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Christian Ponder more a factor than Adrian Peterson?

All eyes will be on Adrian Peterson and his pursuit of 2,000 yards on Sunday against the Houston Texans. That includes all 11 Houston defenders on the field. The Texans own the NFL's No. 5 ranked run defense and would surely rather take their chances with Christian Ponder throwing the ball than handing off to Peterson.

That's why Minnesota Vikings playoff chances will rest with Ponder, and that's why he headlines this week's Underrated storylines.

The Vikings are worst passing team in the NFL with an average of 168.1 yards per game. Things fell off when Percy Harvin suffered his ankle injury. There isn't a single playmaker at receiver after Harvin and the Texans know that. There will be single-coverage opportunities for Ponder, who has thrown 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Can he take advantage? He must if the Vikings want a trip to the postseason.

Brandon Carr vs. Drew Brees

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr won the game last week when he broke on a Mike Wallace route and picked off Ben Roethlisberger on the second play of overtime. The Cowboys kicked a field goal two plays later and stayed in a tie atop the NFC East.

Carr needs to have another big day against New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his trio of receivers, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham and Lance Moore. The Saints are going to air it out. That's who they are.

The Cowboys gave Carr a five-year deal worth $50.1 million before the season to make an impact like he did last week. That needs to happen again Sunday against one of the NFL's premier passers.

Vincent Jackson vs. Cortland Finnegan/Janoris Jenkins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson has put together a career-year in his first season with the Bucs. He has caught 62 passes for a career-high 1,226 yards and eight touchdowns so far. He's one score shy of matching a career high. Jackson gives Josh Freeman the downfield threat the Buccaneers desperately needed.

The St. Louis Rams put together one of the top cornerback pairings in the NFL when they signed the fiesty Cortland Finnegan and drafted Janoris Jenkins. That's why they're the No. 9 pass defense in the NFL. Finnegan is listed as questionable with a thigh injury that kept him from practice this week.

Neither the Rams nor Buccaneers will play in the postseason. For those who love individual matchups, this should be a good one.

Bizarro storyline: Oakland Raiders vs. Carolina Panthers

Nothing at stake here but draft position. And that position can change significantly in the final two weeks. Only two teams have a worse record than the 4-10 Raiders. The two-win Chiefs and Jaguars would have to win out to possibly surrender the top two picks in the draft. The Raiders could be in line for the No. 3 pick if they lose out.

The Panthers are one of six teams with five wins. They've won 3-of-4 and need to stop that trend if they want to remain in the top 10.

Victories don't help these days.

Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.

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