The 6-7 Colts may seem like a slouch to Minnesota Vikings fans, but they possess three key strengths that can damage the Vikings.
Although Andrew Luck hasn’t practiced this week, the Minnesota Vikings should expect him to play. With Luck and his weapons comes problems for any defense. The Colts are known less for their defense, but they have been performing well in areas that could hurt the Vikings.
1. Deep down the middle sans Harrison Smith
Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton’s favorite area of the field is deep down the seam–an area in which Andrew Luck’s accuracy shines.
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With Harrison Smith inactive for this match up, Andrew Sendejo and Anthony Harris will have to patch up a huge hole formerly filled with athleticism and game intelligence which they do not possess to that level.
The speedy Hilton has sneaked past some of the league’s best defenses over the years, and Andrew Luck is always willing to take a hit to buy time for a deep seam route.
In his past two games, Hilton has 18 receptions for 261 yards. While Xavier Rhodes has made a name for himself shutting down number one wide receivers, Hilton often lines up in the slot where he will either see a linebacker or Captain Munnerlyn.
It seems Hilton is bound to burn his opponents at least once every game. If he can cause the Vikings to play it safe, they may suffer a following methodical approach underneath. Keeping Hilton in check needs to be a top priority.
2. Luck’s legs vs. Vikings’ contain
Slow Matthew Stafford made a fool of the Minnesota Vikings in Detroit with his scrambling when plays broke down. On top of locking Hilton down, the Vikings will need to make sure Andrew Luck has no where to run when the coverage forces him to hold the ball.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, Andrew Luck is much faster than Stafford and he is much harder to take down. Perhaps the Vikings will assign a spy to Luck, hoping that it doesn’t open anyone up in the passing game.
3. Stout red zone defense vs. nonexistent red zone offense
Over the last three games, the Colts defense has been among the most stingy defenses in the league in the red zone. They have only allowed touchdowns on 28 percent of their opponents’ trips to the red zone.
To put that in perspective, the Vikings, widely considered a good defense, have been allowing touchdowns on 66 percent of opponents’ red zone trips.
Frankly, the Minnesota Vikings do not exactly have an offense that can overcome that stat. While they certainly showed the ability early in the year, they have been far too predictable and conservative during this cold stretch of the season. Over the last three games, the Vikings have only converted 36 percent of their red zone drives into touchdowns.
There is some favor for the Vikings, however. Besides having a generally better 2016, the Vikings strengths also match with the Colts’ weaknesses. Purple Reign is likely to make an impact as Andrew Luck has been hit 96 times this season–more than any other quarterback.