and the Packers defense must take advantage to make the rookie uncomfortable.
Ponder is in for quite the challenge facing a defense that is tied for the seventh in the league for total points allowed. While the Packers haven't given up very many points, they certainly have allowed teams to pick up chunks of yards. It wouldn't be surprising to see Ponder put up some heavy yardage totals, but lack the finishing skills that will be needed to provide the massive upset.
The biggest concern for Ponder is the Vikings defense. With how they have played so far this season, they may not give the rookie a chance to even compete. If Rodgers can tear apart the struggling secondary early, Ponder will be in for a lengthy day trying to play catch-up against the division's big dog.
With how outmatched the Vikings appear to be heading into this game, Ponder's success shouldn't be measured in whether the team wins or losses. He faces an almost impossible task, but how he responds to facing this type of adversity will show whether or not the Vikings have something in Ponder going forward.