VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.

Posts about Packers

VikesCentric: Vikings looking for a rare victory outdoors

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: January 3, 2013 - 5:35 PM

The Vikings are scheduled to break ground on their fancy new stadium sometime in 2013 – a stadium that will likely have a retractable roof of some kind. That obviously means some of the games at the new joint will be played outdoors.

 
Suggestion: the Vikings might want to work on their "outdoor game" between now and the projected opening of the new digs in 2016 because, well, their record outside of domed stadiums hasn't been so hot the last several seasons. Another suggestion: this might be a good week to begin whatever it is they have to do in order to find a winning formula outdoors.
 
The Vikings are 5-15 in their last 20 outdoor road games. Throw in the snowy game played at TCF Bank Stadium on Dec. 20, 2010 against the Bears and they are 5-16 in their last 21 outdoor games. Of those games, 10 were played with a game-time temp of less than 50 degrees. The Vikings won only three of these "cold" games: once against the Eagles (Joe Webb's finest moment) in December of 2010 and twice against the Redskins (in 2011 and 2010).
 
Oh sure, the Vikings will probably close the roof at the new stadium if the weather gets inclement or the temperature falls below, say, 50 degrees. That's what retractable roofs are for. However, they won't be able to close the roof at Lambeau on Saturday night.
 
Here's where those of us who are old enough to remember might start waxing nostalgic about the glory days at the old Met when opposing teams used to dread coming to play here in the cold. Bud Grant banned space heaters on the sidelines. The players didn't wear gloves… heck, some didn't even bother with long sleeves. Many teams were psychologically defeated the minute they stepped off the plane.
 
Have the Vikings gone soft?
 
I wouldn't ever go that far. These are tough guys capable of enduring all kinds of pain, punishment and uncomfortable conditions. NFL players are, by and large, anything but soft.
 
However, there is something to be said for not being used to playing on grass or overcoming cold, wind and precipitation. The Vikings played 11 indoor games this season. If you don't play outside very often, it's hard to get quickly acclimated to things like bad footing and wind once the conditions get a little sketchy.
 
Yes, the Packers will be playing in the cold on Saturday night as well. The game time temperature is projected to be in the 20's. The Packers players are, for the most part, more used to those kinds of conditions, but it's not like it's always 20 degrees and snowy on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field. We all know it can actually be pretty nice in terms of football weather in this part of the world through much of October, oftentimes longer. Bottom line: the cold and wind will affect both teams.
 
The numbers don't lie, though. The Vikings' record is abysmal outdoors. Moreover, they have won just once in their last six visits to Green Bay.
 
Leslie Frazier apparently has the troops practicing this week with the doors open and the air conditioning cranked at the Winter Park practice facility to replicate some of the cold conditions they'll be dealing with on Saturday. That's great, but it's going to take more than that to overcome the malaise the Vikes generally find themselves in when braving the elements.
 
As if it's not enough they have to contend with the game's best quarterback and play in a hostile environment against a team that rarely loses at home, the Vikes have to overcome this losing trend in games played outdoors. And make no mistake: 5-16 is a strong trend. Vikings fans better hope Frazier devises a game plan for winning outdoors in the cold between now and Saturday night.
 
Who knows? He just might. Not many people thought the Vikings would win their last four games of the season, but they found a way. If the Vikings have proven anything this season, it's "expect the unexpected."
 
 
Bo Mitchell is the VP of Content at SportsData
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Playoffs?!? You kidding me? Playoffs?

Posted by: Updated: December 30, 2012 - 9:22 PM

Four weeks ago, the Vikings hit a low point in their season. The December 2 loss in Green Bay left the Vikings at 6-6, and with four losses over their previous five games, it appeared as though an improbable run from 3-13 to the playoffs was over - just another crushed dream for the Minnesota sports scene.

But a funny thing happened while fans were punching Christian Ponder's ticket out of town, calling for the entire coaching staff to be fired, and wondering what wide receiver the Vikings might target with their top-15 pick... the Purple won their final four games and earned the NFC's sixth seed. Amazing.

How refreshingly wonderful does this feel? Over the last four weeks, the Vikings stepped up, defied odds, exceeded expectations, and ripped off wins over the Bears, Rams, Texans, and Packers. Even the most grumbly, curmudgeonly, passive-aggressive Vikings fan should be all smiles right now.

Sunday's win over the Packers was one of the sweetest victories in my recent memory, especially since I'm one of the many Minnesota sports fans often consuming by the pessimistic belief that our teams are somehow doomed to fail and slap us in the face. Every Aaron Rodgers counter-punch - and there were many in the second half; #12 was brilliant - threatened to end the Vikings' season, but MVP* Adrian Peterson, the much-maligned Ponder, and the entire team took the punishment, got off the canvas, and ultimately delivered the victory.

(*There should be zero doubt across the country that AD is the 2012 MVP. I have nothing against Peyton Manning, but he joined a team that won a playoff game last season thanks to an excellent defense and a strong running game. I can name 5-10 quarterbacks who might have led the 2012 Broncos to the playoffs. Replace Peterson with any other running back in the NFL and the Vikings aren't in the postseason.)

In the biggest game of his young career, Ponder may have secured his space atop the 2013 depth chart. We've all been pining for him to perform exactly like he did on Sunday - work off of Peterson's lead, keep the chains moving, protect the ball, and occasionally step up and make a big play or three. I'm still in shock that the Vikings completed four passes of 20-plus yards in one game, including the 65-yard strike to Jarius Wright**. Through 15 games, the Vikings owned a mere 24 completions of 20-plus yards, by far the worst in the NFL.

(**As an aside, this impressive four-game win streak and push to the playoffs has come without Percy Harvin, the team's MVP during the first half of this season. It will be interesting to see how this plays into what should be an interesting offseason when Percy could receive a contract extension, be traded, or begrudgingly play out his contract.) 

Ponder has deserved every bit of criticism he has received for his poor on-field play this season, and he also deserves praise for improving in recent weeks and for the win over the Packers. No matter what happens in the playoffs, Ponder's recent play should be a confidence boost as he heads into a critical offseason and a make-or-break 2013 campaign.

The Vikings will be heavy underdogs when they head into Lambeau this coming weekend, and frankly, a victory would simply be extra frosting on what currently feels like a pretty sweet and fulfilling season. Then again, the Purple are peaking at the right time with four straight wins and coulda, shoulda won in Green Bay on December 2. Anything can happen in the postseason; just ask the 2005 Steelers or the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings.

But let's start worrying about the playoff game later this week. Take a moment to bask in the fleeting glow of a Minnesota sports team rising to the occasion and delivering a winning performance (and four weeks of winning performances) beyond our expectations.

VikesCentric: Great moments in Vikings-Packers history

Posted by: Updated: December 28, 2012 - 1:41 AM

And so it comes down to this: If the Vikings beat the Packers on Sunday, they're in the playoffs one year after a disastrous 3-13 season. If they lose, they'll need Chicago, Dallas and the Giants all to lose as well, or else this season becomes yet another disappointing footnote in Vikings history – a surprising six-game improvement over last year, but ultimately, a disappointment. 

That Sunday's opponents are the hated rivals from one state to the east just adds to the drama sure to be on display at the Hubert H. Mall of Humphrey America Field. Not that the Vikings-Packers rivalry has been short on theatrics in recent years. Let's take a spin down memory lane and relive some great Metrodome moments in Vikings-Packers history. 

2011 – Christian Ponder makes his first start and puts a scare into the undefeated Packers by hitting Michael Jenkins with a 72-yard bomb on the first play from scrimmage. The Packers recover to win 33-27. Donovan McNabb orders take-out from Nye's on the way home. 

2010 – The curtain falls on the Brad Childress Era with a 31-3 defeat that wasn't as close as the final score indicated. Brett Favre conducts a memorable postgame interview with himself: "Did I do everything I could to win? Yes. Will I be glad to see Brad Childress go? Maybe. Will I text Jenn Sterger after the game? No comment. I can't believe I'd ask me that question at such a sensitive time. Am I trying to create a schism? It's possible ..." 

2009 – Favre exacts revenge on the Packers franchise for not having already erected a statue of him having fun out there like a big kid outside Lambeau Field. The Vikings win 30-23 on Monday Night Football. Crowd noise threatens to tear roof off Metrodome one year before Mother Nature finishes the job. 

2005 – Paul Edinger kicks a franchise-record 56-yard field goal at the gun to help the Vikings overcome a 17-0 deficit in a 23-20 victory. Somewhere in Florida, a 15-year-old Blair Walsh is just loosening up his leg.

2004 – Favre turns E.J. Henderson in circles on a game-tying touchdown pass to Donald Driver, and Ryan Longwell sends his future fans home with the worst Christmas present ever, a game-ending 29-yard field goal as the Packers win 34-31. Later that night, Santa Claus detects a haze of alcohol fumes over the metro area and bypasses the Twin Cities altogether.

1997 – The Vikings have a chance to tie the Packers for first place on a Monday night in December, but Brad Johnson wakes up with a numb right arm and Randall Cunningham can't lead the Purple back in a 27-11 loss. "Somehow," Cunningham thinks, "I will find a way to avenge this loss next year."

1995 – Vikings 27, Packers 24. Jeff Brady. T.J. Rubley. If you need more details than that, you're not really a Vikings fan, are you?

1993 – Vikings 15, Packers 13. Jim McMahon. Eric Guliford. Again, if you need more details …

1991 – Jerry Burns' tumultuous tenure as the foul-mouthed captain of the Vikings ship comes to an inglorious end with a 27-7 defeat in the season finale. And it's still not Bob Schnelker's fault.

1987 – The Packers win the first game featuring replacement players as some guy pulled out of the stands at halftime leads Green Bay to a 23-16 victory. The crowd consisted solely of the players' family members and coworkers from down at the factory, and a handful of Twins fans camping out for ALCS tickets.

1986 – Tommy Kramer throws a franchise-record six TD passes in a 42-7 win. Packers fans secretly wish they had a quarterback who could hold his booze that well.

Another chapter will be written in this storied rivalry on Sunday. Buckle up.

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

 

VikesCentric: Vikings Pro Bowl hits and misses

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: December 26, 2012 - 8:57 PM

The NFL Pro Bowl has become a joke of a game. Many of the players who participate in it don't care enough to break a sweat – witness last year's 100-point debacle. Many others concoct flimsy injury excuses in order to decline the invitation to the NFL's annual All-Star game. The NFL is the most dominant sports brand in the world, but it has the worst showcase for its stars. It has gotten so bad that commissioner Roger Goodell actually admitted last spring that doing away with the game was an option.

 
Expunging the Pro Bowl still remains a possibility, but it lives for at least another year -- and with it the annual debate over who made it, didn't make it and who should have made it blazes anew.
 
For a game everyone loathes, it sure stirs up a blizzard of controversy each year. Why? Because as much as the game itself doesn't matter one iota, the honor of being elected to the Pro Bowl still does. It's still supposed to reward those who are among the elite at what they do.
 
Pro Bowl recognition is a convenient and powerful short-hand for gauging a player's career. Adrian Peterson is now a five-time Pro-Bowl player. Those are among the words that will be etched on his plaque when he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame someday… only it will likely be anywhere from seven-to-nine Pro Bowls by then. The point is: in terms of how history values a player's career for the ages, Pro Bowl honors really do matter.
 
That Peterson was among the four Minnesota Vikings invited to play in this year's Pro Bowl was hardly surprising. He's been a lock for the game for a couple months now and currently would have my vote (if I had one) for NFL Most Valuable Player.
 
The Vikings other three Pro Bowlers this year are defensive end Jared Allen, fullback Jerome Felton, and rookie kicker Blair Walsh.
 
Felton's inclusion was a pleasant and well-deserved surprise. Fullbacks that actually produce some offensive stats generally get the nod, but the NFC doesn't really have any Mike Alstott types that catch a lot of passes or score a half-dozen touchdowns. Felton is being rewarded for blasting open holes for the game's best running back. That's precisely what he has been asked to do this season, and he has done so with aplomb. This will be Felton's first Pro Bowl.
 
Like Peterson, Allen will be going to his fifth Pro Bowl. Unlike Peterson, Allen might not deserve to be going to Honolulu this winter. Let's be honest, he made it on reputation more than merit for once. He's probably earned this mulligan, though. There's no denying Allen's credentials over his career. He has been the most prolific quarterback sack artist in the NFL since he entered the league. He's also very solid against the run and usually finds a way to make a handful of interceptions, defensive touchdowns or safeties each season. He was robbed of the Defensive Player of the Year award last year when he racked up 22.0 sacks, falling 0.5 sacks shy of the single-season record. I'm guessing Allen himself might admit that he didn't envision falling off to "only" 10.0 sacks this season.
 
Don't get me wrong, Jared has still had a good season -- a better one than you might think considering the injuries he's been playing through. Based purely on statistical merit, however, the Panthers Charles Johnson or Falcons John Abraham would have been more worthy selections this season. That being said, Allen will probably notch 3.0 sacks and a forced fumble on Sunday against the Packers, making his statistical differences with Johnson, Abraham and others look negligible.
 
That brings us to Walsh, who absolutely deserves to be making the trip to Hawaii as a rookie after the season he's had. Earlier today I was all set to rip the process, assuming Walsh would be omitted, but thankfully I get to save the rant for a different Viking who was robbed (more on that in a moment). Walsh is currently tied for second in the NFL with 32 field goals. His 91.4 field goal percentage ranks fifth among all kickers (second in the NFC) with at least 20 attempts this season. He set an NFL record last week with his ninth field goal from at least 50 yards out this season (missing none). Oh, and he also ranks fourth in the NFL in touchbacks with 49.
 
Compelling arguments for Matt Kalil, Chad Greenway and Antoine Winfield could be made.
 
Kalil stepped in and played very well as a rookie starter from Week 1, but he plays at a position loaded with blue-chip talent so it may take a year or two for him to get his turn as a Pro Bowler.
 
Greenway currently ranks second in the NFL in tackles (145) and was named as a replacement to the Pro Bowl team last year, but I can't say he deserved the Pro Bowl more than those linebackers who made it ahead of him from the NFC: namely DeMarcus Ware, Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Clay Matthews. Heck, Panthers rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly has more tackles, passes defensed, interceptions and fumble recoveries than Greenway does, and he didn't make it.
 
Over at ProFootballFocus.com, where they do highly-regarded NFL scouting and grading work on every single play from scrimmage, they have Winfield ranked as the NFL's No. 1 cornerback this season. However, much of that ranking is predicated on his 14.6 mark against the run. Only two other corners have more than a 7.0 grade against the run. That's dominance. Winfield is the league's premier tackling cornerback which is nothing new. But without the splash plays like interceptions, touchdowns or suffocating coverage skills, you usually don't make the Pro Bowl as a cornerback.
 
Winfield, Greenway or even Kalil could eventually be named as replacement Pro Bowl players when others pull out for injuries or Super Bowl obligations.
 
However, the one Vikings player who was completely jobbed is center John Sullivan. Most scouts will tell you he's been one of the two or three best centers in the NFL this season. The aforementioned ProFootballFocus has Sullivan ranked No. 1 among all centers. Max Unger of the Seattle Seahawks will start for the NFC at center in the Pro Bowl. He's a deserving Pro Bowler. No argument there. The backup for the NFC, however, is Green Bay Packers center Jeff Saturday. Not only is he a backup for the NFC, he's a backup for his own team. Yes, you read that right: Sullivan – the center with the best grade in the NFL per PFF.com was beaten out for the Pro Bowl by Saturday, who was benched by head coach Mike McCarthy last week. And it's not like the Packers have an embarrassment of riches on their offensive line. Their line has been severely thinned by injuries all season. Ironically, the Packers' best lineman is guard Josh Sitton, and he was snubbed by the Pro Bowl process as well.
 
There you go, Vikings fans -- just another reason to detest your rivals from the East in advance of Sunday's big showdown at Mall of America Field, right? But to take your venom out on Saturday or the Packers for the Sullivan snub would be misguided. He probably wouldn't have voted for himself either – and you know coach McCarthy wouldn't have.
 
Alas, the Pro Bowl voting process will never be perfect. Congrats to the four Vikings who made it and here's hoping Sullivan – one of the biggest Vikings Pro Bowl snubs in my memory – gets the nod as a replacement between now and Jan. 27 when they suit up for this sham of a game in Hawaii.
 
 
Bo Mitchell is the VP of Content at SportsData
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Adrian already in rarified air

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: December 11, 2012 - 6:45 PM

With three games to go, Adrian Peterson currently has the 50th-highest single-season rushing total in NFL history, and he continues to climb the list with every run.

 
Peterson has already admitted he's thinking about the record of 2,105 yards set by Eric Dickerson of the 1984 Los Angeles Rams. All he needs is 169 yards per game over the final three games to break Dickerson's record – which, when you consider the fact he's averaged 165 over the last five games, seems remarkably within reach.
 
His offensive line, which is also focused on making some history via Peterson, seems eager to do anything it can to help him get there. Listening to center John Sullivan on KFAN Tuesday morning, you'd think they might be more pumped up about getting the record than Peterson.
 
Of course, as they have been doing all season, Peterson and his line will be attempting to make a little history over the next three games against eight and nine-man defensive fronts. That's not going to change regardless of how Christian Ponder performs. The loss of Percy Harvin made the Vikings offense even more one-dimensional than it already was – making Peterson's exploits all the more astounding. In addition, the fact he's doing all this less than a year after having his knee surgically reconstructed is nothing short of unprecedented.
 
Teams know Peterson is going to run. They watch film of his runs and then scheme to stop them, paying comically-little attention to the Vikes' passing game. And yet, all Adrian does is pile up one 100-yard game after another.
 
The superlatives have run out.
 
In an effort to gain some perspective on just how incredible Peterson's run at 2,000 yards has been given the complete and utter lack of a passing threat, I turned to the statistical record and drummed up some pretty compelling data.
 
Below is a list of the 28 seasons in which a player has rushed for 1,700 yards. Yes, I know Peterson is only at 1,600, but I think we can all agree he'll get at least 100 more this year. Besides, I didn't want a list of 50. I have included each player's average yards per carry and, as a means of measuring the help he gets from his team's passing attack, the average yards per pass attempt of each player's team.
 
Keep in mind that Peterson is currently averaging 6.0 yards per carry and Ponder is currently averaging 6.0 yards per pass attempt.
 
Player
Rushing yards
Year
Team
YPC
Team's Passing YPA
Eric Dickerson
2,105
1984
Los Angeles Rams
5.6
6.7
Jamal Lewis
2,066
2003
Baltimore Ravens
5.3
6.1
Barry Sanders
2,053
1997
Detroit Lions
6.1
6.7
Terrell Davis
2,008
1998
Denver Broncos
5.1
7.8
Chris Johnson
2,006
2009
Tennessee Titans
5.6
6.5
O.J. Simpson
2,003
1973
Buffalo Bills
6.0
5.8
Earl Campbell
1,934
1980
Houston Oilers
5.2
7.1
Ahman Green
1,883
2003
Green Bay Packers
5.3
7.1
Barry Sanders
1,883
1994
Detroit Lions
5.7
6.7
Shaun Alexander
1,880
2005
Seattle Seahawks
5.1
7.7
Jim Brown
1,863
1963
Cleveland Browns
6.4
7.6
Tiki Barber
1,860
2005
New York Giants
5.2
6.7
Ricky Williams
1,853
2002
Miami Dolphins
4.8
6.7
Walter Payton
1,852
1977
Chicago Bears
5.5
6.8
Jamal Anderson
1,846
1998
Atlanta Falcons
4.5
8.8
Eric Dickerson
1,821
1986
Los Angeles Rams
4.5
5.9
O.J. Simpson
1,817
1975
Buffalo Bills
5.5
7.5
LaDainian Tomlinson
1,815
2006
San Diego Chargers
5.2
7.3
Eric Dickerson
1,808
1983
Los Angeles Rams
4.6
7.0
Larry Johnson
1,789
2006
Kansas City Chiefs
4.3
7.2
Emmitt Smith
1,773
1995
Dallas Cowboys
4.7
7.6
Adrian Peterson
1,760
2008
Minnesota Vikings
4.8
7.1
Marcus Allen
1,759
1985
Los Angeles Raiders
4.6
6.9
Larry Johnson
1,750
2005
Kansas City Chiefs
5.2
7.9
Terrell Davis
1,750
1997
Denver Broncos
4.7
7.2
Gerald Riggs
1,719
1985
Atlanta Falcons
4.3
6.5
Emmitt Smith
1,713
1992
Dallas Cowboys
4.6
7.3
Edgerrin James
1,709
2000
Indianapolis Colts
4.4
7.7
 
As you can see from the table above, Peterson is already honing in on pretty exclusive company.
 
·         Only three players have ever rushed for 1,700 yards while averaging 6.0 yards per carry.
·         Only three players have ever rushed for 1,700 yards while their team averaged less than 6.5 yards per pass attempt.
·         Most incredibly, only one player (O.J. Simpson in 1973) has ever rushed for 1,700 yards while averaging as many or more yards per carry as his team averaged per pass attempt.
 
In other words, Simpson's 1973 Bills also had no pass threat for opposing defenses to consider.
 
The numbers don't lie. Regardless of whether he breaks the record or even gets to 2,000 yards, if those yards per attempt averages hold up over the course of the next three games, Peterson's season should be regarded as one of the most impressive ever by a running back.
 
 
Bo Mitchell is the VP of Content at SportsData
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Pondering options at QB

Posted by: Updated: December 7, 2012 - 12:20 AM

I'll admit, I've been slow to hop on the anti-Christian Ponder bandwagon. Not that I've loved what I've seen from him on the field, but I just think it's unreasonable to expect the Vikings to already give up on their No. 1 draft pick from 2011. True, the timetable for young quarterbacks has accelerated and expectations are higher, thanks to the rookie-year success of Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Heck, even the rare flashes of competence that Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill have shown this year are a step up from most of Ponder's performances. 

My main argument for supporting Ponder is that you'll never know what he's capable of until he's throwing to a full slate of NFL-caliber receivers. I even took to Twitter after the Bears debacle two weeks ago – when Jerome Simpson put on a pass-dropping clinic, and Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton were quick studies – and said dumping Ponder now would be akin to the Twins firing pitching coach Rick Anderson because he couldn't turn Esmerling Vasquez and Luis Perdomo into Cy Young winners. 

Then the Vikings went to Green Bay. Ponder absolutely gave away a winnable game with two horrendous decisions/throws, and did nothing on the plus side to overcome those errors. He was truly, spectacularly horrible, and the fact that the coaching staff didn't replace him with Joe Webb should tell you all you need to know about Webb's stock within the organization. Had the Vikings won that game, they'd be tied with the Packers at 7-5, one game behind the Bears in the NFC North, and their unlikely playoff bid wouldn't be on life support. 

When Leslie Frazier took over full-time in 2011, it looked like he had a major rebuilding project on his hands. Instead, Adrian Peterson has recovered from injury and remains in his prime as an elite tailback. The defense is still getting decent run out of veterans like Jared Allen, Chad Greenway and Antoine Winfield, and they went a long way toward shoring up weaknesses on the offensive line and in the secondary in last year's draft. 

But with Ponder flailing about in the backfield, giving away games that could be won by simply "managing" rather than putting the team on his back, the Vikings are wasting Peterson's prime. They're wasting the continued efforts of their defense and recent draftees. And they're wasting a golden opportunity to challenge the Bears and Packers, who aren't as invincible as the Vikings feared. 

Thus, presuming Ponder doesn't suddenly morph into the second coming of John Unitas the next four weeks, I've come around to the idea that the Vikings should at least consider their options at quarterback for 2013. The decision won't be made in a vacuum – it's not, "Should Ponder be the starting quarterback next year?" but rather, "Is Ponder the best of the Vikings' options at quarterback next year?" 

So let's take a look at their options. They way I see it, the Vikings could go one of three ways. They could maintain status quo and give Ponder no competition for the starting spot; they could go 180 degrees the other way and bring in a veteran to supplant Ponder from Day 1, or they could split the difference and bring in a second-tier veteran to push Ponder and at least give Frazier a backup he felt confident in calling on when Ponder puts up a stinker like he did last Sunday. (We're not going to bother considering drafting another rookie starter, because the attendant learning curve would likely keep the offense in wheel-spinning mode as Peterson, et al, get another year older.) 

So, let's take a spin around the NFL and see who the Vikings might be considering as they weigh their options for 2013 

Alex Smith – His $7.5 million salary is guaranteed on April 1, 2013, meaning he'll get the axe as long as Colin Kaepernick doesn't completely fall apart during the final few weeks of the season. Jim Harbaugh traded up to draft Kaepernick in the 2011 draft, and he'll give the former Nevada star every chance to prove his worth and make him (Harbaugh) look like a genius. 

Kevin Kolb – He's due $9 million in 2013, with a $2 million roster bonus. Even though rookie Ryan Lindley isn't tearing it up, it's possible that between Lindley and John Skelton, the Cardinals will be happy to let Kolb go and choose from the two much, much cheaper options. Also, Kolb has pretty much stunk when he's played, so … he's got that going for him. 

Matt Flynn – His contract was worth $10 million guaranteed, and $19.5 million over three years. The Seahawks might just hang onto him for that investment, although if they decide that Wilson is their present and future, it's possible Flynn will be on the market. How fun would that be? First Favre, then Flynn? Packers fans would be apoplectic. 

Chase Daniel – The Saints' backup will be a unrestricted free agent. It's hard to say what he's capable of doing in the NFL, because Drew Brees doesn't take a play off. But he might be worth a sniff as a quarterback to challenge Ponder. 

Michael Vick – There's no way the Eagles pay him the $15.5 million he's owed in 2013, and they'll probably have a new head coach anyway, somebody who will want to make his mark on the Eagles roster. Thus, Vick will be a free agent. But does he have anything left? Will he be a fit in Bill Musgrave's offense? Will Musgrave even be the Vikings' offensive coordinator? So many questions … 

Matt Leinart – He'll be an unrestricted free agent, and he's making just $700,000 with the Raiders in 2012. Oakland has hitched its wagon to Carson Palmer, so Leinart would likely jump at the chance to challenge for the job. But isn't he just a left-handed Christian Ponder? 

Matt Cassel – He's due $16.5 million over the next two years, and it's likely the Chiefs have seen enough from him. But isn't he just a right-handed Matt Leinart? 

Chad Henne – The Jaguars are in a similar position as the Vikings. Do they stick with their 2011 first-round draft choice, who's been underwhelming thus far? In this case, Blaine Gabbert might have more rope to work with because the Jags aren't close to contending. They're more likely to let Henne walk, thus dodging his $2.6 million salary for 2013, and rolling the dice on Gabbert. 

Matt Hasselbeck – He'll be 38 next September and he sure looked like he was done when the Vikings schooled him in October. But Jake Locker is the future in Tennessee, and with $5.5 million due Hasselbeck in 2013, it's possible the Titans will gamble on Locker with Rusty Smith as the backup, meaning the former Seahawks Pro Bowler could be available as a veteran mentor and possible challenger to Ponder. 

Ryan Mallet – He was in the same draft class as Ponder, but slipped to the third round due to rumors of drug use. He's apparently kept his nose clean thus far in New England, but he's signed to a team-friendly contact and there's no way Bill Belichick trades his insurance policy for Tom Brady for anything less than a price the Vikings should not be willing to pay. 

Matt Moore – The Dolphins are obviously smitten with Tannehill, meaning they could save $2.5 million by letting Moore walk after this season. He showed promise at the end of the 2009 season, when he went 4-1 down the stretch for Carolina, including a three-TD, no-interception performance against the Vikings. But he went 6-7 as a starter for Miami in 2011 and would be little more than competition for Ponder if the Vikings were to bring him aboard. 

There are a handful of potential free agents not even worth discussing – Derek Anderson, Jimmy Clausen, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Colt McCoy, Tarvaris Jackson, Tyler Thigpen – and at least one other – Joe Flacco – who won't be hitting the market. 

So, looking at our list, there's probably only one guy out there (Smith) who would become the starter the moment he sets foot in the locker room at Winter Park, a couple of guys (Flynn, Daniel) with intriguing potential, a couple players (Kolb, Cassel) who had their chance as starters and failed spectacularly, some possibly washed-up has-beens (Vick, Hasselbeck) and never-weres (Leinart, Henne, Moore). 

Are any of them better options than starting next year with Christian Ponder as the only quarterback option on the roster? That's up to Rick Spielman and – perhaps – Frazier and Musgrave to decide. 

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData and a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook. He's covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

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