NFC North: 2013 Week 1 QB Watch

QB Watch: Vikings' Christian Ponder

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
2:02
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Vikings' quarterback play:

Ponder
Ponder
Rewind: Christian Ponder went 18-for-28 in the Vikings' season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions, throwing three interceptions and botching a handoff with Adrian Peterson as the Vikings fell 34-24. Ponder threw for 236 yards and looked more willing to go downfield than he did at times last year, but his second interception in particular -- which came when Ponder was trying to get away from Ndamukong Suh in Lions territory late in the first half -- cost the Vikings a chance to take the game in a different direction. The Lions scored after the interception to pull within a point at halftime, and with Detroit slowing down Peterson, Ponder was unable to answer.

Fast-forward: When the Vikings travel to Chicago this weekend to face the Bears, Ponder will have to turn things around in a venue where he's had some of his worst moments in the pros. He left the last game of his rookie season with a hip injury in Chicago, and went 22-for-43 there last year, throwing for just 159 yards despite firing his second-most passes of the season. Ponder will have to hope his offensive line protects him more effectively than it did last week; he has struggled with the Bears' pressure in the past, and had a 0.2 QBR on the 11 dropbacks when he faced pressure against the Lions.

Looking for Jennings: Ponder targeted Greg Jennings on seven passes last week, but the receiver caught just three after Ponder missed him on a couple of occasions and passed up chances to throw to the Vikings' big offseason addition on several third downs. The Vikings signed Jennings to be a go-to receiver for Ponder, and the two spent plenty of time together in the offseason, but it remains to be seen whether Ponder can consistently hit him on some of the routes where Jennings did his best work in Green Bay -- back-shoulder throws, inside slants and seam routes. Jennings has talked about how Ponder needs to trust himself more and be willing to throw the ball into tight spaces, and many of those routes require Ponder to do just that. Otherwise, the Vikings might have to repurpose Jennings somewhat.

Prediction: While now would be a perfect time for Ponder to break out against the Bears, he's never had much success against them. Look for him to post a passer rating in the 70s as the Bears manage to pick off a pass or two.

QB Watch: Lions' Matthew Stafford

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Detroit Lions' quarterback play.

Stafford
Stafford
Rewind: Matthew Stafford was pretty sharp in his team’s opener against Minnesota, especially considering some of the concerns about his accuracy in the preseason. He completed 28 of 43 passes for 357 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Stafford also did a good job moving the ball to different receivers, targeting nine different Detroit players. Part of Stafford’s success can be attributed to the time he had. He was barely pressured against the Vikings, which gave him time to break down Minnesota’s defense.

Fast-forward: This could be an interesting matchup for Stafford. His top target, Calvin Johnson, will likely be covered by one of the top corners in the league, Patrick Peterson. Sunday's game also showed the difficulty of facing Detroit’s offense for most teams, because if you overplay Johnson, Stafford can check down to Reggie Bush. Arizona could be one of the few teams that won’t have to overplay Johnson because of Peterson, so they could play balanced. That will be something to watch, along with how much pressure Arizona’s front four gets. The Cardinals had no sacks on Sunday against St. Louis.

Screen watch: Before Sunday against Minnesota, Stafford had not thrown more than seven screen passes in a game in the past four seasons. He threw eight, completing six, against the Vikings. Much of that has to do with Bush, but if he is able to continue to use that, it’ll improve his accuracy and efficiency.

Prediction: Stafford struggled at Arizona last season, completing 48 percent of his passes (24 of 50) for only 246 yards. Those numbers should all improve this season with more options available. He’ll hit the 300-yard mark again and throw a couple of touchdowns.

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