Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM

Week 1 - Vikings at Saints

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NFL Preseason Week 1 Preview
Minnesota at New Orleans

Although the bulk of the preseason action this week comes on Thursday night (11 games), the five games remaining in the week on Friday and Saturday have plenty of intrigue as well. A lot of the teams expected to compete for the Lombardi Trophy this year – New Orleans, KC, LA Rams, Dallas, Pittsburgh – all hit the field for their first preseason action of 2019.

It's one of the two games on Friday night that I'm choosing to focus on for this piece though, as the Vikings go up against the Saints in a rematch of an intriguing, and highly unlikely finish to a NFC Divisional game two years ago.

Minnesota “walked off” with what was an incredible passing play to advance to face Philly in the NFC Championship game. And even though New Orleans went into Minnesota and beat the Vikings 30-20 as small road favorites at the end of October last year in response, I'm sure any time Drew Brees and Sean Payton see that Vikings uniform across the field there has to be some cringe-worthy moments for them reflecting on what could have been (although last year's loss in the NFC Championship vs the Rams probably stings much more now for New Orleans).

NFL Odds: New Orleans (-2.5); Total set at 37

Considering the preseason opener typically only see starting QB's (and many other starters) get a couple of series on the field, this is an interesting game in the sense that both backup QB's have significant starting experience in this league. Minnesota will go with Sean Mannion behind Kirk Cousins, and the Saints continue to list Teddy Bridgewater behind the legend Drew Brees.

It's those two guys (Mannion and Bridgewater) that should have a significant impact on where the ATS and total results end up in this game, because both are looking to cement their role as backup QB's for their respective teams. Behind them is some young capable talent in Taysom Hill (who already has specific packages built in the Saints offense for him) and JT Barrett for New Orleans, while Kyle Sloter and Jake Browning and looking to cut their chops for Minnesota at this level as well.

Given that QB rotation on both sides, you can understand why this total of 37 is among the highest ones of the week currently, although all that's really changed throughout the week on that number is the level of juice bettors have to pay for either side of that number.

Currently it's the high side of 37 that's juicier to back, although with the Saints on a 0-6 O/U run at home in the preseason the past three years, you might be playing with fire paying that juice and expecting points. Sure, the QB rotations are solid in terms of both NFL experience and young guys with something to prove, but vanilla game plans and general rust for guys across the board can work against that as well.

It's the side that definitely looks more attractive, especially if you either shop around or use a sportsbook that allows you to buy/sell points on the spread. Currently it's the Saints side of things that has the extra juice attached to it (-115 and above) which is partly due to the belief they will be the better team this year, but also based on the number being below that key number of 3.

Shopping around and/or buying up to +3 with the Vikings appears to be the way to go though, and not just for the reasoning I mentioned in this piece earlier in the week. Obviously a perfect 5-0 ATS mark in the first game of the preseason during the Mike Zimmer era doesn't hurt in terms of supporting Minnesota here, but there are other reasons to like them as well.

For one, the Saints have shelled out a lot of money to key guys on both sides of the ball, so those typical “couple” of series starters get might get cut down to slim to none for many Saints players. Given Bridgewater's injury history as well, even his time out on the field may be severely limited, which means Hill and Barrett will see plenty of action, and with Hill used as the “Swiss Army Knife” of the Saints attack at times throughout the past few years, his value has increased every single year during the month of August. All of that adds up to some very tentative play calling from the Saints from start to finish in this game and that's never conducive to cashing betting ticket.

Furthermore, the Vikings have taken on the hard-nosed personality of their coach with the past success they've had early in the preseason, and considering how the past few regular seasons have gone for them, that strategy has served them well. That organizational mentality works well to have success in the “vanilla-type” games you get in the preseason, as Minnesota can work on executing their basic offense perfectly, as opposed to a Saints team that prefers to use someone like Taysom Hill say in a more gimmicky role.

The Vikings also have more to prove to themselves after Year 1 with Kirk Cousins ended up without a playoff berth, and while that's not a strong motivational factor here, proving to themselves that they can hang with (and beat) a legitimate Super Bowl contender – even in the preseason – is a nice foundational block that the 2019 Vikings team can build upon.

Take this point spread up to +3 if you can, but it's got to be the road team in this spot on Friday.

Best Bet: Minnesota ATS

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