Minnesota Vikings Week 2: Keys to Vikings Victory over Indianapolis Colts
If the Vikings hope to start the season off 2-0 without a second nail-biter in a row, there are a few things they should focus on to make that happen.
Defensively they need to come out of the gate a lot stronger than last week, where they seemingly tripped and fell on their faces. Even though they redeemed themselves in overtime, they still gave up the big touchdown at the end of the fourth quarter, and they gave up way too many big plays throughout the game.
Offensively, they need to produce more earlier in the game and build a cushion. Even though they managed to get just enough yards to let rookie kicker Blair Walsh take it home, it isn't exactly a formula for consistent success.
If the Vikings can accomplish 5 of these 7 main goals next week, victory will easily be within their grasp.
Chris Cook Needs to Limit Reggie Wayne
If Antoine Winfield doesn't bring his A-game with him on Sunday, Reggie Wayne will be Andrew Luck's go-to guy. Whether the Colts were playing from behind or not, Wayne's 9 catches for 135 yards was a huge performance that Winfield can't allow to be repeated.
Luck may be a rookie, but he's an awfully good one, and he'll pick apart the Vikings secondary if Wayne is routinely finding open space. Historically, Winfield is a lock to shut somebody down, but now that he's 35 years old, he's slowed down some. At the same time, Reggie Wayne isn't exactly a young buck anymore either.
The winner of this battle will be whoever has the most gas left in their tank.
Josh Robinson Needs to Step Up and Keep Donnie Avery Quiet
You may or may not believe Avery about running a 4.25 40 yard dash, but whether that is entirely accurate or not is irrelevant. On the field, Avery is as fast as anybody, and only a truly speedy coverage corner can keep up with him.
So why Josh Robinson instead of anyone else? He's the only one capable of doing it. Veteran Antoine Winfield will be dealing with Reggie Wayne. Newly acquired A.J. Jefferson can sometimes hold his own against speedy receivers, but last year he was benched by Arizona for consistently getting burned.
Chris Cook will be busy with Austin Collie, and leaving any receiver's coverage in the hands of a Vikings safety is risky business. That leaves rookie Josh Robinson, the super quick corner out of UCF. The Vikings will really have to rely on him if they want to have a good shot at winning this game.
Why Donnie Avery seems to continue to fly under the radar is absolutely baffling. He is poised to return to his elite status he attained as a St. Louis Ram before a devastating knee injury robbed him of the entire 2010 season. Avery can fly down the field and runs crisp routes. Speed won't do all the work for Robinson, and he'll need an incredible game to shut him down.
The interesting twist will be to see who covers Avery. If Austin Collie suits up for the Colts, then Avery might get sent to the slot to face Robinson. If Collie is out or listed as the number 3 wide receiver, then we'll see how Cook handles a tough test.
The Coaches Need to Prepare the Defense to Stop Coby Fleener
One of the most brilliant picks of the 2012 NFL draft was Coby Fleener. We all know that rookies need their tight end security blanket. The Colts lacked a strong tight end, so what did they do? They drafted Andrew Luck’s Stanford teammate Coby Fleener, one of the best tight ends in the draft, who already has great chemistry with the number one overall pick.
Fleener will be a top 10 fantasy tight end this year; if the Vikings aren’t careful, they will be the victims of a huge game from him. Whether or not Winfield and company can shut down Wayne and Avery will be irrelevant if Fleener runs free all game. He recorded six catches for 82 yards as the team's second-leading receiver last week against an admittedly better Bears defense.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, Andrew Luck came into this league as an already dangerous passing threat. By the same token, he’s still a rookie, and he will be easier to beat this year than in coming years.
Jared Allen Needs to Show Up This Week
Whether the refs robbed him of the season opening sack or not doesn’t really matter. Other than that play, Jared Allen was non-existent last week. He recorded no sacks and was basically a non-factor.
The Bears sacked Andrew Luck 3 times last week and were consistently bringing pressure and getting in his face. Their efforts resulted in three picks for the defense. While the Vikings secondary might not take three away, they would still benefit. As always they will need all of the help they can get and will be looking to Jared Allen to bring the heat.
Brian Robison averaged a sack every other game last year, so technically he’s due for one. If both he and Allen can give the rookie signal caller trouble, the Vikings will stand a chance.
In a perfect world, the secondary could shut down Reggie Wayne, Donnie Avery and Coby Fleener, or at least limit them. Only the most optimistic of fans can actually fathom expecting that though, so the Vikings pass rush is their best hope.
Christian Ponder Needs to Go Toe to Toe with Andrew Luck and Come out on Top
If the Vikings want to compete this year, Christian Ponder needs to have a Quarterback growth spurt and firmly take the reins of the offense. Usually, quarterbacks need to start doing that in their third year, but Ponder has what it takes to jump the gun and do it this year.
Andrew Luck has what it takes to do it in his rookie year, so if the defenses fail for both teams (a fairly safe bet), then it will be a shootout. Unfortunately for Ponder, the Vikings play-calling has been a bit conservative, so he’ll really need to step up and make some big time throws. We already know that Luck will chuck it downfield if there’s an opening.
There’s a good chance that the Colts could put up over 30 points. If Ponder can keep up his stellar 74-percent completion percentage and tack on some more yards and a couple of scoring tosses, the Vikings will be right there too.
One of the Receivers Not Named Percy Has to Step Up
First of all, outdated or not, that picture is and will always be awesome.
Percy Harvin got 15 touches last weekend, which is always a good strategy for winning, but only 6 of those were catches. Number 12 can’t do it all, and the Vikings need a new receiver to step up if they want to keep up with the Colts offense.
Devin Aromashodu is feeling confident, but he has historically been a lackluster target and Michael Jenkins seems to be consistently mediocre. Outside of those two, there’s Jarius Wright, who is intriguing but nagged by injuries, John Carlson—who has a bunch of money to earn—and Stephen Burton, the dark horse athletic specimen.
My money would be on Kyle Rudolph, who many figure to be a potential to be a breakout tight end. As is aptly shown in the photo, dude's got great hands. Add in that he runs good routes, will go up and get high balls and won’t face the Colts best coverage, and he could have a big game.
Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt Need to Protect Ponder
Last week, the two Vikings tackles held their own against the Jaguars, and kept the defensive ends relatively quiet. This week is very different, as they will be going up against much stiffer competition from Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney.
Loadholt is entering a make-or-break year, so this will be a huge opportunity for him to prove himself against Mathis, who took down Jay Cutler twice last week. It will be a very telling matchup, so he’ll be worth keeping an eye on.
On the other side of the line is an even more interesting battle. It will be a marquee matchup between rookie fourth-overall pick Matt Kalil and the ever-dangerous superstar Dwight Freeney. While this isn’t necessarily a make-or-break year for Kalil, it sure is a huge opportunity for him to establish himself as one of the best tackles in the game.
Coming into the draft, he was considered the most NFL ready tackle, so we’ll see what he can do.
Update: It's looking like Dwight Freeney might not be available vs. the Vikings. If that holds true, Ponder should sleep a lot easier on Saturday.