Thanks to PJD for Purple Jesus Diaries, Bloguin's Vikings blog, for helping us to preview this week's game up in Minnesota. In addition to answering questions for us, he also sent me questions I answered for him, which you can read here. Without further ado, the Q&A:
Total Titans: Christian Ponder: who is he, and what are his strengths and weaknesses? He's the only NFL starter not to throw an interception this year. Is he being smart with the football, just getting lucky, or not taking any risks?
Purple Jesus Diaries: Mostly lucky, which is odd because you figure that would be reserved for ANDREW Luck! *drum roll* I'll stop. Honestly, Vikings fans are still trying to figure out exactly what Ponder is. He's not quite a "game manager" as many would want to label him. Truthfully, he's made some professional looking passes and has led this team back to tie or take the lead twice this year in the final seconds of a half or fourth quarter. He hasn't shown that he can throw the greatest deep ball, but that's also been reflective of our weak receiving core. I'd say Ponder has shown enough potential to all of us that we think he could be our franchise quarterback long term, but we'd like to see this stellar play last the entire year to really buy into it.
Total Titans: Adrian Peterson is coming back from an ACL injury. How he has looked, and does the Vikings offense still revolve around him or has the focus shifted elsewhere?
Purple Jesus Diaries: No, it still absolutely revolves around him still. When he had his knee all blasted up last year, I thought we'd never see the old Peterson return to our team. Technically, we haven't. He still hasn't shown that break away speed he's known for and bursting through a gap for a 75 yard touchdown. But he's almost better in a way, this early in the year. He's shown a bit of patience, and no ill effects after a game so far. Still, he's not 100% yet, but he's close and only getting better.
Total Titans: The Vikings last year had a terrible pass defense, one of the worst in football. This year, it seems a lot better. Has it really improved as much as it seems, and what's changed?
Purple Jesus Diaries: I don't think it's improved as much as the stats are saying they have. They've been lucky several times, benefiting from dropped passes, over thrown balls, etc. They've definitely had their break downs in coverage, but the other teams haven't been able to take advantage of them. This is expected though, as our defensive backfield has grown really young. Notre Dame rookie, Harrison Smith, has stepped in as a starter at safety without any issues, really, and there's a couple of young cornerbacks who have seen immediate time, too. They've helped, but they've also had improved pass rush (even with Jared Allen starting slow this season), a little better linebacker play, and quick starts that put the other team on the offensive, allowing the defense to take more chances. It's exciting to see, because, ya ... Wow ... We've been terrible ever since Pat Williams left.
Total Titans: Preseason, the Vikings seemed like a clear fourth-best team in the NFC North. After four weeks, they're technically in first place. What are your expectations for the Vikings the rest of this year?
Purple Jesus Diaries: I'm still not buying into this winning Vikings team. I don't know why. Minnesotans have a defeatist sports attitude, which sucks, because we're often right about it. In comparison to the rest of our division though, I think the Packers are suffering more than they will let on, and the Lions are just crumbling. The Bears look legit though, and the Vikings have SOME kind of potential, I just don't know what kind. I think they are good for at least an 8-8 season now (I was thinking 6-10 to start?) but you never know. The Vikings are going to be in a lot of close games this year, so they can either squeak out some wins or the ball will bounce the other way. Should be interesting though.
Total Titans: Is there anything I haven't asked you you'd like Titans fans to know about the Vikings?
Purple Jesus Diaries: I would like to apologize for any of you traveling and coming to the game, because our stadium is like an NFL ghetto. It's kind of charming in that way, though. And believe it or not, it use to be even worse, only like four years ago, so just be happy you weren't visiting then.
I would also give you a grip of players on the Vikings to keep an eye on. Obviously, Percy Harvin has a big impact. He's also just real fun to watch, kind of like a young Randy Moss, but in a different way. Horizontal instead of vertical. I'd also watch for Jerome Simpson. He's the wide receiver who just came back from suspension for selling weed as a Bengal (surprise!) but saw game action last week in our win and is pretty much the only tool we have to stretch the field. Tight end Kyle Rudolph has turned into a hard match up and nice safety blanket for Ponder. Fortunately for you guys, I'm still unconvinced that our coaching staff knows how to game plan or make adjustments, so if your coaches have half a brain, you should be able to stay in this game.
Total Titans: Finally, if you'd like to make a score prediction, please go feel free, but I don't really care.
Purple Jesus Diaries: Yeah, like you, I feel goofy making game predictions. They are almost always wrong. I do have the sense that the Vikings are set up to win this game, though. If they take it seriously (which they should, they haven't been afforded the luxury of being good enough to take games off by ANY means), they should win something like 26-20. It'll be close, but that's what we expect from the 2012 Vikings.
Thanks to PJD for some great answers to our questions, and check out Purple Jesus Diaries for my answers to his questions and lots of other great Vikings content