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What to watch for in Colts-Ravens, Packers-Vikings

Thursday Night Football might be done for the year, but don't fret, Saturday football is here.

The NFL makes an early return to the weekend for the second straight week, kicking off with an Indianapolis Colts-Baltimore Ravens duel (exclusively on NFL Network) in the afternoon and ending with a Green Bay Packers-Minnesota Vikings clash at night (on NBC).

Here's what we're watching for in the pair of games that will start the league's action this week:

  1. Alex Collins struggled to get going against the Cleveland Browns last week, running for just 19 yards on 12 carries, but the second-year back should eat Saturday. Collins gets a juicy matchup against the league's 29th-ranked run defense (giving up 124.2 yards on the ground per game). As one of the most fun runners in the NFL to watch because of the tenacity Collins plays with, he could be the star of the day. He needs just 156 yards to make the 1,000-yard plateau. He'd become the first Ravens tailback since Justin Forsett in 2014 to hit that mark. Could he reach that feat Saturday?
  1. T.Y. Hilton hasn't posted a game with more than 51 receiving yards since the beginning of November against the Houston Texans. Since that 175-yard explosion in Week 9, Hilton has just 150 yards in five games. It's not a great matchup against the Ravens this week (though Baltimore will be without top corner Jimmy Smith), but Hilton has to get going if the Colts want to try to put a dent in the Ravens' playoff chances this season.
  1. Speaking of those Baltimore playoff chances, the Ravensneed this win. At 8-6, Baltimore is still staring up at the 8-6 Buffalo Bills and the 8-6 Tennessee Titans for the AFC's wild-card spots. With just two games left in the season, a loss could cripple the Ravens' playoff chances, particularly with the Chargers sitting right behind them in the standings at 7-7.
  1. The NFL world keeps waiting for Case Keenum's Cinderella season to turn into a pumpkin, but the journeyman quarterback refuses to oblige. In a season where traditional MVP candidates have taken big hits -- Carson Wentz and Antonio Brown going down with injury, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady's slight decline in recent weeks -- Keenum just keeps chugging along. Despite never posting a year with more than nine touchdowns, 2,201 yards and an 87.7 quarterback rating, Keenum has been masterful for the Vikings in 2017, logging a 98.9 quarterback rating, 3,219 yards, 20 touchdowns and just seven picks. Look for that magic to continue. Green Bay ranks 24th in the league in passing defense, giving up 240 yards per game.
  1. After a brief four quarters off, the Brett Hundley show is back. Aaron Rodgers' return from a broken collarbone lasted just 60 in-game minutes last week and ended once the Packers were officially eliminated from postseason play Monday night. Thus, Hundley's back. It's been a true roller-coaster ride for the UCLA product, with Hundley posting three games of quarterback ratings over 110 before four games of quarterback ratings under 50. What Hundley will show up Saturday? The Packers hope it won't be the one that played in relief of Rodgers against the Vikings in Week 6. He tossed three interceptions that day and fumbled once.
  1. Just how frozen will the Lambeau Field tundra be? The early forecast calls for temperatures in the single digits by kickoff time. Could that cold make Keenum and Hundley's passing arms irrelevant? If so, the Vikings should have the edge in that category. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have combined for more than 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns on 306 carries. Packers rookie backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones have flashed at times this season, but the Vikings rank No. 2 in the league in run defense, giving up 85.3 rushing yards per game. The Pack certainly have their work cut out if they want to play a little bit of spoiler to the Vikings, who are still battling the Eagles for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
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