As the Vikings head into Sunday's game against the Saints, here are four questions we're trying to answer.

1. What makes Saints tight end Jimmy Graham so darn good?

For this question, it's best to turn the floor over to Graham's quarterback. After all, this isn't the first time Drew Brees has developed strong chemistry with a raw tight end who spent his college days as a basketball player. While in San Diego in 2004 and 2005, Brees helped Antonio Gates jell into a major game-changer and sees similarities between Gates and Graham.

"There are some obvious innate kind of basketball skills [they have]," Brees said. "Body control. The ability to go up and catch the ball over your head. Certain things that basketball players have a great feel for, Jimmy has that feel just like Gates did."

Thanks to Graham's physical tools, Brees sees a bright future.

"Physically, he's just a raw talent," Brees added. "He's 6-6, [265] pounds. He can run like a deer. He can jump. He can catch. He's competitive. He's tough. All the things you want in a tight end, he's got."

2. What should we make of Adrian Peterson's three-game absence and likely return Sunday?

First things first: Peterson is officially listed as probable on the Vikings injury report and will play against the Saints. That seems like welcome news for Christian Ponder, who has shouldered heightened pressure with Peterson out. But it's hard to come to many definitive conclusions about Ponder's production with Peterson in the lineup as opposed to on the sideline.

Since Peterson went down in the first quarter of Week 11, here are Ponder's numbers over his past 14 quarters: .592 completion percentage, 862 yards, 7.2 yards per attempt, eight touchdowns, eight interceptions, two lost fumbles. Before Peterson's injury, Ponder played 14 quarters, completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 775 yards with a 6.6-yards-per-attempt average plus three touchdowns, three interceptions and zero fumbles. Draw your own conclusions from there.

On the Peterson front, for those who worry about his long-term shelf life, perhaps this ankle sprain was a blessing in disguise, sidelining the star back for almost four games of a meaningless season and subsequently taking mileage off his odometer.

With three games remaining, Peterson has 186 carries in 2011. His career low is 238 carries as a rookie in 2007. And he might not assume a full workload Sunday.

Said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier: "He's missed some time. So we'll have to kind of work him in there. It won't be as if he hadn't missed a game. We'll have to monitor how he's doing."

3. What are Jared Allen's chances of reaching the NFL's single-season sack record?

Five sacks away. Three games left. Allen knows he's creeping up on Michael Strahan's impressive 22 1/2-sack mark, but that's not his sole focus.

"I know I'm close," Allen said. "And I don't know if I'll ever be this close again. That's a heck of a benchmark to get to. So I'm just going to go out there and do what I've been doing."

It'd be foolish to expect an explosive afternoon Sunday. Brees has been sacked only 23 times this season.

But the Vikings' final two games come against the Redskins and Bears, who rank 23rd and 25th respectively in sacks allowed. Translation: Rex Grossman and Caleb Hanie should be on alert. Also keep in mind Allen is 3 1/2 sacks away from tying Chris Doleman's 22-year-old team record.

4. Did the Vikings ever get a response from the NFL on the missed facemask penalty that occurred on the final play in Detroit?


"They sent us a reply," Frazier said. "They told us it was a facemask. It was a facemask. They verified it was a facemask."

So, yeah, Vikings fans. To be clear, it was indeed a facemask.

Some consolation, huh?

"They send us information," Frazier said. "And you read it and then you move on to whatever's next. That's what we've had to do. We had to move on to the New Orleans Saints. ... You can't undo the Detroit game."