Both the Vikings and Colts need wins on Sunday to stay within striking distance of a postseason berth, which means their contest at U.S. Bank Stadium will be hard-fought. The matchup is full of intriguing storylines, as the NFL's regular season closes in on its final three weeks.
Here are five storylines to watch in the buildup to the Vikings-Colts matchup on Sunday…
1. Stifling pass defense versus explosive passing attack
Not many defenses have been harder on passing attacks than the Vikings. Head coach Mike Zimmer's defense has allowed a 77.0 passer rating to opponents this season, third-best in the League. They've also allowed a League-low 29.3 passer rating on passing attempts of over 20 yards and they've allowed no 300-yard passing performances and just one 100-yard receiving outing. The Vikings rank third in the NFL with 35 sacks and they've allowed the fifth-fewest passing touchdowns (25). This week's opponent will be up for the challenge, though. The Colts are led by Andrew Luck, a quarterback who has the respect of Zimmer and who can make any throw on the field. He is tied for fifth in the NFL with 25 touchdown passes, which includes six in his past two games. Luck's top target is the speedy TY Hilton, who can operate from anywhere in the formation but does some of his best work out of the slot. Hilton already has 78 catches and 1,203 receiving yards this season, and he's been targeted 68 more times than the second-highest targeted receive on the roster.
2. Bradford and Co. look to stay explosive through the air
Luck won't be the only quarterback looking to be explosive while throwing the ball. Sam Bradford and the Vikings offense demonstrated that ability last week in Jacksonville, registering three plays of 40 yards in the passing game; they had four such plays on the entire season before last week's game. More of the same this week against the Colts, especially early and parlayed with red zone touchdowns, will put the Vikings defense in a good position as they play in front of what is sure to be a raucous and loud U.S. Bank Stadium crowd.
3. Sweep of AFC South would set up important back-to-back NFC North contests
A win on Sunday would give the Vikings a 4-0 mark against the AFC South this season. Should the Vikings get the job done, their dominance of that division will set them up for a dramatic conclusion to the season series against their own division. Winning on Sunday will keep the Vikings within striking distance of a postseason berth, and they'll race to the finish while playing division games against Green Bay in Week 16 and Chicago in Week 17.
4. Who is in, who is out along Vikings offensive line?
Injuries and lineup changes along the offensive line have been constant for the Vikings this season. Starting center Joe Berger missed last week's game with a concussion and right guard Brandon Fusco was forced out of the game with an injury, as well. Right tackle Jeremiah Sirles was also banged up but he was able to come back and play. All of this will lead to monitoring of this week's injury report to see which starters will be able to play this week against the Colts.
5. Vikings need better luck in their scoreboard watching endeavor this weekend
The Vikings did their part last week in Jacksonville, notching their seventh win as they sprint to the finish of the regular season and look to earn a playoff spot. Unfortunately, the Detroit Lions and every team ahead of the Vikings in the wild card race also won last Sunday. So it's the same story this week for the Vikings. They need to win their game and hope for as many losses as possible among the following teams: Atlanta, Detroit, NY Giants, Tampa Bay and Washington. The Lions and Giants play one another, so the Vikings will get help either way in that matchup. The outcome of that game could also eliminate a division title as the Vikings method of getting in because if the Lions win they will box the Vikings out of the division.