Vikings likely to play running back roulette

The Vikings will have a decision to make at running back on Sunday and the choices are many.

It may be a bit ironic that the Vikings are playing the Carolina Panthers Sunday. Fantasy football owners have learned to shy away from Panthers running backs. Between DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert (not to mention Cam Newton sniping rushing touchdowns), the only guarantee was that none of them would play 16 games and you never knew who was going to be the lead dog from one game to the next.

Even though the Panthers are coming into cold-weather territory, they may be running into a familiar run game with the Vikings.

With Matt Asiata passing of the concussion protocol, he has proclaimed himself good to go on Sunday. At last count, if Asiata is back, that leaves five roster spots potentially available at running back – Asiata, Jerick McKinnon, Ben Tate, Joe Banyard and fullback Jerome Felton (not counting his back Zach Line, who will almost surely be inactive again).

The odds of the Vikings keeping five running backs on the game day roster are slim. Given their recent injury history, four is possible, but likely not five.

McKinnon starts, so he’s in. Felton is his lead blocker, so he makes two. The other two are open to interpretation.

Asiata was the first line of replacement for Adrian Peterson when he was taken away from the team. He has been supplanted from his starting job by McKinnon but had been in the lineup all season prior to his concussion. Unless the team errs on the side of caution, he should be on the game day roster.

Tate was active last week, but didn’t see any playing time. The Vikings claimed the veteran running back for a reason. They have the final five game to kick to tires to see if they want Tate in the mix in a potential post-Peterson world with the Vikings. He hasn’t had a carry yet, but would seem to be logically in the mix to be active Sunday.

Banyard was on the field for the last drive of Sunday’s game when the Vikings were trying to come back and beat Green Bay, so the coaching staff has confidence in him to make the plays needed when his number is called.

It’s going to be a tricky situation when Sunday rolls around. It’s likely one of the running backs will be inactive, but which one will it be? Stay tuned.


  • The Vikings running back situation could get even more muddled if Peterson gets a favorable ruling at his arbitration hearing next week, but word from the conspiracy community is that the Harold Henderson has consistently sided with Roger Goodell when making rulings.

  • McKinnon and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson were held out of practice Wednesday, but that hasn’t been overly unusual for either of them as they both battle through injuries.

  • The Vikings intended to practice outside on Wednesday, but a combination of snow, sleet and wind Wednesday morning pushed the practice inside. The team is going to have an early practice today to allow players to enjoy the holiday with their families.

  • Sharrif Floyd has been sidelined, but is expected to make his return to action Sunday barring a setback later this week.

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