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Skinny Post: Vikings Try to Sweep AFC South

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings are 7-6 and will continue their drive toward the postseason Sunday against the Colts at noon (CT) at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Minnesota earned a 25-16 win over Jacksonville last Sunday to begin its final quarter of the season.

The Colts are 6-7 following last week's loss to Houston. Indianapolis is in third place in the AFC South behind the 7-6 Texans and Titans.

The Vikings can sweep the AFC South with a win as Minnesota has already defeated Tennessee, Houston and Jacksonville.

On the airwaves: The game will be broadcast by CBS (WCCO CBS 4 in the Twin Cities). Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon will be on the call. The game also will be broadcast on KFAN 100.3-FM and across the Minnesota Vikings Radio Network by the team of Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, Greg Coleman and Ben Leber.

Three things to watch:


Taking control early *— *Craig Peters

The Vikings eventually put away the Jaguars with a dominant 13-0 fourth quarter but trailed last week when the final period began. Minnesota is 2-4 this season in games decided by six or fewer points and would be best served not to tempt the clutch factor for a cornered Indianapolis team.

Ideally, the Vikings can take advantage of drives with touchdowns instead of field goals earlier in this game than last week.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is 41-26 as a starter and has 17 game-winning drives in the fourth quarters or overtime of regular-season contests. Even a late two-score lead might not be safe with Luck, who led the Colts from 28 down in the second half of a playoff game against the Chiefs on Jan. 4, 2014.

Vikings fans can look to the last time these two teams met for an example of the Colts coming through in the clutch.

Luck led a touchdown drive at the end of the first half, connecting with Reggie Wayne for a 30-yard score. He also drove Indianapolis 40 yards to set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning 53-yard field goal.

Wayne is now gone, but Vinatieri, who turns 44 on Dec. 28, remains ultra-reliable. Vinatieri hit two game-winning field goals in Super Bowls and is the only kicker in NFL history to play in five Super Bowls and record field goals in four of them.

He has 26 winning kicks in the final minute or overtime of games and has been part of 219 wins (regular season and playoffs).

Locked in on LuckEric Smith

A vaunted Vikings defense will have its hands full Sunday with Luck, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Luck has completed 282 of 448 attempts (62.9 percent) this season, passing for 3,381 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His quarterback rating is 95.3.

But Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Luck's versatility could cause the biggest headache for Minnesota's defense.

"He's tougher than heck," Zimmer said. "He runs really good. He's the second-leading rusher on the team.

"He makes every throw. He moves in the pocket well," he added. "I tell our guys when they think they've got the guy covered they don't because he can throw it anywhere and any place."

Luck has 56 carries for 304 yards and a score this season.

When in the red zoneLindsey Young

After the Vikings 25-16 win over the Jaguars, Zimmer said he was pleased with the way the offense moved the football but still saw areas for improvement, particularly when the team gets into the red zone.

"We have to get better inside the 5-yard line," Zimmer said. "There's some other areas – we've got to quit trying to extend the football over the goal line like we have. That happened twice, and the ball came out both times, actually. We have to do a better job in those areas."

The Vikings were at or inside the Jaguars 25-yard line on five different occasions in which they were unable to score touchdowns. Twice, they were at the 1.

Guard Alex Boone said there were several positive takeaways from the offensive line's performance, but there are still things that need to be fixed to help the team put more points on the board. 

"The problem is, though, when we get in the red zone, we have to score points – more points than we did," Boone told Twin Cities media members Wednesday. "[There are] things that we can clean up that would make that game not as down-to-the wire as it was. And they're all things that are easily fixable. Guys really need to pay attention more, and fundamentals are key to this game."

The Vikings will try to be more efficient in the red zone when facing the Colts defense at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.* *


Substantial Stats**

— The Vikings defense allows 17.3 points per game, the lowest total in the NFL; Indianapolis ranks 25th, allowing 25.6 points per game.

—Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford leads the league with a completion percentage of 71.2; a career-high mark for the former No. 1 overall pick.

— Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has 28 career touchdown catches, which ties him with Steve Jordan for the most by a tight end in franchise history; Rudolph has six touchdown catches in 2016.

— Minnesota's defensive ends have combined for 25.5 sacks this season, the highest total in the NFL; Danielle Hunter has a team-high 10.5 sacks, while Everson Griffen has 8.0 and Brian Robison has 7.0.


"I know everybody says we need to win out. I just want to beat Indianapolis this week. Then we'll worry about the next game and the next game after that. If we start thinking about down the road and this and that, all these different scenarios, then we're not doing what we're supposed to do." — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on his team's push toward the postseason.

Worth a watch

Take a look back at the sights and sounds from Sunday's 25-16 win in Jacksonville, in which Minnesota's offense put up 377 total yards and its defense recorded four sacks.

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