1:00 PM ET, September 16, 2012
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
With Manning gone, it's Andrew Luck's turn to give the fans in Indianapolis something to cheer about.
Making his home debut Sunday, Luck will try to drop the Minnesota Vikings to 0-11 all-time as the road team in this series.
After going 21-6, including postseason, in their first three seasons at their new stadium, the Colts lost their first six home games in 2011 as Manning was sidelined all year due to a series of neck operations.
Now that the four-time MVP has moved on to Denver, the Colts (0-1) are putting their hopes on Luck's right arm. The No. 1 overall pick finished with 309 passing yards and a touchdown in last Sunday's 41-21 loss at Chicago, but he was also picked off three times and lost a fumble in his NFL debut.
"That's definitely the thing I thought about last night, this morning, after the film again, four turnovers," said Luck, who was sacked three times. "You can't have that, especially when all four of them are on you."
With 2011 NFL sacks leader Jared Allen and the Vikings (1-0) looking to pressure Luck in their first visit to Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts have tried to bolster their offensive line this week by signing former Steelers guard Trai Essex and tackle Bradley Sowell from Tampa Bay's practice squad.
First-year coach Chuck Pagano said right tackle Winston Justice could return Sunday after suffering a concussion in Week 1.
Indianapolis, though, will be without one of its top defensive players as linebacker Dwight Freeney is out with a sprained left ankle suffered in the first quarter last Sunday. Freeney's absence leaves a huge hole in Pagano's new 3-4 hybrid defense, which allowed 114 yards and three touchdowns on the ground last week.
That doesn't bode well with Adrian Peterson coming to town. Just eight months after reconstructive surgery on a torn ACL and MCL, Peterson ran for 84 yards and two TDs in last Sunday's 26-23 overtime win over Jacksonville.
"My legs are loose. Seriously, I'm feeling really good. I'm ready to carry the load," said Peterson, who became the team's all-time leading rusher with 6,836 yards.
Coach Leslie Frazier, though, is going to be careful with the four-time Pro Bowler, who carried 17 times in the opener.
"I think we still have to be somewhat cautious," said Frazier, a former Colts assistant. "Now Adrian won't want to hear that but we still have to keep a rotation going between he and (Luck's former Stanford teammate) Toby (Gerhart)."
Having Peterson back takes plenty of pressure off second-year quarterback Christian Ponder, who was 20 of 27 for 270 yards against the Jaguars. Ponder didn't throw a TD, but he wasn't intercepted and he guided the team on a 32-yard drive in the final minute of regulation to set up a game-tying 55-yard field goal from rookie Blair Walsh, who hit all four of his attempts to win NFC special teams player of the week honors.
"We are a young team, but we're growing up," Ponder said. "We have the right guys in place where we can have the mindset where if we are behind, or if things aren't going well, we can overcome it."
Another big game from Percy Harvin, who had 192 all-purpose yards last weekend, could help the Vikings win their first road game in this series. The Colts are 2-0 versus Minnesota in Indianapolis after winning all eight games in Baltimore against the Vikings, including the 1968 Western Conference championship.
Colts receiver Reggie Wayne is also looking to build off an impressive season debut after catching nine passes for 135 yards. He is 62 yards shy of passing Michael Irvin for 20th all-time with 11,905.
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• Get Harvin the ball: Percy Harvin is a unique do-it-all weapon who needs to be more of a focal point of Minnesota's offense. The Colts recently traded for Vontae Davis, who could draw the assignment of covering Harvin more often than not. But Harvin will align all over the formation, making it hard for one player to shadow him. One player in Indianapolis' secondary to watch is Antoine Bethea, a playmaker who is among the most underrated players at his position in the NFL. Also, with Adrian Peterson still recovering from his knee injury, Harvin could see a handful of carries against the Bears.
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|Avg Points Allowed||23.0||30.5|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||MIN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||MIN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Indianapolis leads 3-0|
|Sep 14, 2008||MIN 15, IND 18|
|Nov 8, 2004||MIN 28, @IND 31|