The two most important survival games for the fringe players have already taken place. Next Saturday's game is a preview showing for the starters and 15 players on the current roster won't be around for the final game.
So after three weeks of training camp and numerous notes on how things have stacked up in the often-rotating personnel pairings, let's take a stab at what Leslie Frazier's season-opening roster could look like.
Quarterback (3) – The Vikings will keep three and no offensive or defensive position is as easy to decipher as this one. Donovan McNabb will be the starter and Christian Ponder and Joe Webb will back him up. Rhett Bomar will be looking for work.
Running back (3) – The decisions don't get too much harder here with three running backs. Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart and Lorenzo Booker will all continue to draw paychecks into late September while Tristan Davis and Alexander Robinson will likely be left behind. The most interesting decision the coaching staff will have to make will be at fullback, where rookie Matt Asiata is battling Ryan D'Imperio. The guess here is that neither will make the 53-man roster and the Vikings will either pick up a veteran in free agency or go with four tight ends and motion them into the backfield as lead blockers when needed. The latter seems most likely.
Wide receiver (5) – The top three spots are set with Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian and Michael Jenkins, but coaches will likely keep two more. Greg Camarillo is the reliable, good-hands veteran while Jaymar Johnson and Devin Aromashodu offer more speed. Johnson and Camarillo could be the front-runners for the punt return job, meaning that position could determine who stays and goes among the receivers. On Saturday, Aromashodu and Juaquin Iglesias made the biggest impressions, and Emmanuel Arceneuax might also be in the mix for a spot, but Andre Holmes, Stephen Burton and Dominique Johnson are going to have to hope for a callback to the practice squad.
Tight end (4) – The locks are Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph as pass-catchers, and Jim Kleinsasser still holds a lot of value as a blocker. We also think Jeff Dugan should make it with his ability to motion into the backfield as a lead blocker. Rookie Allen Reisner has had a strong showing and appears to be a great candidate for the practice squad, while Ed Barham seems to have gotten lost in the mix.
Offensive line (10) – Four starting spots appear secured with left tackle Charlie Johnson, left guard Steve Hutchinson, center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt. Anthony Herrera should also make the team if his surgically repaired knee is healthy enough for action, but his right guard spot holds the key to who makes the team. Scott Kooistra, Chris DeGeare and Ryan Cook also have a shot at starting there. It could be that two of those last three make the roster, along with rookie DeMarcus Love, who has been working mostly at tackle, and Jon Cooper as the backup center (Cook can also play center). That could leave Brandon Fusco as a practice-squad candidate if he doesn't make the team, along with two practice-squad linemen from last year – Thomas Welch and Seth Olsen. Rod Huntley and Byron Isom appear to be on the outside.
Defensive line (9) – The starting lineup is set with Jared Allen and Brian Robison as ends and Kevin Williams and Remi Ayodele as tackles. Primary backups are expected to be Everson Griffen and Adrian Awasom outside and Letroy Guion, Christian Ballard and Fred Evans inside. That leaves a number of young options looking for work or hoping for a practice-squad spot, including David Akinniyi, Tremaine Johnson, Cedric McKinley, D'Aundre Reed and Colby Whitlock.
Linebacker (7) – With Erin Henderson apparently locking down the weakside linebacker spot, the starting three are set with E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway the established starters. The backup picture might be more interesting here than any other position. Heath Farwell and Kenny Onatolu bring special-teams prowess, and Japer Brinkley is a lock and likely the first man off the bench if one of the starters goes down. But will the Vikings keep Ross Homan or speedy free-agent Mark Washington, who has looked better as camp has progressed but was injured on Saturday? There might also be a late free-agent signing in the mix. Larry Dean and Jonathan Gilmore are likely out or practice-squad developmental material.
Defensive backs (9) – This might be the toughest position to whittle down with extremely tight battles at the lower levels of the depth chart. That's part of the reason we've added a roster spot here from last year's numbers and taken away from another position. Cedric Griffin, Antoine Winfield, Husain Abdullah and Jamarca Sanford are likely the starting four, and Chris Cook and Mistral Raymond could be the primary backups at cornerback and safety, respectively. Asher Allen is also likely to stick while Tony Carter, Brandon Burton and Marcus Sherels have shown solid cover skills in camp. Eric Frampton is also important to special teams, but with the decent depth, will he continue to nudge out younger prospects? The guess is that Sherels will be out and Burton and Carter in. The name missing so far? Tyrell Johnson. He may have as much to prove as anyone. If he doesn't, he could find himself on another team. Safety Simeon Castille has been injured most of camp and Cord Parks has flashed at times but is stuck at a deep position. Rookies Chris Adingupu, Ryan Hill and Devon Torrence will have to hope for the practice squad, with Torrence the most likely of those.
Specialists (3) – Back to the easy decisions. Kicker Ryan Longwell, punter Chris Kluwe and long snapper Cullen Loeffler are snaps to make the team. Rookie kicker Nate Whitaker is out.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.