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Viking-Colts: Final Scribblings

Sunday’s contest at Lucas Oil Stadium versus the Indianapolis Colts isn’t quite a desperation game, but for a franchise and fanbase not accustomed to surrendering gobs of points [at home or otherwise], it teeters on a must-win event. 

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The Vikings have never started 0-2 under Mike Zimmer. Until last week, Zimmer had only lost one Week 1 game. That Week 1 supremacy is now humbled, and Minnesota hits the road in efforts to even their season at 1-1. The last time the Vikings began a campaign 0-2, former head coach Leslie Frazier was fired four months later. 

The stakes are high for the Colts tryst, too, because the Vikings embark on an Oilers-infused combination of games immediately following the showdown in Indianapolis. The Vikings return home next weekend to defend an empty stadium against the Tennessee Titans – a team that unexpectedly raced to the AFC Championship in 2019. The Titans host the Jaguars this week, and Vegas oddsmakers have already scribbled Tennessee in at 2-0. After that, Minnesota has a date in Houston, the Titans former home, with the Texans. If you’re a fierce consumer of Vikings football, a game against Deshaun Watson on the road generates a feeling of cynicism. 

While it’s true that Vikings have a superb history against Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (they’ve defeated him three of four career matchups), the Colts are also a team feeling the heat. They were just snuffed out by the low-expectation Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1.

Alas, here are some final Vikings-related thoughts on the Week 2 matchup in the Hoosier State.

The Vikings are actually a good road team

Inside or outside the Vikings orbit, there is a tendency to whisper that Minnesota is a deficient road team. It’s correct that the team doesn’t fare well on natural grass in non-noon games, but on the whole, the Vikings are a damn good road team.

Since 2015, the Vikings are the NFL’s eighth-best road team. Their 21-18-1 (.538) road record in the last five seasons is better than the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, and Philadelphia Eagles, to name a few. 

On the Richter scale of NFL opponents, the Colts [with this2020 roster] do not rattle the confidence of a Vikings team that seeks to gets its season back on track – especially in early-afternoon games. In fact, Minnesota’s win percentage jumps to sixth-best in the NFL in noon road games at 13-8-1 (.614) since the start of 2015. That is, the Vikings have won 61 percent of all noon road games in the last five years.

Minnesota wins 37% of games as an underdog since 2015 

As an underdog, however, the Vikings are not as prosperous. They’re certainly not bad when playing as an underdog, but they are very much average.

In the same five-year period (since 2015), the Vikings have waltzed into matchups as underdogs 25 times. This is the fourth-fewest underdog designations in games since 2015. Only the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Kansas City Chiefs have entered games as underdogs fewer times. 

Of those 25 contests that the Vikings were not favored, they left victorious nine times. This creates a win percentage of 36.8 percent, which ranks 15th in the league – smack dab in the middle.

Moreover, the Vikings are much more kind to those betting on the point spread. In those 25 underdog games, the Vikings are 14-11 against the spread.

Haven’t allowed 30+ points in back-to-back games in 4 years

This will be the single most interesting and influential aspect of the Vikings-Colts meeting. Will Mike Zimmer’s team reestablish its defensive imperium? Or was last week a glance at newfound, persistent growing pains?

Sunday’s squabble with Indianapolis is the first mile-marker on the crossroads that will answer these questions. The Colts boast offensive weapons like rookie Jonathan Taylor, T.Y. Hilton, Nyheim Hines, and Parris Campbell. While these men are talented ballplayers, they should not inspire unadulterated dread.

The last time the Vikings allowed back to 30-point games from opponents occurred when the crash-landing 2016 season was bottoming out. Minnesota played like toddlers versus these very Colts four seasons ago at U.S. Bank Stadium and let in 34 points to Andrew Luck and Co. The following week, the slaughter continued at Lambeau Field where the Packers pummeled the Vikings to the tune of 38-25. 

In mere hours, we find out if last week’s disappointment versus Green Bay was a circumstance of several extraneous affairs that caused the Vikings to look silly – or if our expectations for 2020 were way too lofty.

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