Vikings without Rudolph, Kendricks for Christmas Day game at Saints

Eric Kendricks #54 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during training camp on August 28, 2020 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ((Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Vikings will be fighting for their playoff lives Friday afternoon at New Orleans, and they’ll be short-handed on both sides of the ball.

For the fourth straight game, the Vikings will be without one of their top defenders in linebacker Eric Kendricks. He has not practiced or played since re-aggravating a calf injury suffered before the Vikings faced the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tight end Kyle Rudolph will miss his third straight game with a toe injury.

Also out for the Vikings on Sunday are No. 2 running back Alexander Mattison, linebacker Troy Dye and defensive lineman Jayln Holmes. Todd Davis, who had been starting in place of Kendricks, is inactive. Also inactive is fullback C.J. Ham, which could affect Dalvin Cook in the run game against New Orleans, one of the top defenses in the NFL. Ham played through a quad injury during last week's loss to the Bears, but can't play against the Saints.

Drew Brees returned last week for the Saints after missing four games with broken ribs and a punctured lung. Brees finished with 234 yards passing and three touchdowns, but was also intercepted for the fourth time this season, in a 32-29 loss to the Chiefs.

The Vikings enter the game with a two percent chance to make the NFC Playoffs. The formula is pretty simple: They need to beat the Saints and Lions in their final two games, they need the Arizona Cardinals to lose their final two games and they need the Chicago Bears to lose one of their final two games. The Cardinals host the 49ers on Sunday, then finish the regular season at the L.A. Rams. The Bears face Jacksonville, then finish against the Packers.

A loss Friday and the Vikings are eliminated from playoff contention.