Two of the top running backs in the NFL could see limited action as the Minnesota Vikings face the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at Mall of America Field.
Quarterback Christian Ponder will have to carry Minnesota until coaches feel running back Adrian Peterson can return from his torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Head coach Leslie Frazier will decide after warm-ups if Peterson will play, and he will be limited to 10 to 15 carries if he does, according to CBS Sports.com. Toby Gerhart will start if Peterson does not play.
Whether Peterson plays or not, Ponder, entering his second year from Florida State, must lead an offense that managed only 184.8 passing yards a game. The task could prove difficult, as Minnesota only returns five starters from last year's offense, and receiver Jerome Simpson is currently serving a three-game suspension.
Further hurting Ponder's chance of success is a Jacksonville defense that ranked eighth in pass defense last season.
Boasting an impressive all-around defense but a lacking any offense, the Jacksonville Jaguars also turn to their second year quarterback in Blaine Gabbert.
Gabbert struggled mightily last season, garnering the lowest passer rating of any quarterback in the league.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew ended is contract holdout only a week ago, giving Sunday's start to Rashad Jennings, but Jones-Drew is still expected to play.
Jennings rushed for 209 yards on 47 attempts during the preseason, and he along with Jones-Drew, should free up Gabbert and impressive rookie wide out Justin Blackmon. Blackmon hauled in 10 receptions for 136 yards during the preseason.
Minnesota has listed safety Andrew Sendejo as out for Sunday, while cornerback Marcus Sherels is probable.
The Jaguars have listed defensive end George Selvie as out due to a knee injury, while cornerbacks Derek Cox and Mike Harris are listed as doubtful and questionable, respectively.
The contest begins at 1pm eastern time and can be seen on CBS or watche a live stream online by purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket Max.
Betting Odds: Minnesota is favored by 3.5 points
Prediction: Gabbert and Blackmon looked in sync during the preseason and should test the Vikings secondary early, especially if Jennings and Jones-Drew can gain some ground. If Peterson does play he could open up some time for Ponder in the pocket, and the Minnesota defense looked much improved during the preseason.
Predicted Score: Jacksonville 28, Minnesota 14