VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData and Patrick Donnelly, who has written on a variety of Minnesota sports topics. Mitchell and Donnelly are Twin Cities-based Vikings and NFL experts who crunch numbers, watch video and tell you what's on their minds.

VikesCentric: Ponder paranoia reaches all-time high

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly under Quarterbacks, Vikings, Vikings coaches, Leslie Frazier, Vikings fans, Vikings management, Vikings offense, Vikings players, Leslie Frazier, Vikings quarterbacks Updated: November 20, 2013 - 8:51 PM

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. If that’s true, then the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from this season is that the Vikings’ brain trust are insane.

Leslie Frazier’s announcement on Wednesday that Christian Ponder will be the Vikings’ starting quarterback this Sunday in Green Bay set of a storm of outrage in talk radio and social media circles. And rightly so. After Ponder threw away last week’s game in Seattle – turning a 24-13 game into a 38-13 blowout in the span of four passes – many fans and media members chose to look at the bright side.

“At least we’ve finally seen the last of Ponder,” they said. “No way they can throw him back out there after that performance.”

But certain cynical observers suspected otherwise.

It’s not that we had any inside information. It’s just that we’ve been following the Vikings all our lives and have learned to expect the worst – or most bizarre – outcome in any situation. And Ponder continuing to start at quarterback certainly qualifies as a bad and bizarre outcome.

The Vikings’ season began with one critical goal: find out if Ponder is your franchise quarterback. The answer has been clear for a few weeks now – a resounding no. Ponder is what he is – a guy who can do a few things and look OK in stretches, but with too many shortcomings for an NFL quarterback. He doesn’t see the field well, can’t sense pressure in the pocket, doesn’t use his quickness to keep plays alive behind the line of scrimmage, and he throws way too many interceptions.

Oh, and he doesn’t have a very strong or accurate arm. Otherwise, he’s a gem.

The problem is, the Vikings are compounding their error by the way they’re handling this situation. Not that we expect Frazier to verbally decapitate Ponder on the podium. But you get the sense that he doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.

After all, Christian gives them the best chance to win. And his errors are all easily correctible.

Right?

Frazier and Co. act like Vikings fans can’t see this, like the people buying tickets are blind, like the people they hope will line up to buy PSLs at the new downtown football palace are complete, blithering idiots.

But anybody with two eyes – heck, probably even just one – can see that Ponder is not an NFL quarterback. They’ve got two other guys on their roster who have been full-season starters on other NFL teams, and yet they keep running Ponder out there. No wonder the natives are getting restless.

The fact that the Vikings consider Ponder preferable to Josh Freeman or even Matt Cassel could say something terrifying about those two. Or perhaps they don’t value Ponder over those two, they just value a higher draft pick next year and think Ponder will help get them there with fourth quarters like the one he played Sunday.

The thing is, whichever way you slice it, Frazier is flat-out lying every time he opens his mouth to talk about his quarterbacks. If Ponder truly does give them the best chance to win, then it’s a bald-faced lie to say that Freeman has “exceeded expectations” in his time here. There’s no way they paid him $2 million to come here and sit on the bench into December. If that’s exceeding expectations, the Vikings need to set the bar a little higher.

As for Cassel, the fairest read is now that their playoff hopes are officially toast, there’s no reason to start Cassel, who at this point in his career is a backup with no hopes of being anybody’s quarterback of the future. A more cynical (and perhaps accurate) read is that they realize Cassel is the quarterback most likely to give them a professional effort and thus put their 2014 draft position in peril.

So for the time being, Ponder will continue to play the role of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddie Krueger and other great horror movie villains. Just when Vikings fans thought he was gone for good …

They’d just better hope there’s no talk of another sequel.

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

VikesCentric: It's never as bad as it looks

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly under Vikings, Vikings coaches, Vikings defense, Vikings management, Vikings offense, Vikings players, Vikings quarterbacks Updated: November 8, 2013 - 12:52 AM

Of course, the converse of that headline also is true – it's never as good as it looks.

The 2012-13 Vikings are a case study of this theorem.

As I'm sure you all remember, last year the Vikings went 10-6 and reached the NFC playoffs as the No. 6 seed. It was an out-of-nowhere season after they went 3-13 in Leslie Frazier's first year as head coach.

But lost in the giddiness of the surprise postseason berth and Adrian Peterson's super-human comeback season was the fact that the 2012 Vikings massively overachieved. In 16 games, they scored just 31 more points than they allowed. They gave up 215 more yards than they gained. Based on statistics, they probably should have been – at best – a .500 team.

So how did they become a playoff team? Well, football is a game of emotions and momentum – within each game, and from game-to-game. If you win a few that maybe you shouldn’t, suddenly you’ve got confidence, whether you earned those wins or they were based on blind luck. If you win a few games early, you start to believe you’re good, and that confidence can carry over to the next time you’re up against it with the game on the line.

It’s also the nature of the hyper-intense schedule inherent in football. In baseball, if you blow one play that costs you a game, that’s 1/162 of the season. In basketball or hockey, it’s about 1/80 of the season. But if you blow one play that costs you a game in the NFL, that’s 1/16 of the season. Everything is magnified – for better or for worse.

Let’s travel back to 2012. The Vikings started the season by winning a game they probably had no business winning. Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert hit Cecil Shorts with a 39-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left and the Purple trailed 23-20. But Christian Ponder hit Devin Aromashodu (remember him?) with a 26-yard bullet and flipped a 6-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph to set up Blair Walsh for a 55-yard game-tying field goal as time ran out. The Vikings won in overtime, and suddenly they had confidence they could win tight games – which they did with regularity the rest of the year. In fact, they went 5-1 in games decided by one score last year.

Push ahead 12 months. The Vikings opened the season in Detroit, entered the fourth quarter down by a field goal and lost by 10. They followed that with a loss at Chicago, giving up the winning touchdown on the Bears’ final drive. A week later they repeated that pattern against Cleveland, and before you knew it, they were 0-3 and the season was circling the bowl. Even with Thursday night’s win over Washington, the Vikings are 2-3 in games decided by one score. When the game hits crunch time, this year they haven’t gotten (or made their own) breaks.

That’s not to say there aren’t personnel problems on the 2013 Vikings. Or coaching problems. There certainly are. But the personnel and coaches aren’t much different from last year. I’d argue that if they’d found a way to win two or three of those first three games, it would have snowballed into a positive trend as the players gained confidence. Maybe that midseason lull doesn’t happen. Maybe they don’t feel the need to grab Josh Freeman and throw the whole quarterback situation into flux. Maybe Frazier still has a modicum of job security.

Yeah, that’s a lot of maybes. And yeah, it’s always annoying when a fan of a 2-7 team says, “We’re just four our five plays away from maybe being 7-2!”

But last year, the Vikings were four or five plays away from going 5-11. Instead, they finished 10-6. The ball bounced their way last year, masking their flaws. This year, their flaws have been exposed.

But next year? With a new coach, a new quarterback (sorry, even Thursday night’s mostly stellar performance doesn’t have me buying stock in Ponder) and a fresh slate, don’t be shocked if this roller coaster ride resumes in a positive direction.

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

VikesCentric: Time to tank, but for whom?

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: October 29, 2013 - 9:09 AM

I realize NFL teams would never purposely tank for improved draft position – at least not overtly. However, as far as the Vikings are concerned it would behoove them to stop winning in order to assure themselves the highest draft pick possible.

In an article by Jeff Goodman in the current ESPN The Magazine, an anonymous NBA general manager told him: "Our team isn't good enough to win and we know it. So this season we want to develop and evaluate our young players; let them learn from their mistakes -- and get us in position to grab a great player. The best way for us to do that is to lose a lot of games. This draft is loaded. There are potential All-Stars at the top, maybe even franchise changers. Sometimes my job is to understand the value of losing."

Why is it pretty much acceptable for NBA teams to tank while it's taboo for NFL teams to do so?

Of course, given how they've been playing and the daunting schedule that lies ahead, the Vikings should stay the course. Just keep doing what they're doing and the losses will come.

Exactly two years ago to the day in this little VikesCentric corner of the Interweb I proclaimed the Vikings' season a lost cause and began a modest "Reel for Kalil" movement. As they are now, the Vikes were 1-6 at that time and ranked high in the projected draft order. At that point they appeared out of the "Suck for (Andrew) Luck" sweepstakes, with several really bad teams also in contention. Therefore, I suggested the Purple ought to be targeting a cornerstone left tackle such as Matt Kalil in the NFL Draft.

The proverbial crystal ball was working well that day.

Assuming the Vikings go winless or close to it the rest of the way, they're going to be picking at or near the top of the draft. In order to get the No. 1 overall pick, they'll need some help. To that end, Vikings fans imploring them to tank should simultaneously be rooting for the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7) to win one or two games at some point.

If the season ended today, the Vikings would be picking third behind the Jaguars and Buccaneers. At the third spot they would be in position to draft a blue chip quarterback, which should absolutely be their focus. The possibility exists that none of the three quarterbacks currently on the Vikings' roster will be on their roster again next season. The likelihood exists that only one of them will be. It's no secret: quarterback is the biggest of their many needs.

Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and Marcus Mariota of Oregon are the two top-ranked quarterbacks as of right now by notable Draftniks Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN. Both should be in the Vikings' crosshairs. Both Kiper and McShay (and many others) rank freakish defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina just ahead of Bridgewater and Mariota on their overall board. They could very well be the top-three players selected (in some order). It should be pointed out, however, that both the Jaguars and Buccaneers will also likely be in the market for a quarterback.

Fortunately for those seeking a quarterback in next year's draft, it appears to be a very deep class if certain underclassmen declare their eligibility. Brett Hundley of UCLA could also go among the top-10 picks. And then there's this kid going to school at Texas A&M you might have heard of: Johnny Manziel. The jury is still out on where Johnny Football might land on Draft Day. He began the season as possibly a Day 2 pick, but is now looking more like top of the second round or even a first round selection. There's no consensus on the most polarizing player in college sports.

Which of these guys should the Vikings target?

The "Tank for Teddy" bandwagon is filling fast, but the word on the street is that the Vikings are eyeballing Mariota. Unfortunately, I don't have a clever rhyme or alliteration for the Mariota campaign. I'd love to hear some suggestions.

Looking six months ahead, the possible scenarios are numerous. What if the Buccaneers and Jaguars lose out and grab Bridgewater and Mariota with the first two picks? There would almost certainly be a team willing to trade up with the Vikings for the chance to take Clowney… again, assuming the Draft order remains the same as it is today. Should the Vikings attempt to trade up and assure themselves of getting Mariota or Bridgewater? Should they trade down a few spots, let someone else take Clowney, and grab Hundley for themselves?

Or how about this zany scenario: stay at No. 3 and take Clowney and then trade back up into the the first round to take Manziel. Taking the two highest-profile players in the upcoming draft would create a huge buzz and an onslaught of media attention. It would certainly sell tickets.

It could also hasten the Vikings' rebuilding process.

Listen, the Vikings need help at positions other than quarterback. The defense has holes all over the place and could lose some linemen in free agency. By all accounts Clowney is a game-changing end capable of electrifying a defense. Why not grab him and then take Johnny Football? It would definitely be a gamble. Bridgewater, Mariota and Hundley all feel like safer picks and the Vikings simply can't afford any more misfires in finding a quarterback. They have to get it right this time.

Manziel is an absolute wildcard. There are many (probably many reading this) who believe he has little shot of succeeding in the NFL. There are even more who detest his off-the-field partying and other assorted shenanigans.

I get that I'm on the unpopular side of this, but I think Manziel has a shot – a good shot -- of becoming a quality NFL quarterback. To those who say he's too small, I'd point out he's listed as 6-1, 210. Yes, that probably means he's closer to 6-0, 205. Drew Brees is generously listed at 6-0, 209. Russell Wilson is 5-11, 206. Small is a problem if you don't have tremendous talent. Brees and Wilson do. So does Manziel.

I'm a Manziel believer. His ability to extend plays with his legs is unmatched. His ability to lead and single-handedly will an offense into the end zone is uncanny. His arm is bigger and more accurate than you think. He makes the smart play more often than you think. He's not just a gunslinger and he doesn't lock in on primary receivers.

We might as well kick-start the discussion now, Vikings fans. Who do you want to see your team take in the NFL Draft? Bridgewater? Mariota? Hundley? Is anyone willing to join me on my wacky, improbable Clowney and Manziel bandwagon? Any other options you'd rather see?

Or should they just tank in 2014 as well and take FSU's Jameis Winston in 2015? He's already being called "the next Andrew Luck."

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: It's time for some changes

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: October 14, 2013 - 9:44 AM

In the immediate aftermath of Sunday's dismal performance against the Carolina Panthers many bewildered Vikings players called the game downright embarrassing. Vikings beat writers, columnists, sportscasters and radio commentators used words like pathetic and abysmal.

Seeking to inject a bit of cleverness and levity to the conversation I implored my followers on Twitter (many of whom are Vikings fans) to help me think of a term that goes beyond train wreck or dumpster fire to describe the state of the team. As I should have expected, many of the responses were unfit for print here.

The bottom line, as many have pointed out in the hours since the Vikings fell to 1-4, it's time for some changes. Coaches get fired after games like that. Starters get benched. Players get waived. There's plenty of blame to go around. Said changes are being discussed at length elsewhere at StarTribune.com as well as on sports talk shows and around water coolers this morning.

But that's not the only changes I'm talking about.

In the span of six weeks Vikings fans have gone from apoplectic to apathetic. That should be of real concern to the suits at Winter Park.

It's one thing when your rabid fan base is "merely" angry. At least those fans are still engaged. However, many who call themselves diehard Vikings fans turned the corner yesterday -- and are now headed down the road to just not caring any more.

One of the many things the Vikings pride themselves on is selling out their lame duck stadium. They haven't had a game blacked out since December of 1997. The Metrodump has been full and fans have been able to watch the game on TV every week ever since Randy Moss came to town.

That streak is in serious jeopardy. The Vikings no longer deem a sellout to be 90 percent at Mall of America Field to avoid a blackout. A sellout is now defined as just that: all the tickets have to be sold. Luckily (sort of) for the Vikings, their next home game is against the Packers. The house will be full on Oct. 27, although half the seats will be filled with green and gold-wearing Green Bay fans. After that, things might get dicey. I don't have the latest ticket sales numbers, but I have to believe the final four home games (against the Redskins, Bears, Eagles and Lions) might not all be sellouts.

But that might not matter. You see, the Vikings have been appointment television in the Twin Cities forever. It's just what you do on Sundays in the fall and early winter: you watch the Vikings game. The television ratings for Vikings games back that up. Whether the rest of the Vikings' home games are on TV might not matter as much, however; and that's the real issue.

Vikings fans – long-time Vikings fans – are starting to make other plans for Sundays. Fans calling the post-game radio rant shows on KFAN and ESPN 1500 talked about turning off the game and doing something else with their time in the second half. Folks on Facebook and Twitter told stories of doing yard work or going to the apple orchard with the family rather than watch the Vikings get blown out.

It's time for some changes all right. It's time for a lot of Minnesotans to change their Sunday routines even when the Vikings game is on. It's happening. It's not just the frustration talking. It's not an idle threat that will vanish in seven days when the Vikes are back on TV. It's actually happening with some fans. It's a small percentage now, but what if they keep losing like they did on Sunday and show no signs of improvement? What if they go on Monday Night football next week and get smoked before a national audience by the winless, hapless Giants? What then?

Time to clean the garage on Sunday, that's what.

The growing unrest and lethargy of the fan base has to be a concern to the Wilfs. I can't imagine the state of the Vikings will help with the sales of the already controversial personal seat licenses for the new state of the art palace that's opening in 2016.

Granted, the Vikings have had bad seasons before and not totally lost the interest of their fans. They'll come back. They always do. Once the product on the field is no longer, in their players' own words, an embarrassment, watching the Vikings will be a Sunday destination. But for right now and the near future it probably won't be.

Minnesota sports fans are just sick and tired of losing. Chances are if you're a fan of the Twins, Timberwolves or Wild, you're also a Vikings fan. There's a lot of overlap in that demographic. That's a lot of losing and a lot of frustration. The Twins felt the effects in ticket sales this past season despite their beautiful venue. And now it looks like the Vikings – the crown jewel of Minnesota's professional sports teams – are going to start feeling the fan interest wane.

And with that, I'd like to encourage you all to go downtown today and watch the Minnesota Lynx parade through the streets of Minneapolis with their WNBA championship trophy. At least Minnesota sports fans have one team that's definitely figured out the winning formula.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: The Josh Freeman Era

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly under Vikings, Vikings coaches, Leslie Frazier, Vikings fans, Vikings management, Vikings offense, Vikings players, Leslie Frazier, Vikings quarterbacks, Vikings roster moves, Vikings draft, Vikings trade talk Updated: October 7, 2013 - 2:36 PM

And thus began the Josh Freeman Era. Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier cut open a vein on Monday, telling the assembled media that he's through making excuses for Christian Ponder, that Josh Freeman is the team's quarterback of the future, he's been given Ponder's locker and playbook and henceforth Ponder will be referred to as "He Who Must Not Be Named."

Oh, wait. None of that happened.

What Frazier actually said on Monday afternoon was that Ponder is "still our starter if he's healthy," that he "still has a bright future here with our football team" and that "it's hard to say" how Ponder's injured ribs are healing.

This non-committal song-and-dance routine was expected, because this is, after all, the National FOOTBALL League, and in the National FOOTBALL League you don't tip your hand or give away company secrets until you absolutely have to. Sure, most Vikings fans would love to turn on the 6 o'clock news tonight and see video of Frazier helping Ponder pack up his locker and Bill Musgrave waving good-bye as Ponder's SUV pulls out of the parking lot at Winter Park.

But that's not going to happen, because the Vikings (for good reason, usually) don't care what the fans want to see. The organization still considers Ponder an asset. You can question the validity of that assessment, but they're going to try to get whatever they can for Ponder, either now or later. Given that his current trade value might net them a bag of used kicking tees, don't look for a trade any time soon.

Frazier left himself some wiggle room when discussing Ponder's future with the team – that whole "if he's healthy" caveat creates a hole big enough to drive the Maddencruiser through, especially in the secretive world of the National FOOTBALL League. Don't be surprised to learn on Wednesday that Ponder's mysterious rib injury has been deemed life-threatening and ol' No. 7 will be spending the rest of the year on Injured Reserve.

In the meantime, look for Matt Cassel to start on Sunday against Carolina, and maybe even the next week at the Giants if he plays well against the Panthers. But the Josh Freeman Era is going to start sooner than later. They're not spending a couple million to look at Freeman in shorts and shells. He'll get a good, long look in the second half of the season to show what he can do with the best running back in the league, a solid offensive line (that is capable of playing much better than it has) and a head coach who isn't a raving, spittle-flecked lunatic.

So how's it going to play out? Let's take a look at a few potential outcomes:

Scenario A: Freeman plays well the rest of the season, leads the Vikings to the playoffs, signs a long-term contract to be the new franchise quarterback, Ponder is traded to Jacksonville for a seventh-round draft pick (a slight upgrade from the bag of kicking tees, but not much), the heavens rejoice, etc.

Scenario B: Freeman stinks it up, Vikings turn back to Cassel (or even Ponder, if he's not put on the IR) to run out the string, team uses its top-10 first-round pick on best quarterback available, Cassel stays on to start season until said rookie is ready to take over.

Scenario C: Freeman is so-so, leads Vikings to six or seven wins, bolts to the highest bidder next spring, Vikings stuck with best QB available around pick No. 16 and here we go again …

Personally, I could see any one of these scenarios playing out in the next three months. One thing you learn quickly as a Vikings fan is that nothing is surprising. What's your forecast? We'll take your predictions in the comments below.

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

VikesCentric: QB drama jumps up a notch

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: September 25, 2013 - 11:31 AM

Just when you thought the Vikings' quarterback drama couldn't possibly escalate any more, Wednesday rolls around and suddenly Christian Ponder has a rib injury. Wow. You really can't make this up -- though many reading this believe the Vikings are doing just that.

Let me be clear: I do not doubt Ponder has sore ribs. Given the pounding he took against the Browns on Sunday thanks in part to a third-straight substandard performance by what was supposed to be a very good offensive line, he probably hurts everywhere.

But my goodness, talk about fanning the flames of what was already a combustible situation in the eyes of pretty much all Vikings fans!

Let's quickly recap.

The Vikings fall to 0-3 on Sunday as the Metrodome is filled with boos and chants from angry fans calling for backup quarterback Matt Cassel.

On Monday Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, still looking a little stunned by what transpired Sunday, says he's not making any changes to the lineup just for the sake of making changes… and that includes the quarterback situation. Enraged Vikings fans grumble and call for everyone in the organization (except probably Adrian Peterson) to be fired.

On Tuesday, the NFL (and the Vikings' quarterback situation in particular) suddenly morphed into the WWE: "Is that Favre's music?!?!"

Twitter and Facebook nearly melted down after agent Bus Cook said his client Brett Favre was in the best shape of his life and could still play in the NFL, "better than a lot of them out there today."

Talk about throwing sharks into the middle of a tornado.

Delirious Vikings fans frantically started calling for the Wilf private jet to go fetch the Hattiesburg Gunslinger with "blacksmith's arms and 7.5 percent body fat."

And then, as if the mere notion of Favre hopping on a jet to London wasn't enough, the early news out of Vikings camp on Wednesday is that Ponder is injured.

Right on cue, conspiracy theorists jump all over the report. "It's propaganda! It's all a cover! The Vikings are using this as an excuse to bench Ponder! Frazier is being pressured to make the switch and needed a cover story!"

Feeding into the conspiracy theory, my esteemed VikesCentric colleague Patrick Donnelly noted a "Caddyshack" analogy to me via email. Cassel is Danny Noonan to Ponder's Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield): "Oh my arm! It's broken!"

Yes, the timing is, at a minimum, quite suspicious. Then again, teams are not required to release any information on injuries until Wednesday if they play on Sunday. Nonetheless, I'm not sipping the conspiracy Kool Aid. Call me gullible, but I don't doubt Ponder is hurt. The timing is unfortunate, but timing has never been the Vikings' forte now has it?

But wait! That's not all! Now it's my turn to stir the pot.

Just as the Vikings were announcing Ponder's rib injury, news broke over on this side of the pond that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are benching their starting quarterback Josh Freeman this Sunday and replacing him with rookie Mike Glennon.

Got that, Vikings fans?

The Buccaneers – who like the Vikings are 0-3 and have a bye next week – are making the bold decision to bench their starting quarterback. Freeman, like Ponder, is a former first-round pick and is off to a bad start. In fact, Freeman's quarterback rating of 59.3 ranks last (33rd) in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks. Ponder by the way is 30th at 65.9.

However, Freeman has a little more on his NFL resume than Ponder. Witness his 2010 season in which he threw for 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions, or his 2012 campaign in which he had 4,065 yards passing and 27 touchdowns. And yet they are benching him for a rookie who has never taken an NFL snap.

Say what you want about Cassel, but at least he has NFL experience… some of it pretty good even. Might I also point out – again just to stir things up – that those who fear Cassel might get bludgeoned behind the Vikings' leaky offensive line given his lack of mobility compared to Ponder, that the Steelers rank dead last in the NFL in sacks with just three.

There, I feel like I've done my little part now to feed into the quarterback drama even though I'm actually buying what the Vikings are selling regarding Ponder's ribs. I also think Ponder will start on Sunday in spite of whatever limitations he has in practice this week. Quarterbacks have thrown on flak jackets and played with injured ribs before. The first one that comes to mind is Tony Romo, who fractured a rib and punctured a lung in 2011 and didn't miss a game.

Where it goes from here, who knows? What if Cassel starts or comes on in relief of Ponder on Sunday and the Vikings win? The calls for Cassel to start the rest of the way will be deafening among those Vikings fans not already on the "Tank for Teddy (Bridgewater)" bandwagon.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

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