The difference between Ponder, Bradford

The Minnesota Vikings are watching closely to see whether Christian Ponder projects as their starting quarterback for years to come.

"There have been some encouraging moments this year," Kevin Seifert wrote on the NFC North blog, "but his relative lack of production in a run-based offense has left his long-term viability something short of clear."

The St. Louis Rams are feeling better about things after their young quarterback, Sam Bradford, led the winning 84-yard touchdown drive at Buffalo in Week 14. But as the Rams and Vikings prepare to play Sunday in St. Louis, similarities in production for Ponder and Bradford are tough to ignore.

Ponder owns 23 starts over two season. His stats line up very closely with stats for Bradford's first 23 starts. The chart breaks out the numbers. An additional column shows production for Bradford across all subsequent starts.

Ponder has a 78.3 rating and 40.9 QBR score this season. His starting record (7-6) and Bradford's starting record (6-6-1) are similar. My feel is that Bradford is the better player by a fairly wide margin, but the stats suggest that might not be so clear.

2012 Sam Bradford by Quarter

Bradford's passer rating (81.9) and Total QBR score (48.1) are higher this season than for the time periods featured in the chart. He has generally played much better during first quarters, fourth quarters and overtime. That could mean nothing. The differences could be largely random. I do wonder, however, whether the disparity reflects a desire by coach Jeff Fisher to minimize risks until circumstances dictate otherwise.

Under this theory, Bradford would start games quickly when following a script, then lose his way to a degree before rallying when the outcome was in the balance.

The numbers are striking.

Bradford has 11 touchdowns with three interceptions in first quarters, fourth quarters and overtimes this season. His corresponding passer rating (95.6) and QBR score (75.1) rank among the league leaders. Bradford has four touchdowns and seven picks in second and third quarters. His rating (67.0) and QBR score (21.9) lag accordingly.

It's something to monitor, at least.