Minnesota Vikings (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS, 0-0 O/U) vs. Buffalo Bills (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS, 0-0 O/U)
NFL: Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. EST
The Line: Buffalo Bills -1. Total: 37.
The Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings will be part of the Week 1 preseason schedule when they collide at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo on Thursday night. Minnesota is coming off a 2017 campaign in which it started 5-0 but then missed the playoffs by losing eight of its last 11 contests. The Bills took a similar trek through the schedule, going 7-9 after beginning 4-2.
Gotta stay healthy
It’s a new era in Minnesota, where running back Adrian Peterson is no longer roaming the backfield. The Vikings did plenty of work on the run game at Friday’s practice, featuring Jerick McKinnon, Dalvin Cook, Bishop Sankey, and Terrell Newby. They followed the lead blocks by fullback C.J. Ham, who spent most of last year as a practice-squad running back but is taking more reps at fullback this summer. McKinnon was in action for a second consecutive workout after missing some time with a leg injury.
“It’s just all about getting healthy,” McKinnon said on Friday. “I got through practice yesterday, so that was real good. From there, it’s just about the reps. That’s what it’s going to be about: the reps and competing. So I’m happy that I got through yesterday, and it’s another day to get better today.”
McKinnon also noted that he and his Minnesota teammates are keeping a keen eye on the news of other players on other teams going down to injury–some season-ending.
“We went into the cafeteria, and there’s already guys [on other teams] out for the season,” McKinnon said. “It’s a crucial time to take care of your body and make sure you have it going into the season. Obviously in the preseason you want those reps…before you get to the first game. But like coaches said, number one is availability. If you’re not available, there’s nothing you can do to help the team. So that’s what it’s all about: making sure you’re healthy and that everything’s good to go before Week 1.”
It’s all about chemistry
Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor has been working on chemistry with his team’s new offensive talent, and that includes rookie wide receiver Zay Jones. The East Carolina product was drafted 37th overall in the second round this spring and he has mostly been running with the first team, playing the slot in three receiver sets. Taylor has indicated that Jones is doing a good job of understanding the offense as the Bills add more plays and patterns.
“I think it’s been pretty good,” Taylor explained. “I haven’t had many reps with him. He’s played the ‘F’ in some occasions in our three receiver sets, but I think whenever the defense allows me to get the ball to him…we are on the same page.”
Taylor is entering his third season as Buffalo’s starting quarterback. He has passed for more than 3,000 yards in each of the past two years and has 37 touchdowns to 12 interceptions during that span.
The Minnesota Vikings are:
- 38-17 ATS in their last 55 overall
- 10-1-1 ATS in their last 12 games on turf
- 14-6-1 Under in their last 21 road games
The Buffalo Bills are:
- 1-5 ATS in their last six overall
- 1-4 ATS in their last five home games
- 1-4 ATS in their last five games on turf
The Vikings are doing the best they can to avoid preseason injuries (so far, so good), but they also play to win in these relatively meaningless contests. Minnesota went undefeated in the preseason in 2016 and is 13-1 in its last 14 preseason outings dating back to 2013. The Vikings are 38-17 ATS in their last 55 overall and 10-1-1 ATS in their last 12 on turf. Buffalo is 1-5 ATS in its last six overall, 1-4 ATS in its last five at home, and 1-4 ATS in its last five on turf. Look for those trends to continue.
Pick: Minnesota Vikings +1
None of Buffalo’s preseason contests in 2016 exceeded a total of 37 points. The Bills’ were in the middle of the pack defensively last year (19th overall) and they will be facing an opponent that is still feeling out what it has at running back now that Peterson is gone. Minnesota, meanwhile, finished third in total defense in 2016. The under is 14-6-1 in the Vikings’ last 21 on the road, 7-2 in their last nine on turf, and 7-3 in their last 10 on Thursdays. It is also 5-2 in the Bills’ last seven on Thursdays. Look for this one to stay under the total.