Eleven to watch tonight

The Vikings are expected to play their starters into the second quarter of tonight's game with the Buffalo Bills and the game will serve as a momentum springboard heading into the 2013 season. These are the 11 players with the most to gain or lose tonight.

The Vikings start ramping up for the regular season tonight, and, if they take a cue from the teams that played their second preseason games last night, the starters will see action well into the second quarter.

Tonight's game will be critical for a lot of players – both in the short-term and the long-term. These are our choices for the players to keep an eye on tonight when the Vikings square off with the Bills.


Christian Ponder
After playing just two plays in his first game, expect to see 20 or so plays this time around. He will have a short window of time to get a rhythm going with the offense, so he won't have time to struggle early because he won't be playing late.

Zach LineTo make the roster, it may have to be as a special teams ace, but, after scoring a 61-yard touchdown last week, if he can show value to the offense, he could find his way on the field if he makes the final roster.

Jerome SimpsonThe automatic assumption among fans and media types is that the starting two receivers are going to be Greg Jennings and Coradarrelle Patterson. The coaching staff hasn't anointed Patterson yet and Simpson has the job until it's taken away from him. If he keeps playing at a high level, it will be hard to have his spot taken away.

John CarlsonHe's looked good in practice and has consistently been a downfield target of Ponder and Matt Cassel. If that transfers to games, then you've got something.

DeMarcus LoveHe's facing a four-game suspension and needs to do whatever he can now to make an impression on the coaching staff. If he doesn't, there won't be a job waiting for him when his suspension ends.


Kevin Williams
Sharrif Floyd made a strong impression before he tweaked his knee last week. Williams didn't play, but still expects to be the full-time under tackle in the defense. He needs to make plays or Floyd could start chipping into his time.

Desmond BishopHe hasn't played in more than a year and there is talk that, if he doesn't win the starting job, he could be a casualty when the rosters are trimmed down to 53. He needs to start looking the pre-injury Bishop that was a banger with Green Bay.

Xavier RhodesRhodes is expected to be the cornerback that will help neutralize the likes of Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. He has been slowed with injury at training camp and needs to make an impact soon to push his way onto the field.

Michael MautiHis recovery from a third ACL surgery has been nothing short of remarkable. He is ahead of schedule in his rehab and has earned a lot of points with the front office and coaching staff. He hasn't locked down a roster spot by a long shot, so continuing to make a strong impression is a must.

Josh RobinsonReplacing Antoine Winfield as the primary nickel corner is going to be a must for the Vikings defense to succeed. That process begins in earnest tonight.


Jeff Locke
There aren't concerns about his punting, but he is the new holder for the Vikings on field goals and extra points. While Chris Kluwe had his issues, he was automatic on holding for field goals for Ryan Longwell and Blair Walsh. Locke has to prove he's not a weak link in that critical area.

All of the Vikings will have a role to play tonight, whether it is a starter whose job has been locked down for months or the players fighting for a roster spot. But these are the players to keep an eye on tonight, because they are the ones that will have the most to gain or lose tonight.

Viking Update Top Stories