Minnesota at Colts
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium
TV: FOX, Ch. 33.2
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
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After a 20-point loss at Chicago last week, the Indianapolis Colts return for their home opener against the 1-0 Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Here are five pivotal factors to watch for in the game:
Andrew Luck received mixed reviews for his performance in the season-opening loss to the Chicago Bears, and those reviews were from Andrew Luck. Three interceptions were too many, and he took the blame for all three. He'll face a similar defense this week in Minnesota, right down to the presence of another big-name pass rusher (Julius Peppers last week, Jared Allen this week). Luck has shown an ability to learn from mistakes during his time in Indy, so chances are he'll have a more consistent performance this week. Reversing the touchdown-to-interception ratio would certainly get the job done.
The Colts will be without guard Joe Reitz again this week as he recovers from a knee injury and right tackle Winston Justice is recovering from a concussion. To fill the gap, the Colts brought in former Harding High School standout Trai Essex, who has played seven years with the Steelers. Essex most likely steps in at the guard spot, but he could play tackle if needed. Past protection will be critical, and some run blocking would be a bonus, too. The Colts would like to run more than 15 times this week.
The Colts will be without rush man Dwight Freeney, who is out with a sprained ankle. It was obvious, even given Freeney's new role in the 3-4 defense, that the pass rush is not the same without him. Colts coach Chuck Pagano says Jerry Hughes or Mario Addison will have to step up. That's not encouraging based on their track records.
Peterson, the NFL's most productive running back of the last five years (6,836 yards from 2007 to present), suffered a severe knee injury (ACL, MCL) but has bounced back rather effectively. He looked tentative at times to start the game last week against Jacksonville but rushed 17 times for 84 yards (4.9 per carry) and two scores. The Colts let Matt Forte get loose a time or two last week. It'll be interesting to see how defensive lineman Cory Redding holds up this week, particularly vs. Peterson.
Special teams will play a role in this game, with the Vikings sporting the always dangerous Percy Harvin at kick return. The Colts received some nice play from Joe Lefeged on coverage against the Bears, as he was able to down Pat McAfee's punts deep in Bears territory. As for the Colts, coach Chuck Pagano publicly called out LaVon Brazill for his fumbled return, which led to points. “It's better to die young than fumble,” Pagano said. It was a joke. Sort of. It'll be interesting to see if Brazill returns or whether Pagano goes with Cassius Vaughn or T.Y.Hilton (who should make his regular-season debut).