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4 Vikings storylines to watch against the Colts

Things can't get worse than they were last week...right?
Dru Samia

The Minnesota Vikings are in need of a rebound victory after getting demolished at home by the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. To do that, they'll have to head to Indianapolis to face a Colts team that felt a similar loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

As the Vikings prepare to hit the field, things can't get much worse than they were last week. But the Vikings still have questions heading into Sunday's game that need answers as soon as possible.

Can Dru Samia be better than Pat Elflein?

The Vikings were dealt some more bad injury news when Elflein was placed on IR Thursday afternoon. The starting right guard injured (or tweaked?) his thumb in practice and will miss at least the next three games, throwing Dru Samia into the starting lineup.

The good news is that to be a replacement for Elflein, the bar is shockingly low. Elflein led the Vikings with five allowed pressures against the Packers and was trying to learn his third position in the past three seasons.

The Vikings traded up for Samia in the 2019 NFL Draft and expectations were high coming off his "redshirt" rookie season. Although the coaching staff didn't think he was ready for the starting role out of camp, it's sink or swim for another developmental offensive guard.

Xavier Rhodes revenge game?

Typically, a revenge game is when a player returns to have a big game against his former team. For the Vikings, they have a chance to get revenge on Rhodes for his performance over the past two seasons.

Rhodes was abysmal for the Vikings last season in particular, allowing 84 percent of his targets to be completed. Aside from potentially signing with Indianapolis because they had the same colors as the blue medical tent, Rhodes stayed true to form, allowing the game-winning touchdown against Jacksonville last week.

The Vikings said all the right things about Rhodes this week. As a key part of Minnesota's success in the later part of the 2010s, why wouldn't they? But the Vikings know all about Rhodes' struggles, which could lead for a big day from Adam Thielen.

Can the Vikings stop the run?

While Aaron Rodgers literally lighting all three Vikings cornerbacks on fire was the headline, the performance of the Packers' ground game last week set the tone for a long afternoon.

While Aaron Jones' 4.1 yards per carry wasn't outstanding, the Packers had success at the beginning of the game by managing four to five yards on the ground to keep the Vikings defense on the field. By the time they could get a stop, they were gassed and Rodgers was the one with the match.

This week, the Colts are planning to unveil Jonathan Taylor. Placed in an identical situation to the one where he destroyed the Gophers at Wisconsin, Taylor can take any handoff to the house if the Vikings aren't careful.

The Colts aren't going to let Philip Rivers throw 46 times again on Sunday, so the Vikings will have to shore up in the trenches to come away with the victory.

The defense can't get worse...can it?

The run defense isn't going to be the only one in question. The total team effort of the Vikings defense against the Packers was a problem with the pass rush and secondary bringing major concerns.

Holton Hill, Mike Hughes, and Cameron Dantzler all allowed at least 70 yards and a touchdown against the Packers. For Dantzler, a learning curve was to be expected but the performance of the veterans was disappointing. 

With Dantzler now out of Sunday's game, first-round pick Jeff Gladney should see some run, but how ready is he to contribute after playing nine snaps against the Packers?

The secondary could also benefit from a pass rush that produced just seven pressures last week. Although co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson continues to preach about "pet cats" and Shamar Stephen, his scheme left Rodgers looking like he was in the back yard playing catch with his dog.

The Vikings have to find a way to shore up both of these areas otherwise, they could find themselves in an 0-2 hole few teams are able to recover from.

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Matthew Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for BMTN, with more of his work found at Purple Insider.