Five to Watch: Colts at Vikings

The Vikings have stars on both sides of the ball and the Colts will have their hands full trying to contain them. Which five Colts will be crucial to the team's success or failure? Greg Talmage suggests five players to keep track of on Sunday.

Tony Ugoh: Left tackle Tony Ugoh likely won't face a more daunting challenge all season than the one that awaits him this week in RE Jared Allen. Allen led the NFL last season with 15 1/2 sacks. He is a high-motor whistle to whistle player, who wears out opponents with his unlimited energy.

Allen actually has never sacked Colts QB Peyton Manning, a personal statistic Jared is hoping to change this week. He reiterated that this week on his call with reporters. "I've come close a lot of times, but I haven't got Peyton yet," Allen said. "I always laugh and say, 'When you play against the Colts, you're not only rushing against the left tackle, you're rushing against Peyton Manning.' If you beat the tackle, you've still got to beat Manning before his internal clock tells him to dump the ball off."

Last week, Allen was a non-factor in the Vikings opener and finished with no tackles and no sacks in the loss. Don't expect a player of Allen's caliber to be shut out in back-to-back weeks. Besides getting around Ugoh, Allen will also see plenty of TE Gijon Robinson as the Colts provide some extra protection on the left-side.

Antoine Bethea
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Antoine Bethea: Bethea is coming off one of the more uneven performances of his professional career. Phil B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star summed up Bethea's overall play last week well: "Antoine Bethea had his issues, too. He obviously slid past Forte on the 50-yard TD run, but it looked as if he was slow to react on some plays, then reacted too quickly or aggressively on others."

A performance similar to that is the last thing the Colts need from Antoine this week. Since the Colts are likely to frequently drop Bob Sanders into the box to help the Front 7 with Peterson, that often will leave Bethea as the last line of defense on a potential long run by Peterson and as the only coverage help downfield. It's integral that Bethea discover his reaction balance and not play too quickly or aggressively.

Fellow Analyst Brad Keller breaks down another potential situation where Bethea's reads and coverage skills will be tested on Sunday. "The area of the field that needs to be zealously patrolled will be the area that was left unguarded against the Bears — the seam, where the tight ends and slot receivers will be free to run in routes and slants, unless the Colts cover those zones ... If Clint Session blitzes, Antoine Bethea needs to cover for him, should a pass be attempted in that area."

Marvin Harrison: Marvin Harrison was having a solid workmanlike game last week before being stripped by Charles Tillman in the 3rd quarter, a turnover that a LB Lance Briggs picked up and turned into 6 points. That was an uncharacteristic fumble by Harrison in a crucial situation, and turned a 15-13 deficit into a 22-13 one.

While last week's game may have done little to relive Colts fans doubts concerning Harrison. Look for not only No. 88 to bounce back this week, but also look for the Colts vertical passing game to reappear.

In Week 1, Manning averaged just 5.24 yards per attempt and 8.6 yards per completion. That should change this week against a Vikings pass defense that surrendered a league-worst 264.1 yards per game through the air last season and didn't look very improved in Week 1 when Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers only had four incomplete passes all game.

Jamey Richard ... or Jeff Saturday: Saturday returned to practice this week and may actually be back under center on Sunday. While Jamey Richard filled in admirably last week, having Saturday back would provide a huge emotion for the Colts offense.

It will be a game-time decision before we know who will get the start. No matter who it is, the test this is intimidating in the form of two 315 pound defensive tackles, Pat Williams and Kevin Williams. It's integral that the Colts interior line hold up. Williams and Williams eat space, collapse the pocket and make it extremely difficult for teams to run against Minnesota.

Eric Foster: With the release of DT Ed Johnson, Coach Tony Dungy has named undrafted rookie Eric Foster as his replacement. What can we expect from Foster this week?

For starters, he'll have his hands full lining up across from Pro Bowl LG Steve Hutchinson. Minnesota will look to exploit this matchup on Sunday.

Veteran scout Tom Marino had this to say about Foster: "good initial quickness, range (runs well), plays with excellent leverage, and uses his hands well." Foster actually reminds Marino of six-time Pro Bowler La'Roi Glover when he was originally drafted out of San Diego State by the Raiders. "Glover was undersized coming out of school, too. This guy is a lot like him," Marino said. "Foster can be disruptive and make some plays. He doesn't dog it; he doesn't change speeds on each down. He could be a rotational guy. If you're looking for someone that can give you different looks, he'd be good for that. I like him. I just wish he was bigger."

A year ago, Johnson got his shot when Anthony McFarland went down. Now that Johnson's gone, it will interesting to see how Foster fares in a similar situation.

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