The Vikings will conclude their four-game schedule versus the AFC South today by hosting the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium as part of the NFL's Week 15 docket. Both teams need a win to stay within reasonable striking distance of a playoff berth. Kickoff is just around the corner, so here are a few final thoughts on today's game.
Vikings defense will have a 60-minute challenge on their hands
A lot of people like to say about sub-.500 teams that if you get up on them early they will fold up shop and quit. That won't be true of the Colts today. The Vikings defense has a challenge on their hands in defending QB Andrew Luck and a Colts offense that is ranked No. 4 in 4th quarter scoring. It is unlikely the Vikings will build up a lead large enough to consider "safe" by the 4th quarter, so it will be critical that the entire team executes well in critical moments, particularly late in the contest.
Taking the (opportunity to) win
In a game that could come down to the 4th quarter, an extra possession here or there could make a significant difference. In that regard, the Vikings may have the advantage given how each team has done in the turnover department this season. The Vikings defense ranks tied for ninth with 22 takeaways this season the Vikings are 12 in turnover margin, whereas the Colts rank 28th with 12 takeaways and have a turnover margin of -5. The Vikings were able to win last week despite losing the turnover margin, but it will be more difficult to win with a negative turnover margin today given how productive the Colts offense can be.
Player to Watch: Colts WR TY Hilton
A big part of the Colts production is WR TY Hilton. He's been a handful for defenses this season and has logged consecutive 100-yard games coming into today's contest. Hilton operates out wide or out of the slot, and is effective running routes at all three levels. In the slot, he'll be matched up against Captain Munnerlyn, who has had a solid season. If he's out wide, it will be interesting to see if the Vikings have Xavier Rhodes travel with Hilton or if they'll keep Rhodes on one side.
Adrian returns, but Bradford may hold the key
A lot of attention will be focused on the likely return of Adrian Peterson to the lineup today. It will be a momentous occasion for the Vikings that should give the team a lift both emotionally and on the field. It may be QB Sam Bradford who holds the key for the Vikings offense, though. Indianapolis' defense ranks 27th in passer rating allowed, 26th in passing yards allowed per game and tied for 22nd in passing touchdowns allowed. Bradford has six outings with a passer rating of 100 this season, with four of them coming in home games.
Scoreboard watching in full effect
For the Vikings to make the playoffs, it's all about winning the rest of their games. That's the most important part of the challenge. But in order for the Vikings to qualify for the postseason, they'll need some help. To win the division, the Vikings need Detroit to lose the rest of their games, including today's contest in New York against the Giants. If the Lions win that game, then the Vikings only route to the postseason is via a wild card berth. Outside of the Giants-Lions game, the Vikings also have rooting interests in two other games on Sunday and in the *Monday Night Football *game. Wins by San Francisco over Atlanta and Dallas over Tampa Bay today/tonight would assist the Vikings playoff push, and then a Panthers win over the Redskins would also help the Vikings. Last week, the Vikings received no help from any other teams in their push to the playoffs.