Minnesota hosts Oakland Saturday & look to keep Mike Zimmer unbeaten in his exhibition career. At -4.5 NFL odds, the Vikings are the biggest preseason favorites in Wk 2.
Zimmer A Preseason Genius?
If they gave out NFL Coach of the Year honors for the preseason, then Zimmer probably would get it. That's because he is 6-0 in games that don't count since leaving as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator for his first NFL head coaching gig. Minnesota opened this preseason with a 14-3 win over Pittsburgh in Canton, Ohio, in the Hall of Fame Game. Then last Saturday at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, the Vikings beat the Buccaneers 26-16 -- thus the Vikes have easily covered both games thus far.
Minnesota starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sharp against the Bucs, completing 7-for-8 for 86 yards. His new backup QB, Shaun Hill, was 8-for-9 for 104 yards with touchdown passes to Cordarrelle Patterson and Adam Thielen. The Vikings' defensive star of that game was 2015 second-round pick Eric Kendricks out of UCLA. The linebacker had five tackles, two for a loss, a sack, a quarterback hurry and a pass broken up. He is now your +400 NFL odds co-favorite with Saints linebacker Stephone Anthony for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Again, preseason means squat. But the Vikings' franchise record for a preseason winning streak is 11 games, so they won't be able to match that this season. The Norm Van Brocklin-led Vikings went 11-0 from the last preseason game of the 1963 season through two unbeaten preseasons in 1964 and 1965. The Vikings tied the Lions in the 1966 preseason opener before winning three more in a row. So that's a nice 14-0-1 run. Want more proof the preseason doesn't matter? Minnesota's regular-season record from 1963-66 in that span was 24-27-3. That led to the team hiring Bud Grant as its new coach in 1967. That worked out pretty well.
One of Zimmer's six wins was in the preseason opener last year, 10-6 also at home against Oakland. That was the Vikings' first game at TCF Bank Stadium, their temporary home while the team's new stadium is being built. Thus this will be the last preseason game there. That was also Bridgewater's NFL debut and he wasn't great, going 6-for-13 for 49 yards, was sacked twice and fumbled once.
Raiders Have Links To Vikings
Oakland opened the preseason with an 18-3 home win over St. Louis last week in a matchup of teams that could both be playing in Los Angeles in 2016. Second-year QB Derek Carr, who was the best rookie QB in the NFL last year (Bridgewater was second), completed 6-for-9 for 43 yards with an interception. Raiders receiver Amari Cooper, who is the +600 third-favorite to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, had three catches for 22 yards and one rush for 3 in his professional debut.
In injury news. the Raiders won't have receive Andre Holmes for the rest of the preseason. He fractured his hand in Sunday's training camp practice. But Rod Streater could make his preseason debut here. Streater, fighting for the No. 3 spot, made his training camp debut Sunday after missing the first 11 practices of camp with an undisclosed illness. He missed the final 13 games of last season with a broken foot. Streater led the Raiders with 60 catches and 888 receiving yards in 2013. Oakland's starting receivers will be Cooper and free-agent addition Michael Crabtree. The Raiders haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Randy Moss in 2005.
The Raiders have a handful of ties to the Vikings. Oakland's backup quarterback is Christian Ponder, the former first-round bust in Minnesota. He will unquestionably be booed often on Saturday. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio played linebacker four years for the Vikings in the 1990s. Oakland offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave formerly held the same position with Minnesota, and Raiders offensive line coach Mike Tice used to be the Vikings' head coach and also played for the team (with Del Rio for three years).
NFL Free Picks: Both sides are likely to be vanilla here because the teams play Week 10 in Oakland. The Vikings have the advantage of that extra preseason game so if they treat this like most teams do their third preseason game, then the starters should play at least the first half. Thus I like Minnesota here. Go 'over' the total.