Yesterday’s opening slate of pre-season matches provided a stark reminder of why betting exhibition games can be a tad frustrating! The Panthers had the ball within Baltimore’s 10-yard line with two minutes left, down by three. Instead of taking the sure points and tying the game with a field-goal, they tried to win the match then and there – of course, losing in the process. Making matters worse was that earlier in the game, a Panthers pick-six TD was negated by Cam Newton jumping on the field early to celebrate. Such is life in the pre-season, and it definitely provides a reminder to tread carefully with these exhibition games, as the focus is mostly on evaluating depth and rookie players!
Onto today where we’ll be focusing on two teams that will look to duplicate impressive 2015 campagins – the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals. This game will represent Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer’s first return back to Cincinnati where he spent six seasons as a defensive coordinator – an added storyline for this encounter. Minnesota has an all-time 8-1 pre-season record under Zimmer, and given the starting reports and the depth of the Vikings, they seem like good value for tonight’s exhibition game.
For Cincinnati, it was more of the same last season – a solid regular season before flaming out too early in the playoffs. Losing Marvin Jones and Mohamad Sanu will also hurt in the receiving game, with teams now able to focus in solely on the talented A.J. Green. For tonight, head coach Marvin Lewis is expected to play his starters for no more than a series.
Vikings vs. Bengals Betting Odds:
Minnesota Vikings +3 (-115)
@ Cincinnati Bengals -3 (-105)
Over 35 (-110)
Under 35 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Vikings vs. Bengals Pick:
Two of the biggest factors when betting NFL pre-season football are the amount of time the starters will play, and organizational depth – especially at the quarterback position. By both of those measures, the pendulum swings to the road underdogs tonight and gives them a slight edge heading into Friday’s encounter.
It is expected that the Vikings starters will likely outlast Cincinnati’s, with young QB Teddy Bridgewater receiving some extra reps to familiarize himself even more with the offense. He’ll definitely be in there longer than his counterpart, Andy Dalton. It is also worth mentioning that Zimmer does have a solid pre-season win/loss record as a head coach, and although it is just an exhibition game, you can bet he’d like to definitely beat his old team.
The Bengals will be without some key players as well. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is sitting this one out entirely, as are Tyler Eifert and first-rounder William Jackson. Jackson tore his pectoral muscle and is slated to miss significant time, a big blow for the Bengals’ secondary. On the injury/unavailable front for Minnesota, it’s expected they’ll bring a full & healthy roster with them, aside from Adrian Peterson who will rest.
Starters vs. starters, I favour the Vikings in this one. Bridgewater by all accounts has taken yet another step over the off-season and into training camp, and the Vikings are easily one of the top-10 most talented teams in the NFL. They’re a motivated group and the message has been sent early that a divisional crown is again the focus. Mike Zimmer has also made it seem like his starters can get close to an entire quarter on Friday evening.
Beyond the first-teamers, the depth of each side favours the Vikings. Minnesota is healthier and Shaun Hill is a veteran quarterback that should be capable of seeing the game through in the second quarter and beyond. In a recent scrimmage vs. the Vikes, the Bengals struggled to move the football against a solid defense – perhaps some foreshadowing with some key offensive losses?
Even without Peterson, the Vikings will still have talent at their disposal to put up points in the second half. Running back Jerick McKinnon is likely ready for a starting gig somewhere and should feast on Cincinnati’s back-ups. Peterson rarely plays in the pre-season at all, so McKinnon knows this will be a prolonged period of him getting another chance to be noticed. Expect him to take full advantage.
With Zimmer returning, Bridgewater rolling, and Minnesota’s starters likely to outlast the Bengals’ first-stringers, all signs point to the Vikings tonight. Pre-season is a crapshoot at times, so of course tread carefully, but Minnesota by all accounts has built great momentum in training camp and expect them to build on that with a victory Friday evening.
PICK = Vikings +3 (-115)