It's not quite must-win time, but both the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts are looking to bounce back after each lost in Week 1. Each team was quite the popular pick to win their respective division entering this season, so losing their opening game, a divisional contest for each, could hurt those chances.
The last time these two teams met was 2016 in Minneapolis with the Colts taking it 34-6. Andrew Luck threw for two touchdowns and Frank Gore chipped in with 101 rushing yards while Sam Bradford and Adrian Peterson were the leaders of the Vikings' offense. It's stating the obvious, but much has changed for both franchises since that game.
Last Sunday, Minnesota was up 7-3 at the end of the first quarter at home against Green Bay, but things snowballed from there as vintage Aaron Rodgers showed up and the Vikings went on to lose 43-34. For all the talk of their talent up front on defense, Minnesota's secondary was torched by the veteran signal-caller, who had four touchdown passes and wasn't sacked once. The offense played pretty well, averaging 6.1 yards per carry and Kirk Cousins throwing for 259 yards with just six incompletions, but it wasn't enough. The schedule doesn't get any easier with the Titans, Texans and Seahawks next so a win is imperative here.
The Colts' loss was a lot worse than Minnesota's considering it came to potentially (probably?) the worst team in the league, Jacksonville. Indianapolis' defense allowed Gardner Minshew to toss just ONE incompletion (finished 19-for-20) in a 27-20 loss. The Colts' secondary, which was a question mark going into this season, was exposed by the Jaguars. Philip Rivers also had his share of struggles in his first game for Indianapolis, tossing two interceptions compared to one touchdown in his 46 attempts. The running game got an unexpected pair of touchdowns from Nyheim Hines, but also lost Marlon Mack for the season.
Minnesota at Indianapolis
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Colts -3
Three Things to Watch
It's never too early to see size up the schedules for either team. This will be the first home game for the Colts and with the Jets due in next week, focus should not be an issue. Only 2,500 fans will be allowed to attend the game in Lucas Oil Stadium so crowd noise shouldn't be a factor for either team. As mentioned above the Vikings host the Titans in Week 3, but coming off of a loss, motivation shouldn't be an issue for them either. As always, I'll be interested to see which team handles the potential lackluster atmosphere.
2. All Rhodes lead to Xavier
If there was ever a team to continue to expose Rhodes, it would be his former one. A first-round pick (No. 25 overall) by Minnesota in 2013, Rhodes spent his first seven seasons with the Vikings, making three Pro Bowls and earning first-team All-Pro honors in 2017. But his play steadily declined after that season and Rhodes was released by the team in March. He signed a one-year deal with Indianapolis but had a rough debut. According to Pro Football Focus, Rhodes gave up three receptions on three targets against Jacksonville, including a touchdown. That amounts to a passer rating of 152.1 Whether it's age (turned 30 in June) or just a decline in skills, Rhodes is nowhere near the defender he once was. He's quite familiar with Adam Thielen, who had six catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Green Bay, so Rhodes will have his chances to show he's still got plenty left in the tank.
3. Mack Truck gets a flat tire
The Colts suffered one of the biggest injuries in Week 1 when Marlon Mack went down with a torn Achilles. Mack was effective prior to the injury, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and catching three passes for 30 more. After he went down, Nyheim Hines and rookie Jonathan Taylor took over. Hines scored a pair of touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, but he and Taylor combined for 50 rushing yards on 16 carries (3.1 ypc). Taylor a second-round pick who ran for more than 6,100 yards in three years at Wisconsin, was expected to be a part of the game plan right from the start, but that role will likely increase with Mack out the rest of the season. While Taylor averaged a mere 2.4 yards per carry on his team-high nine attempts, he looked particularly explosive as a receiver, gaining 67 yards on six catches. Minnesota didn't do a great job slowing down Green Bay last week, as the Packers averaged 4.9 yards per carry (158 rushing yards in total), and their offensive line is nowhere near as good as the Colts. So will Taylor take advantage of this opportunity and run with it or will Indianapolis once again struggle to gain ground?
Neither of these teams can afford to start the season 0-2 with their divisions featuring so many other good teams. I think the Colts' performance was more of a mirage than the Vikings'. I don't think Minnesota's offense is as explosive as it's been and I don't think Indianapolis' defense is as bad as it showed last week against Jacksonville. Coming home will be what the Colts need as they come out on the right side of a close contest.
Prediction: Colts 24, Vikings 20
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
(Top photo courtesy of colts.com)