It's possible the Vikings will play without as many as seven of their regular starters on Sunday.
TE Jim Kleinsasser (knee) and RT Mike Rosenthal (foot) are on injured reserve. MLB E.J. Henderson (knee) is out for at least this game. WLB Chris Claiborne (calf) keeps saying he will play, but don't count on him playing or lasting long if he does. TE Jermaine Wiggins (hand) is likely a week away from playing, at least. RB Michael Bennett (knee) is out at least another two weeks, and his replacement and leading rusher, Onterrio Smith, is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
And that doesn't count nickel back Ken Irvin (Achilles'), who also is on injured reserve.
The good news on the injury front is C Matt Birk (ankle) will play unless he suffers a setback in practice.
The biggest concern is at linebacker. Rookie Dontarrious Thomas had 13 tackles at middle linebacker as an emergency replacement for Henderson in the Vikings' 27-22 victory over Chicago. He hadn't practiced or played in the middle since last season at Auburn.
Thomas has had an extra week to prepare for middle linebacker. But the Texans also have had an extra week to devise plays to fool him.
If Claiborne doesn't play, either Mike Nattiel or Raonall Smith will handle the weak-side job. The Vikings were disappointed in Nattiel's performance after Claiborne was injured on the second play of the Bears game. Nattiel lined up incorrectly on too many plays.
Smith seems to be gaining an edge in the competition with Nattiel. Smith is a big, fast linebacker who hasn't lived up to his potential since being drafted in the second round of the 2002 draft. Injuries have slowed him until this season.
Rookie Nat Dorsey is the replacement at right tackle, rookie Richard Owen and/or second-year pro Sean Berton are the replacement(s) at tight end, and rookie Mewelde Moore, first-year back Larry Ned and veteran Moe Williams are the replacements at running back.
It's a good thing the Vikings have improved their drafts the last few years, because many of those players will be getting their chances to shine Sunday in Houston.
* Wide receiver Randy Moss (ankle) was added to the injury report, but he will play without too much problem.
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