The Vikings roll into palatial Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday looking to go 2-0 for the first time since 2009. Before that, the last time the Vikes started off a season 2-0 was in 2006. This is a great opportunity for the Vikes, as the schedule sets up nicely over the first half of the year, and games like this are ones the Vikings must win if they want to even entertain thinking about the playoffs come December.
I'm also going to be looking intently at the camera cuts to Zygi Wilf in the owner's box. I bet he'll be taking more notes and pictures than beat reporters and photographers to take back to architects and stadium planners, so he can incorporate some of the Lucas Oil Field goodness into the new Vikes stadium. Coming to you in 2016.
Ahem. Sorry about that.
But how do the Vikings leave Indianapolis with their first road win against the Colts in franchise history? That's right, the Vikings have never beaten the Colts on the road, either in Baltimore or Indianapolis.
Let's look at some key points to the game, after the jump.
Establish The Pass Rush: Fearless Leader already spoke about this, but it bears repeating. The Vikings secondary looked downright serviceable last week, but that isn't going to last long if the front four cannot generate consistent pressure on rookie Andrew Luck. He's a talented young player, but he's still a rookie, and the Vikings can make his day miserable. He threw four picks last week against the Bears, and if they can make him uncomfortable in the pocket, the secondary should benefit. But give him time, like Blaine Gabbert had, and bad things are going to happen. The Tampa-2 scheme the Vikings run is predicated on front four pressure, with little blitzing. The talent on the Vikings defensive line and the mismatches along the Colts offensive line are there, and the Vikings need to exploit it, early and often.
Unleash The Dragon: Let Christian Ponder throw deep. Hopefully not in the manner Jay Cutler tried to unleash the Dragon last night, or Rex Grossman...ever...but I'd like to see Ponder take a couple shots downfield. The Vikings ran the short, controlled passing game well last week, and combined with the effective running of Adrian Peterson one would think that there are a couple opportunities for Ponder to stretch the defense and see what happens. The Colts secondary, outside of recently acquired Vontae Davis, is nothing special. Jerrraud Powers, the CB opposite Davis, is only 5-11 and you would hope that the Vikings could take advantage of the height mismatch between him and Michael Jenkins (he's listed at 6'4", but standing next to him, I would believe you if you told me he's 7' tall. But I'm short and fat, so there's that). Look for Jenkins in the red zone this week.
FULLBACK AP: So, who thought Adrian Peterson would get 87 yards rushing and two TD's last week? Yeah, me neither. I'm never doubting the dude again, though. Start him, run him early, run him often, and let him batter the Colts into submission. Seriously, how impressive was that performance? I don't remember who it was in the press, but he said Peterson's numbers were 'fairly pedestrian'. Which is true, for most NFL running backs. But they were flat out stunning for a guy that had a knee that looked like roadkill in December. Just end the charade of Toby Gerhart getting significant time and put AP back where he belongs, and unleash the fury.
Kyle Rudolph, In The End Zone, With The Football: Sort of overlooked in last week's win and AP's big day was the strong play of Kyle Rudolph. You know, I'm going to start giving Rick Spielman a little more slack...which will probably cause Mark to stroke out, but that's not my intent. Rudolph's selection in the second round last year was met with skepticism by a lot of folks, but you can just tell that Rudolph is developing some serious bromance type chemistry with Ponder. He has reliable hands, gets open, and makes big catches (the out pattern at the end of regulation last week to get the Vikes into FG range, for example). In Arif's insanely good game breakdown (seriously, if you haven't read it, I doubt your creditability as a Vikings fan. Go read it now and put those doubts to rest), he noted that the Vikes used the two tight end set about 25% of the time, meaning Rudolph was on the field a lot in single TE sets. He's going to have a big year, and I expect it to continue on Sunday.
Keep The Colts One Dimensional: This might actually be easier done than said. No, that's not a misprint. Easier done than said. The Colts only ran 11 times last week, and two of those were scrambles by Luck. Really? I get that Luck is supposed to be the second coming of Peyton Manning, but they aren't doing him any favors by not even attempting to seriously run the ball. If it becomes apparent early on that the Colts aren't going to try and establish the run, there will be no excuse...none...for the Vikings if they can't get to Luck. They have the better matchups on the line, and they should just pin their ears back and go.
Prediction: Jared Allen and company get to Luck, Vikes take advantage of a couple of turnovers, and the good guys move to 2-0 with a 27-17 win.