QB Watch: Vikings' Ponder, Cassel

A weekly examination of the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback play:

Rewind: The Vikings were on their bye last week, but time away from their previous game didn't lend any clarity to their quarterback situation. In fact, it got more complicated. The team signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman on Monday, adding him to a roster that already includes Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel, who went 16-of-25 for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Vikings' Week 4 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ponder is still recovering from a broken rib he sustained in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns, and the Vikings will have to decide whether he or Cassel starts Sunday with Freeman still learning the offense.

Fast-forward: Whoever starts at quarterback Sunday could be facing his final opportunity to sell himself for a while. Ponder has thrown just two touchdowns against five interceptions in three games, and he'd be facing one of the league's stoutest defenses in the Carolina Panthers. Cassel won praise from players like Adrian Peterson and Greg Jennings for his performance against the Steelers, but with Freeman now joining the roster, his best chance to stake a claim to the starting job would be to put the Vikings on a win streak. Coach Leslie Frazier said Ponder is still the starter if he's healthy, but the Vikings will make the final call on whether they think Ponder is healthy enough to play -- or whether his injury provides them a reason to go in a different direction.

Freeman waiting: In a conference call with reporters Monday night, Freeman said the Vikings appealed to him because they represented an opportunity to "pump the brakes" after his contentious exit from Tampa Bay. "From the standpoint of a career move, the thing about the Vikings I like is, they've got a guy," he said. But it seems highly unlikely the Vikings would have signed Freeman -- and paid him $2 million -- to sit on the bench the rest of the year.

Prediction: As much of a lift as the Vikings got from Cassel in London, it's hard to see them going back to Ponder. The guess here is Cassel starts this weekend against the Panthers and performs respectably -- call it 200 yards, a touchdown and an interception -- and if the Vikings lose, they start thinking about a transition plan to Freeman. If they win? Well, that would make things a little more complicated.