Cam Newton is turning in one of the most impressive rookie seasons that we have seen in a long time. Though ideally we would like to see his interceptions down, you can't expect a rookie to be perfect while throwing almost 40 times a game.
On the other end is Christian Ponder, another 2011 first-round pick who started his first NFL game last weekend. Ponder was inserted in the lineup during an unfavorable matchup against the reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
Ponder didn't complete a high percentage of his passes but certainly looked like the spark the Vikings needed as he threw for two touchdowns.
This weekend's matchup features two teams that have combined for just three wins but also showcases two quarterbacks that will be the future of this league.
How do these two rookie quarterbacks compare for this Sunday's game?
For any quarterback, whether it is a rookie or veteran, it is crucial to have a running back that has the ability to keep a defense honest.
The Vikings have that.
Despite throwing over 30 times last game, Ponder was able to turn and hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson and Peterson dashed his way to over 170 yards on the ground.
Carolina ranks 29th in rush defense.
This bodes well for Ponder and expect the coaching staff to give Peterson at least 25 carries and force Carolina to stack the box.
On the other end, Carolina will be going up against a very good Minnesota rush defense. DeAngelo Williams has been up-and-down this season and Jonathan Stewart does not see many carries.
If the running game goes dormant, does Cam Newton have the ability to beat the Vikings with his legs and arm?
Cam Newton is most dangerous in the red zone due to his ability to use his arm or legs.
He becomes most vital near the goal line as his 240-plus-pound frame is almost impossible to stop.
In contrast, Christian Ponder is not a running threat and will see a mix of zone defenses if he is forced to pass.
The Packers showed plenty of that last Sunday, and it forced Ponder to throw two interceptions, a number that could have been higher with the way Charles Woodson was jumping routes.
The Vikings have no doubt struggled this season and cannot afford to kick field goals in the red zone on the road.
The Vikings have been criticized for not getting the ball to play makers like Percy Harvin this season. The Panthers have not been criticized in that department as Cam Newton has helped the reemergence of Steve Smith.
The rookie quarterbacks will need help from their receivers.
Percy Harvin is a dynamic playmaker and the coaching staff will need to dial up some simple pass plays for Harvin and let him use his legs to gain yards.
Without Chris Cook, the Vikings secondary is thin and the duo of Newton and Smith can certainly take advantage of the below-average Asher Allen on deep routes.
Though Ponder has started just one game in his NFL career, he threw two interceptions and had an abundance of throws that could have easily been picked off.
Cam Newton, also a rookie, has started seven games and is near the top in the NFL in interceptions.
If this game comes down to the quarterbacks, rest assured the quarterback with the least amount of turnovers will have this game won for his team.
Christian Ponder needs to be able to do a better job at looking off receivers and Cam Newton needs to refrain from throwing the ball up for grabs.
In a battle of two first-round, rookie quarterbacks, Cam Newton will come out victorious.
The Vikings have not had to face a dual-threat quarterback and Newton will be able to shred the Vikings in the red zone with his legs.
Couple that with the loss of Chris Cook due to an arrest and Steve Smith will have a field day taking advantage of a struggling Cedric Griffin and a backup in Asher Allen.
The Panthers will stack the box and force Ponder to beat the Panthers with his arm, something I do not think he is capable of doing in just his second NFL start.
Panthers come out on top, 28-14.