The Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings were two of the worst NFL teams last year, as they combined to go 9-22-1 and finished in last place in their respective divisions. On Friday night, the two clubs will look to start off the upcoming season off on the right foot when they go head to head in their first preseason game of 2014.
Nearly half of the league has already played an exhibition game, starting with the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, who kicked off the season on Sunday. For the Raiders and Vikings, the opener will mark the debut of a few key additions, including big free-agent signings for Oakland and a highly drafted quarterback for Minnesota.
The Raiders were about as active as any team in the offseason, signing the likes of Maurice Jones-Drew, Carlos Rogers, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith. Oakland also draft linebacker Khalil Mack, who’ll go up against top competition after playing in a weak conference for his entire college football career.
Matt Schaub is set to suit up in a Raiders uniform for the first time. He was traded to the club in the offseason, after having spent the last seven years with the Houston Texans. The veteran enters the season as the No.1 quarterback, a year after Oakland used three starters under center.
Even though it’s the first of four preseason games and Schaub’s playing time will be limited, a good performance might be needed from the 33-year-old. Last season was the worst of Schaub’s career, as he was eventually benched, and finished the year with 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Quarterback Derek Carr could get a majority of the snaps, as he plays in his first NFL game after being taken 36th overall in the 2014 draft.
While Schaub is almost certain to start Week 1 for the Raiders, the Vikings aren’t certain who’ll be under center in their regular-season opener. Minnesota drafted Teddy Bridgewater in the first round, and he’ll compete with Matt Cassel for the starting job. Christian Ponder should get a chance to play in the second half, but he’s currently listed third on the depth chart.
Bridgewater won’t start the game, but he’ll get more than enough reps to prove that he deserves to be the team’s top quarterback. Even though Bridgewater is just a rookie, he isn’t exactly facing top competition. Last year, Cassel competed 60.2 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In the last three seasons, he’s combined to throw 27 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in 27 games.
Head coach Mike Zimmer will make his debut on the sidelines for the Vikings. It’s his first head coaching job in the NFL, having spent the last six years as the defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Betting Odds: Minnesota -3, 38.5
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Preseason Live
Prediction: Oakland 27, Minnesota 24