23

October

Packers vs. Vikings: 5 Things to Watch

The Minnesota Vikings (1-5) will start rookie quarterback Christian Ponder Sunday when they take on the undefeated Green Bay Packers (6-0) at the Metrodome.

The basics 

When: 3:15 CDT; Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011.

Where: Mall of America Field at the Metrodome; Minneapolis, MN.

TV: FOX; Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman with the call, Pam Oliver on the sidelines.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee), Packers Radio Network, Westwood One, NFL Sunday Drive (Sirius Radio).

Series: Packers lead, 51-48-1 (Packers won the last regular season game, 31-3, in Minnesota on Nov. 21, 2010).

Five things to watch

1. A new era in Minnesota

The Vikings will be ushering in a new era at quarterback Sunday, as rookie Christian Ponder makes his first NFL start in place of veteran Donovan McNabb. Say what you want about Tarvaris Jackson, but Ponder represents the Vikings first attempt at developing a young quarterback since Daunte Culpepper in 2002. It’s been nothing but stop-gap options for Minnesota since Culpepper was traded to the Miami Dolphins before the 2006 season. At 6-2, 230 pounds, Ponder is a smart, athletic quarterback whom the Vikings liked enough to draft with the 12th overall pick last April. The majority of draft pundits said that the pick was a reach for Minnesota. But the Vikings absolutely needed to address the quarterback position and most of those same draft pundits called Ponder the most ready quarterback in the draft to play right away. While starting Ponder for the first time against the defending Super Bowl champions probably wasn’t how the Vikings envisioned their quarterback situation shaking out in 2011, McNabb simply didn’t play well enough to continue keeping Ponder on the bench. Starting Ponder is what the fans wanted. They got it. The Ponder era begins Sunday.

2. His toughest test

Packers second-year tackle Marshall Newhouse has taken on each and every challenge put in front of him this season, but he faces his toughest test of 2011 Sunday in Minnesota. Will he be up to the task?