The first week of preseason concludes with a matchup of the NFC North versus AFC West as the Minnesota Vikings take on the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders will host this one at Allegiant Stadium, with kickoff scheduled for 4:25 pm ET.
Last season, the Vikings finished second in the NFC North, but they were still a disappointing 8-9. One area that Minnesota will really try to improve on is their road play, as they finished the season just 3-6 outside of their home confines.
For the Raiders, they finished at 10-7 last year, but they still came in a couple of games behind the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs. Still, their season was good enough for a postseason appearance, but they lost 26-19 in the Wild Card round to the eventual AFC-winning Cincinnati Bengals.
This will actually be the Raiders’ second preseason game as they defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Hall-of-Fame Game 27-11. In the win, Jarrett Stidham threw for 96 yards while also rushing for a touchdown. Austin Walter and Ameer Abdullah also had rushing touchdowns, while Zamir White led the rushing attack with 52 yards on 11 carries.
The Raiders are the favorites in this one, especially playing on their home field. They are -195 to win while the Vikings’ moneyline sits at +165. The spread features Minnesota +4 (-110), and the over/under for total points is 36.5.
Could This Be The Year Minnesota Dethrones Green Bay?
For years, the Minnesota Vikings have been the little brother to the Green Bay Packers, consistently looking up in the standings at the end of the season. Despite still having just the second-best odds of winning the division (+240), they hope this is the year they can get it done.
After deciding to move on from former head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings brought in Kevin O’Connell to take over the reins. With a newfound focus on offense, Kirk Cousins could be leaned on heavily if O’Connell brings over the pass-heavy mentality that he had with the Los Angeles Rams.
Speaking of Cousins, last season, he played in 16 games, throwing for 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions.
With superstars like Dalvin Cook (1,159 yards rushing, six touchdowns, 224 yards receiving), Justin Jefferson (1,616 yards, ten touchdowns), and Adam Thielen (726 yards, ten touchdowns) at his disposal, the offense should be at least as good as their 13th-ranked scoring offense (25 points per game) from a year ago.
Like Las Vegas, the defense needs a major upgrade for Minnesota as they ranked 24th in scoring defense, allowing 25.1 points per game. With a new coordinator and players like Za’Darius Smith, Patrick Peterson, Danielle Hunter, Chandon Sullivan, and others, the Vikings hope to improve on both sides of the ball.
Raiders Trying To Defy Odds
Despite finishing second in the AFC West last year and making a postseason appearance, the Raiders have the worst odds of winning the division at +700. Trying to defy the odds, the Raiders will look to get ready for the regular season by taking down Minnesota at home.
Like the Vikings, the Raiders also have a new coach leading the team as offensive guru Josh McDaniels was tabbed as head coach this season. He will hope to help a team that ranked 18th in scoring last season, averaging just 21.8 points per game.
Under center for the Raiders is veteran quarterback Derek Carr. In 17 games last season, Carr threw for 4,804 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.
This season, Carr has a significant upgrade at wide receiver to be his new top target. In a stunning trade during the offseason, the Raiders acquired star wide receiver Davante Adams. Last season, with Green Bay, he had 123 receptions for 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns.
On the ground, Josh Jacobs will again be the lead back. He rushed 217 times for 872 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He also had 54 receptions for 348 yards.
Defensively, Las Vegas will desperately need to improve from being the 26th-ranked scoring defense if they want to contend again this season.
Last year, they allowed 25.8 points per game. New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will lean on new acquisitions like pass rusher Chandler Jones, cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, and tackle Bilal Nichols to help in that area.
Expect Rams To Win And Cover
Looking at the trends, there are some things to like in regard to Minnesota. They are 5-1 in their last six games against the Raiders and 13-3 in their last 16 against AFC West teams.
Still, this one could boil down to two things. First, there is always the caveat in the preseason of how long first-string players will be in the game. In the Hall-of-Fame game, Derek Carr did not get in the game, but Josh Jacobs did see considerable action. With both head coaches trying to install their systems, there could be a bit longer leash for starters than usual.
The other thing that will be a focus is the defenses. Both of these teams have solid offenses, while both defenses saw major overhauls this offseason.
With the Raiders already having a game under their belt, expect them to come out a bit sharper in this one than the Vikings. For that reason, take them to win and cover the -4 spread playing at home.