Best matchups are internal roster battles

The coaches won't care much about the matchups of the Vikings vs. the Titans. They are more concerned with the internal roster battles that will have to be decided by Saturday. We look at the tightest battles and who has the edge heading into the preseason finale.

Anyone who knows the layout of the typical preseason schedule is aware of the routine that takes place. Anticipated starters play a series in the first game (if they play at all). They play about a quarter in the second game. They play the first half and change in the third game. The fourth game, they revert to game one – with most starters not playing at all. It's not just the Vikings who do this. It's league-wide. So, this week's key matchup isn't a player or unit of the Vikings against a player of unit of the Titans. It's the matchups that will be in-house as players compete for roster spots. These are the players who are competing with each other for precious roster spots.

Matt Asiata vs. Joe BanyardAsiata has been the No. 3 running back behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart the last two years and has the leg up on Banyard. With the Vikings expected to only keep three running backs, one will stay and one will go, with Asiata having the advantage because of experience and special teams contributions.

Zach Line vs. Jerome Felton's suspension – Line was a Mr. Everything at SMU, but the wide open offense they ran didn't have him doing the standard duties of a fullback. He appeared to be a player on the bubble at best, but, with Felton suspended for three games, what appeared to be an easy cut may not be so simple.

Kevin Murphy vs. DeMarcus LoveWith Love suspended the first four games of the season, Murphy has an inside track to be the primary backup to Matt Kalil. The only question here is whether the Vikings will keep Love and then put him on the suspended list or just be done with it altogether and keep Murphy.

Troy Kropog vs. Brandon KeithThe backup right tackle spot has been one that has been something of a revolving door. Kropog has more experience with the Vikings; Keith has more experience in the NFL. Keith might also be the only true tackle kept and edge out not only Kropog but also Murphy.

Seth Olsen vs. Jeff Baca vs. Travis BondOlsen is the frontrunner because of experience (he started four of the five games he was active last year) and Baca and Bond are a pair of draft picks that are both competing for a spot. It's unlikely the team will keep all three, but there has been talk of developing Bond into a guard-tackle hybrid backup. Maybe the team keeps two, but whoever is released could be a prime practice squad candidate if he clears waivers.

Joe Webb vs. Stephen BurtonThe biggest question is whether the Vikings will keep five or six wide receivers on the roster. The odds of Adam Thielen or Rodney Smith making the final roster are remote at best. Four spots have already been locked up – Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarius Wright. With Greg Childs out of the picture again after being placed on the physically unable to perform list (which will keep him out the first six games at a minimum), the competition boils down to the Vikings' philosophy. Both Burton and Webb have been part of the organization, but Webb was a quarterback until this year. The expectation is that the Vikings will keep five, but it wouldn't be shocking to see the team keep them both.

Rhett Ellison vs. Chase Ford vs. Colin AndersonKyle Rudolph and John Carlson have two spots locked down. If the Vikings keep three tight ends, Ellison has shown enough to keep his job. The wild card here may be Felton's suspension. If the Vikings don't go with a fullback on the 53-man roster, a fourth tight end is an option, which means Ford or Anderson could join Ellison on the "good side" of the bubble.

D'Aundre Reed vs. George Johnson vs. Collins UkwuThe Vikings are stocked at defensive end with Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen locked into their spots. Reed was active for six games as a rookie and Johnson has veteran experience. The Vikings will keep a minimum of four defensive ends and potentially five. Johnson and Reed could be in a tight battle, but Ukwu could be on waivers Saturday.

Chase Baker vs. Christian Ballard vs. Everett Dawkins vs. Anthony McCloudPrior to Ballard's exodus from training camp 10 days ago, it seemed as though the six defensive tackle spots were close to be settled with Kevin Williams, Sharrif Floyd, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans and Ballard having control of five spots. However, with Ballard's spot up in the air and both Floyd and Williams recovering from knee injuries, this could be one of the most difficult decisions the Vikings will have to make. If they keep an extra DT as insurance, it will come at the expense of another position.

Audie Cole vs. Michael MautiErin Henderson is the starting middle linebacker and there may not be room for two backup middle linebackers. Cole was the star of the preseason last year and won a roster spot. There is little chance that either clears waivers if they are among Saturday's cuts.

Marcus Sherels vs. Bobby Felder vs. Brandon BurtonThe Vikings use defensive backs as special teams players, so keeping six or even seven isn't out of the realm of possibility. Chris Cook, Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson and A.J. Jefferson are in and Felder has done everything he can to make it impossible for the Vikings to cut him. Perhaps both Sherels and Burton end up on the final roster, but it will be a hard choice for the Vikings to make.

Andrew Sendejo vs. Brandan Bishop vs. Darius EubanksWith Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond and Robert Blanton in, the issue is whether the Vikings want to keep a fifth safety or a sixth or seventh cornerback. In they keep five safeties, Sendejo has the edge.

Fans won't remember the final score of Thursday's game with the Titans because, in the minds of fans, the game is meaningless. However, for players with their professional lives on the line, Thursday could be the make or break game of their careers because, although there are favorites to win spots at every position, until the final list of cuts is announced, nothing is guaranteed for the Bubble Boys of 2013 – making these the matchups to watch in a game most casual fans find unwatchable.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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