SERIES HISTORY: 24th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 15-7-1. The Colts are also 1-0 against Minnesota in postseason matchups (24-14, 12/22/1968, Western Conference Championship Game, Baltimore's Memorial Stadium). The Colts have posted wins in their last four meetings with Minnesota, including a 23-20 decision at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2012. The last three games have been decided by three points each. The series began in 1961, when the Colts were playing in Baltimore. The Colts are 10-0 in home games and 5-7-1 on the road.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
The Vikings won only two of their past six games, but they hope to beat the Colts at home on Sunday, raising their record against the AFC South to 4-0 and setting up an even more meaningful showdown at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Eve.
Whether running back Adrian Peterson returns from injured reserve is the biggest question, but Peterson said in a radio interview Friday that he will play Sunday. Peterson returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since having surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee, torn during the Week 2 win over the Packers.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano is preparing as if Peterson will be in uniform. Peterson had only 50 yards on 31 carries before being injured. But his presence in the backfield would certainly guarantee more passing opportunities for quarterback Sam Bradford since all teams crowd the line of scrimmage when Peterson is in the game.
The Vikings own the eighth seed in the NFC playoff chase. Indianapolis' playoff chances essentially were snuffed when they lost at home to Houston last week. The Colts went 0-2 this year against a Texans team the Vikings destroyed 31-13 way back when they were 5-0 and the only undefeated team in the league.
Colts QB Andrew Luck (right shoulder/right elbow) went through walkthrough Wednesday but did not participate in practice. Pagano said his quarterback "got whacked around pretty good" in last week's loss to Houston. Luck, however, is expected to start Sunday at Minnesota.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Colts QB Andrew Luck vs. Vikings DE Danielle Hunter. Luck has been sacked 37 times this season, which is among the most in the league, and the Colts have given up 40 sacks total. Luck has thrown for 3,381 yards and 25 TDs and has 10 interceptions while completing 62.9 percent. Minnesota has posted 35 sacks, including 10.5 by second-year DE Danielle Hunter.
--Vikings QB Sam Bradford vs. Colts pass defense. Bradford has completed 304 of 427 passes for 2,954 yards, with 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He has been sacked 28 times. Indianapolis has the NFL's 26th-ranked pass defense, allowing 262.4 yards per game. The Colts have 28 sacks and just seven interceptions.
SUNDAY INJURY REPORT:
--Out: T Denzelle Good (concussion), DT Arthur Jones (groin), WR Donte Moncrief (hamstring), T Joe Reitz (back)
--Out: G Brandon Fusco (concussion), S Harrison Smith (ankle), WR Laquon Treadwell (ankle), CB Trae Waynes (concussion)
--Questionable: CB Mackensie Alexander (abdomen), RB Matt Asiata (ankle), C Joe Berger (concussion)
Colts WR Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett has been relatively free of injuries after missing time as a rookie last year. Consistency, though, has been another issue for the former Miami standout. He has hauled in 27 passes for 414 yards and one touchdown. Dorsett has had an issue with dropped passes, as evidenced by last week's game with Houston. He is being counted on to provide the Colts with another deep threat, along with WR T.Y. Hilton. Indianapolis needs Dorsett, a first-round pick in 2015, to step up his game in a big way.
Colts WR T.Y. Hilton had his second consecutive game with 100 receiving yards last week. It was his fifth of the season, but the first one that resulted in a loss for the Colts. In fact, getting the ball to Hilton has been key for the Colts this season: They are 6-1 when he has at least 80 yards and 0-6 when he has fewer than 80.
Vikings QB Sam Bradford had three 40-yard completions for the first time in his career in the Week 14 win against Jacksonville (he had two 40-yard completions in a game just seven times in his career before Sunday). The Vikings are 6-0 this season when Bradford attempts 36 or fewer passes and 0-6 when he attempts 37 or more.
The Colts and their playoff chances were beat up by the Texans last week, but the Vikings' optimism is reflected in RB Adrian Peterson's return to practice for a run at the postseason.
OUR PICK: Vikings, 28-17.