A banged-up Minnesota Vikings team failed to capitalize on the opportunity to clinch the NFC North this past week against the Detroit Lions, falling 34-23. This upcoming Saturday presents another chance to secure a division title at home against the Indianapolis Colts. Here is what will have to happen for the Vikings to move to 11-3 on the season.
1. Get the Ball Out Quickly on Offense
Reinforcements appear to be on the way for the offensive line of the Vikings with Christian Darrisaw and Garrett Bradbury expected to be returning to action. That however does not mean that Kirk Cousins will have a lot of time to throw. DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart on the interior of the Colts’ defensive line make for a scary matchup against the undersized Bradbury and rookie guard Ed Ingram. On the other hand, the Colts are likely to be without two of their top four cornerbacks which could mean feasting for Justin Jefferson and company (two straight 200-yard games?!?!). This combination of a strong defensive interior and thin cornerback room for the Colts should be a sign that the Vikings’ offense needs to try to get the ball out of Kirk Cousins’ hands as quickly as possible.
2. Capitalize on Matt Ryan’s Weak Arm
The Colts’ offense has struggled a lot this year in large part due to the precipitous decline of Matt Ryan. The main issue for Ryan seems to be diminishing arm strength paired with a lot of turnovers. The Colts quarterback has turned the ball over 18 times in just 11 games played this year with 13 interceptions and five fumbles lost. One area where the Vikings’ defense has found success is with generating turnovers, averaging 1.5 takeaways per game. When the Vikings have won or tied the turnover battle they are 10-0 and when they have lost the turnover battle they are 0-3. This goes to show how utterly crucial it is that the defense takes advantage when Matt Ryan inevitably presents them with an opportunity to take the ball away.
3. Score First in the Second Half
The third quarter has been absolutely abysmal for the Minnesota Vikings this year. They are only scoring 3.1 points per game in the 3rd quarter (27th in the NFL) while giving up 7.2 points per game (30th). This paired with a 41.54% possession share in the 3rd quarter (31st) makes for a less-than-ideal start to the second half. This seems like a game where the Vikings could jump out to an early lead so if they are able to score first in the third quarter it could go a long way for the confidence of the team the rest of the way. Holding off any third-quarter surge from the dreadful Colts offense could very well put the game away and help secure a division title.
The Vikings again hold off a late-game comeback attempt from the Colts’ offense and win another one-score game. Vikings 24, Colts 16