Rick Lubbers column: Is Frazier seeing something we aren't?

It's more than bewildering to hear Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier name Christian Ponder as his starting quarterback and declare that he gives the Vikings the best chance to win.

It's more than bewildering to hear Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier name Christian Ponder as his starting quarterback and declare that he gives the Vikings the best chance to win.


Ponder's 1-6 this year as a starter. What has Frazier seen that makes him believe Ponder will improve to 2-6 this weekend against the Packers?

Matt Cassel has two starts and the same number of wins.

And what about Josh Freeman, currently ensconced as a third-stringer? Did he forget how to throw a football?


It's ugly, but Vikings fans are used to QB quandaries. According to the fun folks at, only four teams have started more quarterbacks since the 1999 season -- Cleveland (20), Miami (18), Chicago (17) and Oakland (17). The Vikings have used 16 different starting QBs in that timeframe.

Let's review: Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper, Todd Bouman, Spergon Wynn, Gus Frerotte, Brad Johnson, Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, Brett Favre, Joe Webb, Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman.

Only five of those years saw one starter, and three of those were with Culpepper at the helm. Favre had one and Ponder was the lone starter for last season's 10-6 playoff team -- a season that now seems like it happened a decade ago.

Here are some other thoughts on this week's NFL slate:

Minnesota (2-8) at Green Bay (5-5)

Like the Vikings, the Packers have started three different QBs this season, albeit due to injuries and not incompetence. The Packers desperately need a victory to snap a two-game losing streak and keep pace with division leaders Detroit and Chicago while Aaron Rodgers heals. Packer QB backer Scott Tolzien wins this one.

Winner: Packers

New Orleans (8-2) at Atlanta (2-8)


Atlanta is the most disappointing NFC team of 2013. The once Super Bowl-contending Falcons now are only competing for the top pick of next year's draft.

Winner: Saints

Pittsburgh (4-6) at Cleveland (4-6)

The Steelers were ready for that fake field goal the Lions attempted last weekend. They'll also be ready for any tricks the prankish Browns decide to pull.

Winner: Steelers

Tampa Bay (2-8) at Detroit (6-4)

The suddenly resurgent Buccaneers won't be an easy out for the Lions. But as long as Detroit remembers to throw the ball to Calvin "Megatron" Johnson for more than one quarter (even if superstar defensive back Darrelle Revis is blanketing him) and doesn't foolishly attempt any fake field goals, the roar will be restored for at least another week.

Winner: Lions


San Diego (4-6) at Kansas City (9-1)

The Chiefs return home after their defeat in Denver last weekend, and they face another lackluster foe. Only one of Kansas City's nine victims has a winning percentage above .500. Philly is 6-5.

Winner: Chiefs

Chicago (6-4) at St. Louis (4-6)

It's a battle of backup QBs with the Bears' Josh McCown and Rams' Kellen Clemens. The Rams hope to show their 38-8 humbling of the Colts two weeks ago wasn't a fluke. Chicago's aging, hobbled and suspect defense may help them prove that.

Winner: Rams

Carolina (7-3) at Miami (5-5)

Winners of six straight games --which started with their dismantling of the Vikings on Oct. 13 --the Panthers are a legitimate NFC power after outlasting New England Monday night. With the exception of two games with the Saints, Carolina's remaining opponents (Miami, Tampa Bay, New York Jets and Atlanta) shouldn't stand in the way of an 11-win season.


Winner: Panthers

New York Jets (5-5) at Baltimore (4-6)

The Ravens are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the turnover-prone Jets.

Winner: Ravens

JAcksonville (1-9) at Houston (2-8)

Here's a game that has huge implications ... for next spring's NFL Draft. The Jags are No. 1 and Texans No. 3 in the current draft order.

Winner: Texans

Indianapolis (7-3) at Arizona (6-4)


The Colts have the league's strangest resume --wins over 49ers and Broncos, but losses to Rams, Dolphins and Chargers -- while the Cardinals have quietly snuck into the NFC Wild Card race. Expect the Colts to display the better part of their portfolio.

Winner: Colts

Tennessee (4-6) at Oakland (4-6)

It's appropriate that this dud is being played at a venue with a seating section dubbed "The Black Hole."

Winner: Raiders

Dallas (5-5) at New York (4-6)

It's not quite Manning vs. Brady, but Romo vs. Little Manning should provide plenty of fireworks ... and turnovers.

Winner: Giants


San Francisco (6-4) at Washington (3-7)

After scoring 31 or more points for five straight weeks, San Francisco's offense has scored a combined 29 the past two. But the 49ers' defense should contain RGIII and friends.

Winner: 49ers

Denver (9-1) at New England (7-3)

Here's a matchup the NFL will shove down our throats all week: Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. But while the Broncos are playing at a high level, the Patriots are in serious danger of becoming an average team.

Winner: Broncos

Survivor Pick: Kansas City --if you haven't used the Chiefs yet, now is the time to do it. They are perfect at home and their stout defense should harass San Diego QB Philip Rivers all game long.

Last week: 10-5

Season: 97-65

Contact News Tribune sports editor Rick Lubbers at or (218) 723-5317. Follow him @ricklubbersdnt on Twitter. All predictions are for entertainment purposes only. Bet at the risk of losing your shirt.

Rick Lubbers has been in his role since 2014 and at the News Tribune since 2005. Previous stops include the Superior Telegram (1999-2005) and Budgeteer News (1997-1999). Prior to that, he worked at the St. Cloud Times and Annandale Advocate in Minnesota, and the Greenville Daily News and Grand Rapids Press in Michigan. He received his journalism degree at Central Michigan University.
What To Read Next
Get Local