GREEN BAY, Wis. It will take quite the performance for Minnesota Vikings rookie Christian Ponder to be the best quarterback on the field Sunday in his starting debut against Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers and the undefeated Green Bay Packers.
With the Vikings off to a 1-5 start and veteran Donovan McNabb leading the passing offense to the second-lowest yardage in the league, Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier announced this week that he is turning to the12th overall pick in the 2011 draft.
But there is no question who will start at quarterback for Green Bay.
Rodgers, who has thrown 17 touchdowns and three interceptions this season, has brought the Packers to within one win of the franchises all-time consecutive winning streak. A win Sunday would be 13 in a row, passing the Vince Lombardi-led teams of the 1961 and 1962 seasons.
While it took Ponder only six games before being named the starter in Minnesota, Rodgers sat and watched Brett Favre for the first three years of his career before taking the starting spot in Green Bay.
"There's a lot of feelings of really wanting to prove yourself as a first-round pick, said Rodgers, the 24th overall pick in 2005. You're excited about the opportunity in front of you, and hopefully you can play the way you want to play.
I think (Ponder) is excited. I would be excited.
It wont be Ponders first snaps of the season. He replaced McNabb to start the fourth quarter in Week 6 with the Vikings down 39-10 to the Chicago Bears.
Ponder completed 9 of 17 passes for 99 yards but did not lead Minnesota to any points.
When (Ponder) did get in to play in that limited time that he played, he did some good things that just made it clear to me that the game wasnt too big for him, Frazier said in a Wednesday teleconference. The speed of the game didnt scare him.
It will help Ponder with his transition having Adrian Peterson to hand the ball to. Peterson leads the NFL with seven rushing touchdowns.
Packers defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett both called Peterson the best running back in the league.
You ask anybody about this guy, his ability to cut and the violence which he runs with, no other back runs like that, Raji said. I wouldnt say You stop him, you stop the Vikings, but if you stop him, you get the Vikings in more favorable situations where they become kind of one-dimensional. If he gets going, it will be a long day for us.
In order for the Vikings to stay committed to the running game, theyll have to keep Green Bays offense from scoring early and often. The Packers lead the league in points per game at 32.8.
Theyre playing lights-out on offense, Frazier said of Green Bay. Aarons obviously doing a great job and theyre just a very efficient offense. Nobodys really come up with any answers for their offense along the way. Were going to do the best we can to slow them down.
Passing defense has been a problem for Minnesota this season, ranked 24th in passing yards allowed. With the efficiency in which Rodgers has been connecting with his talented group of receivers, completing an NFL-best 70.3 percent of his passes, the Vikings secondary could be in for a long afternoon in the Metrodome.
We're a team that enjoys a lot of speed at our skill positions, and when you have an environment that's controlled, and you have that kind of speed on the perimeter, you have an opportunity to make some big plays," Rodgers said.
The Packers offensive line will have to keep Rodgers on his feet, though, with Minnesotas pass-rushing specialist Jared Allen leading the league in sacks with 9.5. Green Bays veteran left tackle, Chad Clifton, is out for the game with knee and hamstring injuries. That means second-year linemen Marshall Newhouse will be tasked with keeping Allen out of the backfield.
This will be Marshall Newhouse's biggest challenge so far this year, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.