Dec 11, 2011; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions players tackle Minnesota Vikings running back Toby Gerhart (center) during the first half at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE
The Minnesota Vikings, fresh off their upset victory over the San Francisco 49ers, are next up for the Detroit Lions. I had the chance to check in on the Vikings by exchanging questions with Dan Zinski, editor at The Viking Age. My thanks to Dan for giving us an inside look at the Vikes.
1. What differences do you see in Christian Ponder this year compared to last year? How much of the improvement is him versus scheme?
Dan Zinski: Definitely more decisiveness. He’s reading stuff and reacting to it much more quickly. He’s become a pretty good touch passer. And he’s making plays while rolling out instead of just rolling out in panic. Of course they’ve helped him out a lot with their scheming, the way they’ve used Percy Harvin, the play action passes, getting tight end Kyle Rudolph involved. They’ve taken pressure off him by not trying to force the ball downfield when they know they don’t have very good receivers. We’ll see if they open up the offense a little more with Jerome Simpson in there. Ponder doesn’t throw a great deep ball anyway so working the short passes is probably the way to go with him. It helps that he’s legitimately mobile.
2. Does Adrian Peterson not cracking the 100-yard mark in his first three games concern you or is it a bonus to have him on the field at all?
DZ: Not worried at all about Peterson’s numbers. He’ll break out one of these weeks, maybe even against Detroit. I’m more concerned about having a balanced offense. I don’t want to see them fall back into the pattern of leaning too heavily on Peterson. Not that he can’t still carry a big load but they need to put more of that load on the passing game, especially with Ponder now emerging as a legit QB. Harvin and Rudolph are genuine playmakers too and maybe Jerome Simpson is as well. It’s good to spread it around.
3. Has last week’s upset of the 49ers changed Vikings fans’ expectations for this season?
DZ: I think a lot of fans who were looking at this as a pure rebuilding season are starting to let themselves hope for bigger things. It’s not just beating a good team, it’s the way the QB played. I think everyone thought that if Ponder took a big leap they could be better than expected. A lot of us just didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves with him. But now that he’s shown this flash it feels safe to maybe think that the turn-around could come sooner than expected. Realistically though, this is probably still at best a 6-10 or 7-9 team. The defense has issues. And it’s still a very tough division where wins will be hard to come by. It’s possible some people are getting a little too carried away with enthusiasm.
4. With just one sack so far after 22 a year ago, what has been the difference in Jared Allen’s play?
DZ: He hasn’t seen J’Marcus Webb, Marshall Newhouse or Jeff Backus yet. To be serious, I’m not worried about Jared’s numbers. He’s been getting close and sooner or later he’ll get there. That’s the nature of sacks. They seem to come in bunches. He was never going to get 22 again anyway, that was just a freak season. He’ll end up with around 12 and people will say it was a bad year but they’ll be wrong.
5. What is your prediction for Sunday’s game?
DZ: My major concern is that the Lions will come out as fired up as the Vikings did against San Fran. I have to imagine that’s an angry bunch after the way they lost that last game. With the game being in Detroit, I have to go with the Lions. But it won’t be a blow-out. Vikes keep it close but lose 28-24.