Are you ready for some (preseason) football?
The Minnesota Vikings announced their four-game preseason slate Monday afternoon, giving fans an opportunity to anticipate their first glimpse of the 2017 squad in roughly four months.
Here are the matchups and possible storylines (note that not all dates are set in stone).
Week 1, Aug. 10-13, Vikings @ Bills
Just as they did last year, the Vikings will begin their preseason on the road. They’ll face the Buffalo Bills and a familiar face in Micah Hyde, the Bills’ new safety who came over from the Green Bay Packers.
Minnesota will likely see a large dose of RB Joe Banyard, former Vikings camp body who’s now on his fourth different team and has yet to taste any significant NFL success.
As usual, the first preseason game will be a showcase for the reserves, save for the first drive or two. The most fascinating Vikings storyline will likely be the play of QB Taylor Heinicke, who will probably be battling Case Keenum for the No. 2 job.
Week 2, Aug. 18-20, Vikings @ Seahawks
It’s a rematch of last year’s second preseason game when the Vikings knocked off the Seahawks 18-11 on a late Marcus Sherels interception return.
Also in that game, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a fourth quarter field goal that began his downward spiral which led to an eventual release. Now, he’ll be kicking for the opposing Seahawks after being signed by Seattle in February.
On offense, the Seahawks will be breaking in new running back Eddie Lacy, the former Packer. Defensively, they may be without Richard Sherman, who’s been rumored to be on the trade block.
For the Vikings, this will be a good chance to see the new-look offensive line work together for about two quarters. Can Reiff, Remmers, et al keep Bradford off the ground?
Week 3, Aug. 27, Vikings vs 49ers
The preseason home opener will be a nationally-televised affair on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. The network will be using this opportunity — plus any games it gets in the regular season — to take notes on how they’d like to produce the Super Bowl telecast at U.S. Bank Stadium in February.
From a football standpoint, the third preseason game is always the most compelling. San Francisco — led by new coach Kyle Shanahan and new GM John Lynch — will get a chance to evaluate whichever quarterback they’ve selected to lead them into the new era.
Meanwhile, the Vikings will continue the chemistry-building process on offense. In last year’s third preseason game, the Vikings offense built excitement with a sharp performance, but Teddy Bridgewater dislocated his knee two days later to kill any momentum.
Naturally, a team wants to look good in preseason game No. 3, but even importantly, they want to stay healthy.
Week 4, Aug. 31, Vikings vs Dolphins
With just three full days of rest, the Vikings will host the Dolphins in the final preseason tuneup. Starters and/or veterans will be unlikely to play as the young and unproven take the field and battle for roster spots.
It was last year’s final preseason game where Jayron Kearse and C.J. Ham likely solidified their Vikings future with strong showings. This year there will be a fresh batch of position battles to watch. Not only will Keenum and Heinicke likely be duking it out for the backup role, but the Vikings appear to have set up a punting competition between Ryan Quigley and Taylor Symmank, which may come down to the final preseason tilt as well.
Plus, this may be the longest look we get at some members of the Vikings draft class all season, as some may wind up buried on the 53-man roster or stashed on the practice squad.