What the Minnesota Vikings can learn from the 2018 Indianapolis Colts

(Photo by Matt Kryger/IndyStar) Malik Hooker
(Photo by Matt Kryger/IndyStar) Malik Hooker /

Can the Minnesota Vikings make the playoffs after a 1-5 start like the Indianapolis Colts did in 2018?

Following their loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings are now 1-5 for the first time ever with Mike Zimmer as their head coach.

In the past, the Vikings have started a season with a 1-5 record five times. Minnesota did not go on to make the playoffs in any of these years nor did they win more than six games.

In the entire history of the NFL, three teams have gone on to make the playoffs after starting a season with five losses in their first six matchups. It’s actually happened twice since 2015 though and the most recent instance of a team accomplishing this turnaround went down in 2018 when the Indianapolis Colts finished their year 10-6 after beginning 1-5.

Can the Minnesota Vikings do what the Indianapolis Colts did in 2018?

After losing their fifth game of the 2018 season, the Colts went on to win nine of their final 10 matchups. Indianapolis then won their first game of the playoffs before falling to the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round.

The Colts’ first five losses of the year were by a total of 40 points, including two defeats by at least 11 points. Minnesota’s five losses this season have been by a total of 45 points and two of them saw the game end with the Vikings having 17 fewer points than their opponent.

When looking closer at how Minnesota’s current team compares to the Indianapolis squad in 2018, the Vikings have averaged more total yards, more rushing yards, and more points per game than the Colts from two seasons ago.

Heading into Week 7 of the 2018 campaign, Indianapolis’ defense was performing slightly better than how Minnesota has performed on the defensive side of the ball so far this season. However, it’s not like the Colts defense was playing lights out during their first six games in 2018 either.

One thing that Indianapolis had going for them that the Vikings don’t currently have the luxury of is the fact that they played in a pretty weak division. The Houston Texans ended up beating out the Colts during the 2018 season to win the AFC South, but the Texans certainly weren’t considered a powerhouse in the NFL that year.

This season, Minnesota is in an NFC North division that features a pair of teams in the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears that have a combined 9-2 record. Like Indianapolis in 2018 though, only one of the Vikings first six games has come against a divisional opponent and they still have five NFC North matchups left on their 2020 schedule.

Just like the Colts in 2018, Minnesota still has plenty of talent on their roster and they’ve been in close contests with some of the best teams in the league. The Vikings just have to figure out a way to perform at a consistently high level throughout an entire game week after week.

During their first six matchups in 2018, Indianapolis was 0-2 in contests decided by four points or less. But then during the rest of their season, the Colts were 4-0 in games decided by four points or less.

Minnesota has already played in plenty of close matchups this year and they’ve almost come away with some pretty impressive wins over some of the best teams in the league. During the second half of their season, the Vikings must figure out how they can pull away during games that are decided by just a handful of points.

Minnesota has the right guys in their locker room that can help the team turn their season around. When they return from their bye in Week 8, the Vikings can make a big statement if they can defeat the 4-1 Packers inside Lambeau Field.

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If Minnesota can get a win over Green Bay in two weeks, then that could potentially get the ball rolling to have a turnaround like Indianapolis in 2018.