The Vikings have never started 0-2 under Mike Zimmer, and their trip to Indianapolis gives them a QB matchup that’s more favorable than the ones awaiting them over the next few weeks. But the Colts could have an advantage along both lines of scrimmage that helps them control the game.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Vikings, Colts try to avoid 0-2
After only the second loss in Mike Zimmer’s seven season openers, the Vikings begin a stretch of three games in four weeks away from U.S. Bank Stadium. They’ll face a Colts team that lost to Jacksonville a week ago and is in a situation of equal urgency. The NFL has added a seventh playoff team in each conference, but neither team wants to have to rebound from an 0-2 start.
A reunion and a rematch
Philip Rivers has played his entire career in the AFC, but the Vikings will face him for the second time in as many years after he moved from the Chargers to the Colts. When the Vikings faced Rivers in Week 15 last year, they intercepted him three times and forced one fumble, with cornerback Xavier Rhodes on defense. Rhodes and Rivers are now teammates after the Vikings released the cornerback in March.
Elflein’s injury changes line again
Right guard Pat Elflein was not on the injury report Wednesday; by Thursday afternoon, a thumb injury drove him to injured reserve. With Elflein out, the Vikings will turn to second-year man Dru Samia at right guard.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings defensive line vs. Colts offensive line
The Vikings will face a Colts front that ranks among the best in the NFL, and could present problems after the Packers ran for 160 yards last week. Guard Quenton Nelson, the sixth overall pick in the 2018 draft, has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons and will present a particularly tough matchup for Shamar Stephen.
Vikings offensive line vs. Colts DT DeForest Buckner
With the 49ers, Buckner gave the Vikings plenty of trouble in the 2018 season opener and the 2019 NFC divisional playoffs before he was traded to the Colts. He’s in a 4-3 scheme now but can cause trouble as an interior pass rusher for a Vikings line that will be in flux again without Elflein.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
Years since the Vikings have beaten the Colts; they won at the Metrodome in the 1997 regular-season finale to clinch a wild-card spot. Since then, the Vikings have lost five straight to Indianapolis.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF …
They can stop the Colts’ attempts to control the game with former Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor and break through a strong Indianapolis front to pressure Rivers, who threw two interceptions last week. Rivers wasn’t sacked last week, and the Vikings didn’t sack Aaron Rodgers.
THE COLTS WILL WIN IF …
Rivers gets time to go to work on a young Vikings secondary that struggled against Rodgers last week and will be without Cameron Dantzler because of a rib injury. The Colts could also give the Vikings offensive line trouble, especially if they’re able to pressure Kirk Cousins up the middle.
Prediction: Colts, 24-21