NFL Picks Week 8: Christian Ponder Will Get Win in First Start
The Minnesota Vikings looked like a different team offensively last week with Christian Ponder at the helm. Donovan McNabb looked on as the Vikings rallied around the rookie quarterback and nearly pulled off an upset against the divisional rival Green Bay Packers.
Ponder effectively navigated the offense to a 17-13 half-time lead against Aaron Rodgers and the undefeated Packers. The Vikings’ offensive line carved up Green Bay’s defense propelling Adrian Peterson for a huge day on the ground.
Can the Vikings capitalize on the strong effort last week and translate it into a victory against the 2-5 Carolina Panthers?
It all depends on Ponder and his ability to manage the game. The Vikings are going to run and run they will on the Carolina defense.
The real X-factor, though, is Ponder.
Ponder will lead the Vikings to victory over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
1st Start Behind Him
For Christian Ponder, the hardest road has past him.
Ponder was on the heat seat immediately after being drafted 12th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Since the departure of Brett Favre the Minnesota faithful have been clamoring for a competent quarterback.
Many fans seemed to think Christian Ponder was a wasted pick. A “reach” of little value at the 12th overall pick position.
Following the end of the lockout the Vikings, unsure of what they had in Ponder, traded for Donovan McNabb. Fans continued their doubts of Ponder.
For six weeks, Ponder sat waiting in the wings for 2012. However, inept performances, squandered leads and inconsistency from McNabb prompted the Vikings brass to make the switch to Ponder.
He wasn’t so bad in his first appearance either.
Now that the hype, pressure and nerves are gone from his first start, Ponder has the chance to excel heading into a Week 8 matchup against the less than impressive Carolina Panthers defense.
Hand the Ball to AP
Last week against Green Bay, Ponder proved one thing for sure. He can definitely hand the ball off from center to Adrian Peterson.
Against the Panthers inept rushing defense, that may be all that’s required of him.
Peterson torched the Green Bay Packer defense for 175 yards and one touchdown. The Panthers are allowing 133.4 rushing yards per game this season.
Look for Ponder to hand the ball off early and often on Sunday.
Arm strength was noted as being one of the biggest flaws in Christian Ponder’s skill-set by many pre-draft scouting reports.
However, the Green Bay Packers’ may disagree after Ponder’s performance last Sunday. Ponder was accurate in medium to long range passes and had a very strong throw behind those passes.
If the Vikings can open up the secondary with the running game, Ponder will be able to use play-action to advance the ball down field.
He proved last week that he has the arm to do it.
Poise in the Pocket
Ponder's poise and pocket presence is remarkable for a quarterback with only one game of NFL play under his belt.
He consistently stayed in the pocket with pressure surrounding him and delivered strikes downfield.
When the pressure became too much he felt it and scrambled to make a play.
Christian Ponder was known to be an effective scrambler coming out of college. He translated that part of his game effectively last week against the Packers.
By using the play-action pass to spring Ponder away from the blitz, Vikings’ offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave utilized one of Ponder’s most valuable skills.
The best part is Ponder threw accurately downfield while on the run.
Again, the play-action pass will depend on another strong effort by Adrian Peterson.
If Peterson runs wild, expect to see Ponder running and throwing all afternoon.