The U.S. Bank Stadium turf is tilted in the Vikings’ favor on Sunday against the Bengals — if both teams continue to run the ball and defend the rush as they have this season.
The Vikings return home and look to keep their rushing attack churning against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses in Cincinnati, allowing a league-high 132.1 rushing yards per game and the fourth-most first downs (92) on the ground this season.
Vikings players watched film this week of the Bears’ 232-yard rushing day in a 33-7 rout of the Bengals last weekend.
“Those backs found some creases and made some big plays,” running back Jerick McKinnon said. “We’re hoping to do the same thing. Our offensive line has been playing well all year.”
It could be a rebound game for running back Latavius Murray, who gained 14 yards on nine carries in Carolina. Overall, the Vikings’ eighth-ranked rushing attack is averaging 121.1 yards per game.
The Vikings don’t expect to have starting tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is listed as doubtful with an ankle injury. His absence elevates a more prominent blocking tight end, David Morgan, to the top role. Fullback C.J. Ham could also be in line for a big role against the Bengals.
“With Kyle being down I just have to go in and do what I do,” Morgan said. “I’m not Kyle Rudolph, but I’m going to go give this team my all.”
Remmers and Elflein return, Reiff doubtful
Right tackle Mike Remmers will play Sunday after missing the past five games because of a concussion and lower back injury. Remmers had suffered the latest setback — the back injury — during a Nov. 29 practice.
Center Pat Elflein will also return; a shoulder injury sidelined him last week.
Remmers’ return comes at a good time for the Vikings because left tackle Riley Reiff is expected to miss his first game of the season because of an ankle injury. Reiff is listed as doubtful, and was limited in Friday’s practice.
Rashod Hill is expected to get his sixth straight start, and his first on the left side this season.
Tight end shuffle
The Vikings will likely have only two tight ends available Sunday, and that’s after promoting Kyle Carter from the practice squad Friday. Tight end Blake Bell, who suffered a shoulder injury in Carolina, was placed on injured reserve. Carter (6-3, 245 pounds) will likely make his NFL debut on Sunday after going undrafted in 2016 out of Penn State.
“I feel like I’m ready,” Carter said. “Blocking technique, I feel like that was the most important thing to me, and then just catching the ball every time it comes.”
Defensive back Jack Tocho was re-signed to the practice squad.
Defensive end Brian Robison said he received a letter from the NFL this week detailing a $6,076 fine for a uniform violation in Carolina. The NFL’s reasoning was because Robison’s undershirt was showing. The veteran added it’s the first such fine in 11 NFL seasons, he’s worn his uniform the same way in the previous 12 games and he’ll appeal.
McKinnon, a former triple-option quarterback at Georgia Southern, says he hasn’t been notified about the Vikings’ emergency quarterback situation. One option, Bell, the former Oklahoma quarterback turned tight end, is on injured reserve. McKinnon has one NFL pass attempt, which mercifully fell incomplete last season.
“I haven’t been told anything about that,” McKinnon said.