Win (or tie), and the Vikings are in.
Minnesota (10-3) can cross off one of its season goals of clinching the NFC North division Saturday with a victory or a tie at home against Indianapolis (4-8-1). The Vikings can also punch their ticket to the postseason with a Detroit (6-7) loss or tie to the New York Jets (7-6) Sunday.
Alec Lewis and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic broke down what they will be watching during Saturday's game and what the Vikings biggest concerns and opportunities are.
Lewis wrote he'll be keeping an eye on the amount of separation between Minnesota's secondary and the Indianapolis receiving corps. The Vikings have allowed more than 400 yards to opposing offenses in each of the past five games, setting a franchise record.
As ESPN cited earlier this week, no NFL team has played more snaps of "off coverage" this season than the Vikings. "Off coverage" consists of a defensive back lining up at least 5 yards away from a receiver. This week, the Vikings have aggressively self-scouted their defense, and one emerging theme was "taking the air out of the coverage." What will that look like pre-snap? How will that change post-snap?
Krawczynski will be turning his attention to the Vikings pass rush, specifically outside linebacker Danielle Hunter. He wrote:
[Hunter] had two sacks, seven tackles and three assists against Washington on Nov. 6. He has registered just two sacks, 13 solo tackles and two assists in the five games since. It could be the scheme. It could be that he's not all the way back. It could be that he is hurting (he was added to the injury report with a neck issue this week). But if the Vikings are going to shake their defensive struggles, getting Hunter back to his playmaking ways sure would make a big difference.
Lewis noted a key concern for the Vikings will be trying to stop the Colts passing attack, despite Indianapolis ranking 19th in the NFL in passing yards per game at 217.8.
Until the Vikings defense proves it can eliminate swaths of space in all areas of its pass coverage, this is going to be the biggest concern. The Colts have capable receivers. Michael Pittman, Jr., Alec Pierce and Parris Campbell all pose problems, especially if they're unbothered over the middle of the field. [Colts quarterback Matt] Ryan may be 37, but he's still capable of putting up positive numbers.
View game action images between matchups of the Vikings and Colts through the years.
While Krawczynski said Minnesota's ground game could potentially be a concern, Lewis added the success of the Vikings backfield this week might depend on the presence of tight end T.J. Hockenson. Lewis wrote:
Since Hockenson arrived in Week 9, the Vikings have run the ball 55 times with Hockenson as a blocker in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three receivers on the field). On those runs, the Vikings rushing success rate has been 25.5 percent, which would easily rank last in the NFL.
This season, when the Vikings have run the ball out of 11 personnel with any tight end other than Hockenson on the field, they have a 45.2 percent success rate, which would rank sixth in the NFL.
View photos of WR Adam Thielen being honored as the Vikings 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Thielen Foundation to host charity softball game in May
There may be snow currently on the ground, but that's not stopping Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen from thinking about springtime.
The Thielen Foundation will hold its second annual charity softball game on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, at CHS Field in St. Paul.
Tickets are currently available at https://www.thielenfoundation.org, ranging between $5 to $50.
Several prizes will be awarded to those who purchase tickets early.
The first 500 people to purchase tickets will be entered to win an autographed jersey from Thielen. The first 1,500 are entered to win a signed helmet from Thielen, and the first 2,500 people to purchase tickets are entered to receive a VIP upgrade that includes an all-inclusive reception and photo opportunity with Thielen after the event.
In addition, the first 5,000 to purchase tickets will be entered to win a signed football by Thielen.
Sponsorships are also available for the softball game, including group ticket packages and tickets to the VIP reception and meet and greet with Thielen after the game.