Indianapolis Colts (6-7) at Minnesota Vikings (7-6)
Minnesota was dealt a huge blow when they lost safety Harrison Smith for likely the rest of the regular season with an ankle injury. They were impressive in their first game without him last week in Jacksonville, but he’s arguably the best safety in football and the Vikings’ best defensive player, so he’s not an easy player to replace. He’s as important to this defense as Earl Thomas is to the Seahawks, but his injury doesn’t get nearly the attention that Thomas’ did. The good news for the Vikings is they get top offensive lineman Joe Berger back from a 2-game absence with a concussion and Adrian Peterson is expected to return for the first time since week 2 with a torn meniscus, though how effective he’ll be in his first game back is a major question mark.
The Colts, meanwhile, have plenty of injury problems, as has been the case all year. They’re missing 3 starters on the offensive line, including left guard Jack Mewhort, who is probably their best offensive lineman, 2 starters in the secondary (safety Clayton Geathers and cornerback Patrick Robinson), and #2 wide receiver Donte Moncrief. The Vikings have been a little bit better than the Colts all year, entering this game 16th in first down rate differential, while the Colts enter in 23rd, and they are significantly better than them right now given both teams’ injury situations. However, this line is at 5 in favor of the hometown Minnesota Vikings, so there’s not enough for me to be at all confident in Minnesota. This line is right where it should be.
Minnesota Vikings 23 Indianapolis Colts 17
Pick against the spread: Minnesota -5