The Indianapolis Colts (4-8-1) travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings (10-3) at 1:00 pm on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings are a 4-point favorite and are given a 69.4% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI. Saturday’s game will give the Vikings another chance at wrapping up the NFC North. With that, let’s take a look at the Indianapolis vs. Minnesota matchup.
The Colts come into Saturday’s matchup off their bye week. A much needed one at that, as they’ve lost six of their last seven games, including their last one in a 54-19 blowout loss to the Cowboys. It’s been a rough year so far for the Colts. After firing Frank Reich in a much needed change, the team hasn’t found much success since Jeff Saturday has taken over as head coach.
In fact, it looks like things have gotten worse after winning Jeff Saturday’s debut game. Since beating the Raiders, Indianapolis has dropped three straight and their schedule doesn’t get any easier with the Vikings, Chargers, and Giants as their next three opponents. The Colts still have a long shot chance at winning the AFC South (though very, very unlikely). A win for the Colts would keep them in the hunt for the AFC South and a loss would all but eliminate them from any postseason contention in a rather disappointing season in Indiana.
What To Watch
What I’ll be watching is how the Colts secondary matches up with the Vikings high octane passing attack. Minnesota ranks 8th in passing yards per game (246.4) this season and they showed this last week. Against Detroit, Kirk Cousins threw for a season high 425 yards. It was his best game of the year (though Detroit’s defense isn’t that good). The Colts will also have to do what many teams have struggled and failed to do this season; do anything to attempt to slow down Justin Jefferson. JJ now leads the league with 1,500 receiving yards and isn’t showing any signs of cooling off. It’s a tall task for the Colts, but they have the ability to do it.
In their blowout loss to Dallas, the Colts only gave up 165 yards passing, but got burned on the ground for 220. They’ve been effective against the pass even when getting handled by their opponents. The Colts will also need to be cautious of the Vikings running game. While not having great seasons, Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison are not players to sleep on. If the Colts can limit them, they should give the Vikings offense fits this week.
Can the Colts’ offense find their rhythm against one of the worst defenses in the league? The Vikings defense is one of the worst if not the worst in the league. They are now giving up the most yards and passing yards per game this year. The Colts have a great opportunity, especially for an offense that is struggling, to put up points and give themselves a good chance to win this game.
The Colts averaged 16.1 points per game while giving up 22.9. The Vikings average 24 and allow 24.1. Indianapolis has proven they can move the ball, averaging 344.7 yards of total offense (244.5 passing and 100.2 rushing). This is a great chance for Jeff Saturday and Co. to find a way to get something positive going on the offensive side of the ball.
The Indianapolis Colts have three players currently on their injury list.
- Mike Strachan (WR) – Concussion
- Kenny Moore II (CB) – Ankle
- Brandon Facyson (S) – Illness
Strachan, Moore, and Facyson all were non-participants at Tuesday’s practice. Their status and availability for Saturday’s game against the Vikings is unknown at the moment.
The Minnesota Vikings are coming off a rather rough loss where their biggest weakness in their defense is beginning to look more and more concerning. It wasn’t too bad when they were winning games, but now that they’ve lost two of their last four games it’s becoming a real concern. The Vikings will now be in their second week where they control their own destiny to clinch not only a playoff spot but the NFC North.
So, besides winning the NFC North, the Vikings will advance to 11-3 and will be keeping up the race for an unlikely chance at staying in contention for the one seed. A loss would be their second consecutive week in which they are unable to clinch their division and will drop them to 10-4 and on a two-game skid.
What To Watch
The Vikings passing game. After last week’s performance it is the team’s biggest strength. Kirk Cousins might just have to take over games permanently, like he did on Sunday, in the wake of a horrendous defense. Last week against the Lions Kirk went off for a season high 425 yards and two touchdowns.
He was on point and looked fabulous. If only they had won that game, it would have been the cherry on top of his performance. Justin Jefferson also had another record setting game bringing 223 yards, setting the single game record for a Vikings receiver. Adam Thielen and T.J. Hockenson also had strong performances, all which were needed as the running game was non-existent.
The Vikings will be put to the test yet again as they take on the Colts who rank 3rd in passing yards allowed per game with 188.6. It’ll also be good as the Vikings will face the Packers (5th – 192.9) and Bears (11th – 204.2) who are in the top 11 of passing defense along with the Colts. Indianapolis ranks 21st with 126.2 rushing yards allowed per game as do the Packers (30), Bears (27), and Giants (29).
This is the stretch to find their running game as they face teams who are extremely good at stopping the pass, but not great at stopping the run. It all starts this week to see if the offense is able to find some balance and carry the defense, or is it just a high-powered passing attack?
How big of a handicap is the Vikings defense going to be? After last week, even with Kirk Cousins having his best game of the year, and Justin Jefferson having another gem of a game, it still wasn’t enough to lead the Vikings to another comeback win. The defense has been bad and it’s not getting better. The Vikings right now rank last in yards allowed per game with 403.7 yards per game. They rank 16th in rushing yards allowed per game (116.5) and 32nd in passing yards allowed per game (287.2).
While right away, when the Vikings were winning, it didn’t look like a big concern at the time. Now, it is an issue and it’s one the Vikings need to be careful with. The Vikings’ remaining schedule is the Colts, Giants, Packers, and Bears. The Packers offense is the only one that ranks in the top 15 (15th) in total yards. So, the Vikings could rip off four straight wins to end the year.
The thing is each of these teams can put up points (with the exception of the Colts). The Giants, Bears, and Packers have proven they can score points. If the Vikings defense fails to do this, it could be trouble not only during the rest of the season, but also come the postseason.
The Minnesota Vikings have seven players currently on their injured list.
- Harrison Phillips (DT) – Back
- James Lynch (DT) – Shoulder
- Cameron Dantzler Sr. (CB) – Illness
- Harrison Smith (S) – Neck
- Garrett Bradbury (C) – Back
- Blake Brandel (T) – Knee
- Jordan Hicks (LB) – Ankle
Phillips, Hicks, Dantzler, and Brandel were all non-participants at Tuesday’s practice. Bradbury, Lynch, and Smith were all limited participants at practice on Tuesday.
The Vikings will hold the Colts offense to under 300 yards of total offense. Yeah, this is a bold prediction. I think Ed Donatell will be coaching for his job on Saturday. The Vikings have to know that this is likely his last chance to show that the defense can stop someone. If you can’t stop a team who is averaging 16.1 points per game and 344.7 yards per game, it should be the end of Donatell’s tenure at Minnesota. The Vikings need answers, and the Colts offense isn’t known for being explosive this season. They will find a way to control the Colts offense and in the end Donatell may do just enough to coach another week.
The following betting lines are according to ESPN’s Pick Center.
- Indianapolis: +4.0
- Minnesota: -4.0
- Indianapolis: +175
- Minnesota: -210
Where To Watch
Indianapolis vs. Minnesota will air on the NFL Network at 1:00 pm on Saturday. Commentating the game will be Noah Eagle (play-by-play), Nate Burleson (analyst), Tom Pelissero (sideline), and Lindsay Czarniak (sideline). Streaming services that have the NFL Network are fubo TV, Hulu (Live TV), Sling TV, and Youtube TV.
The Vikings this season have won their two games after they have lost the previous week and the Colts will fall victim to that just as the Lions and Patriots did. Indianapolis has been ice cold going 1-6 during their last seven games. The Vikings will come out making the needed adjustments to take advantage of a not-so-great Colts’ offense. The Vikings will struggle against the Colt secondary, and their running game will continue to sputter. In the end the Vikings will get things going in the fourth quarter and pull away for only their second double-digit win of the season. Vikings win 27-13
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