Football is back! The preseason officially kicks off this weekend, with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings set to do battle in the Hall of Fame game. Which NFL picks should we be considering on Saturday?
First things first: congratulations to Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Junior Seau, Mike Tingelhoff, Charles Haley, Will Shields, Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, all of whom will be inducted into the Hall of Fame earlier on Saturday. That's quite a list right there!
Later that same day, we'll have the Steelers and Vikings kicking off the preseason inside Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. Let's examine the NFL odds that are on offer for Saturday.
The line opened at a pick'em a while back, but we've since seen a dramatic shift in the lines. The Vikings are now favored by 2.5 points at essentially all of the top sportsbooks, and it's going to be interesting to see if that number ever moves to the key number of three.
If it's a total play that you're most interested in partaking in, that O/U is quoted at an even 34 points at some book, though some sites are offering 34.5.
After finishing 11-5 in the regular season and then losing in the Wild Card playoffs to Baltimore, the Steelers will be hoping to go deeper into the postseason here in 2015.
We know this Pittsburgh team has the personnel to do some real damage, especially offensively. Ben Roethlisberger is coming off a fantastic season and will be joining forces again with one of the best running backs out there in Le'Veon Bell and one of the top wideouts in the NFL in Antonio Brown. Add in the likes of DeAngelo Williams and Martavis Bryant and you can see why some are expecting major things out of the Steelers.
Improvements, however, will need to be made defensively in 2015, considering Pittsburgh finished a medicore 18th in total defense in 2014.
Yes, the Vikings finished with only seven victories last season, but that record exceeded a lot of people's expectations, considering they trotted out a rookie quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. Losing Adrian Peterson early on for the rest of the season wasn't exactly helpful either.
Needless to say, Mike Zimmer worked some magic in helping this team even notch seven wins, and we look for the Vikings to build on their strong finish and be one of the most under-the-radar teams in 2015. They may have finished 27th in total offense and 14th in total defense, but the foundation is there for this franchise to see success this season.
Peterson is back with the team and will be the feature back once again, but this team simply has to get good quarterback play out of Bridgewater for them to really make any noise.
Listen, we're not going to sit here and pretend like it's easy as pie to pick out winners during the preseason, but there is an edge to be had if you pay attention, do your research, and are in the know.
Finding out how much playing time starters will be getting is crucial to success in the preseason. That being said, all things good and equal, we believe Minnesota will be walking away with the victory in the preseason opener, primarily because we have a lot of faith in their head coach and know Zimmer is going to have these guys ready to play high-level football, regardless of this being a "meaningless" game.
You have to figure the Steelers are going to be cautious with Roethlisberger and some of their other prized assets, whereas the Vikings need Bridgewater to get as much repetition as possible before he enters his second season in the league.
With our NFL picks, we're suggesting something small on the Vikings, though we must warn you again that this IS the preseason and that you need to know who's playing (and how much) and who isn't before finalizing any of your selections. Best of luck, and enjoy the game!
Free NFL Pick: Minnesota Vikings -2.5 at 5Dimes