Talk about irony, Saturday’s preseason opener between the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos is lathered in it. After taking the Vikes to the NFC Championship last season, Case Keenum was allowed to walk as the team looked to upgrade the position by signing Kirk Cousins. Keenum agreed to terms with Denver and will be facing his former team in his first game in a Broncos uniform. Keenum resurrected his career to become a starter for the first time and will be looked on by the Broncos to help them bounce back from a five-win season in 2017.
This battle in Week 1 of the preseason will go down Saturday, August 11, 2018, at 9 p.m. ET from Broncos Stadium at Mile High. The game will air live on NFL Network.
NFL Odds at BookMaker.eu
Minnesota Vikings PK
Denver Broncos PK
The Broncos opened as 1-point favorite, but plenty of action on the visitors bet the line down to a pick em. Opening preseason games are a crapshoot anyway and the line is probably where it should be, though three-quarters of the wagers have been made on the Vikings. The total came in at 34.5 and has been split on the early money.
Both coaches have said their starters will play adding more intrigue to what otherwise would be a boring preseason opener. Cousins was the big fish in the free agent pool during the offseason and the Vikings went for it, signing him to a lucrative contract. He had big numbers during his three years as a starter in Washington, but never won more than nine games in a season or a playoff contest.
Cousins will get a series before turning things over to the backups. And that will make for some interesting moments. Trevor Siemian, who started in Denver the last two seasons, is now Minnesota’s No. 2 and Kyle Sloter had a strong 2017 preseason with the Broncos before being released and signed to the Vikings practice squad.
Keenum had his best season as a pro in 2017, taking over for the injured Sam Bradford and leading the Vikings to the conference championship game. He translated that success into a huge contract from a team in desperate need of quarterback help.
Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly are locked in a battle for the backup job and neither has stood out during camp. That makes preseason games even more important for them. John Elway said earlier this week that he might go after another veteran QB to backup Keenum if neither gains separation during the exhibition games.
Mike Zimmer has a different philosophy about the preseason than most coaches, and his results have been staggering. Since taking over the Vikings in 2014, Zimmer is 14-3 SU and 12-5 ATS. Two of those losses came in the final three exhibition games last season and the Vikings went 0-3 ATS in that span.
The start to Vance Joseph’s coaching career was a fairytale. The end to last season was a nightmare. The Broncos made it look easy last preseason, winning all four games while going 3-0-1 ATS. Denver opened the regular season with a pair of wins and entered the bye at 3-1 only to lose 10 of their last 12 outings.
Free ATS Pick
This game comes with all kinds of storylines. The biggest being Keenum taking on the team that let him walk after leading them within a game of the Super Bowl. Keenum won’t play much, probably a series or two, but he’s going to want to make the most of it. And it’s the start of an important season for Joseph, who was widely criticized when the Broncos tumbled last season.
The Vikings have been one of the best during the preseason under Zimmer and that’s not by mistake. However, there are some major concerns along the offensive line with three likely starters out due to injury. That will certainly impact what the team does on offense and Cousins won’t be around long because of it. The battle of the backups will go to the Broncos with both Lynch and Kelly looking to make an impression. And that’s what gets the Broncos a home cover.
NFL Odds: Broncos 22, Vikings 16
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