If I were to grade Christian Ponder’s overall performance in a Vikings uniform, I would give him a C-minus. He has had moments of greatness, such as the San Francisco game, and moments of putridity, such as the Packer game in Lambeau a few weeks ago. Clearly, the putridity has outweighed the greatness, but Ponder can boost his grade significantly with a strong performance in the most important game of his career.
What would constitute a strong performance for Ponder? I would say at least 200 yards passing, one TD, and no interceptions, along with two or three key scrambles for first downs. These aren’t Brady, Brees, or Rodgers numbers, they are basic minimums that any QB that belongs in the NFL should be able to muster. And Sunday’s game will be Ponder’s chance to show that he really does belong.
The team does not ask much of him. Adrian Peterson is carrying the offensive load; the defense is getting turnovers and giving them a chance to win; and the special teams continue to be outstanding. In reality, Ponder just needs to not suck, and anything over that is a bonus.
Luckily for Ponder, Charles Woodson will not being playing in the game. While the Packers do have other defensive backs that can take the ball away, Woodson is a wily veteran, and would almost assuredly get at least one pick. Ponder needs to take advantage of this situation and find Rudolph, Simpson, and Wright when they are open. He has to.
The offensive line has been pass protecting much better the last few weeks and you could see that reflected in Ponder last week as he stayed in the pocket more and planted his feet on many of his throws, leading to more completions to guys wearing purple jerseys. With no crowd noise to worry about, Ponder has every opportunity to settle in this week and be confident and comfortable when looking to pass. There is no excuse for playing poorly in a home game this important.
So, Ponder has a chance, in my mind anyway, to raise his grade to a B-minus just by playing a solid game and helping the Vikes into an improbable playoff birth. But if Ponder folds like origami in this must win game, his grade will drop to an F, and then the Vikings will have no choice but to bring in another QB next season. This would be a huge waste of draft picks and/or cash that the Vikings could use to bolster other parts of their rapidly improving roster.
Cheat if you have to Christian, we need you to pass this test.