By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings face a rebuilding team for the second straight game to open the 2012 season. After defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars at Mall of America Field in Week One, the Vikings take to the road to face the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week Two.
The Colts opened the 2012 season with a 41-21 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck’s statistics didn’t look good with a 51 percent completion rate, three interceptions and three sacks. He did, however, throw for over 300 yards and a touchdown while rushing twice for nine yards.
Colts on Offense
The Colts have a new head coach, new system and new quarterback. The team does not use the same no-huddle formation offense as it did in the past — changing from Peyton Manning to Luck will do that. The Colts will use more formations and more conservative play calls. Bruce Arians is the new offensive coordinator. To get an idea of what the Colts will do, just look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense of the last few years. The Colts will use a lot of play action passes and man blocking from its offensive line. Luck will make far fewer audibles than his predecessor.
The Vikings’ defensive line did not record a sack against the Jaguars, but the Colts’ offensive line is considered a liability that Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Kevin Williams and company should be able to exploit.
Colts on Defense
The Colts have switched to a hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme, the same system ran by current head coach Chuck Pagano during his time as a defensive assistant coach for the Baltimore Ravens. The Colts will mix up their formation between a three- and four-man front without changing personnel. The two outside linebackers are rushers, but defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will have them drop into coverage on occasion, even though they are a liability against the pass.
The weakness of the Colts defense is its tackling. It was reported that the Colts defense missed 10 tackles in Week One. In his 17 carries, a less-than-100-percent Adrian Peterson forced the Jaguars to miss three tackles. Peterson, Toby Gerhart and Percy Harvin have the ability to make some of the best defenders miss. They could have a huge game running the ball, keeping the crowd out of the game and the Colts offense on the sideline.
Colts Players to Watch
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne: The Colts’ offense may have new players and coaches and new terminology, but Wayne is still one of the top receivers in the league. Luck targeted the 12-year veteran 18 times in the first week of the season. Wayne responded with nine catches for 135 yards.
Linebacker Robert Mathis: The 10-year veteran is one of the most underrated pass rushers in the NFL. He is constantly overshadowed by teammate Dwight Freeney. With Freeney ailing from a high ankle sprain, Mathis has a chance to shine. He recorded two sacks, three tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits against the Bears.
The new-look Colts finished the 2011 season with the worst record in the NFL. That dubious honor gave them the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Colts are expected to struggle with a rookie head coach and quarterback. The strengths of the Vikings (rush offense and pass rush) are some of the weaknesses for the Colts. The Vikings should expect to be 2-0 following Sunday’s game.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.