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.