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Glance at Vikings 2015 Preseason Opponents

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings preseason will start with the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, and be followed by home contests against Tampa Bay and Oakland and road trips to Dallas and Tennessee, the NFL announced Thursday.

Minnesota's been slotted to play the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, for more than two months. That game is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT) on Aug. 9 and will be televised nationally on NBC's *Sunday Night Football *and be broadcast coast-to-coast on Westwood One Sports radio. That game will occur a day after legendary former Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff is inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The remaining times and dates of the other preseason contests are to be determined. The regular season schedule hasn't been announced.

Quick notes:

This will be the first time the Vikings have played five preseason games since 1997 when they last participated in the Hall of Fame game.

This will be the first time Minnesota and Tampa Bay (former NFC Central members) have met in the preseason, the second preseason in a row in which the Vikings have hosted the Raiders and visited the Titans. After the Buccaneers game, the NFC North rival Packers will be the only team the Vikings haven't played in the preseason.

Minnesota's first preseason game ever (Aug. 5, 1961) occurred against Dallas in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Three of the five opponents are scheduled to select in the top four picks of this year's draft: (Tampa Bay, 1; Tennessee, 2; Oakland, 4).

Here's a glance at the Vikings 2015 preseason schedule:


Vikings vs. Steelers

Week 1(7 p.m. (CT), Aug. 9) | Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium

Preseason series results: Vikings lead 9-3

2014 offensive stats/rankings VIKINGS:
5,048 total yards (27th)
1,804 net rushing yards (14th)
3,244 net passing yards (28th)
20.3 points/game (20th)
STEELERS:
6,577 total yards (2nd)
1,752 net rushing yards (16th)
4,825 net passing yards (2nd)
27.3 points/game (7th)

2014 Defensive stats/rankings VIKINGS:
344.7 total yards allowed/game (14th)
121.4 rushing yards allowed/game (25th)
223.3 passing yards allowed/game (7th)
21.4 points allowed/game (11th)
STEELERS:
353.4 total yards allowed/game (18th)
100.3 rushing yards allowed/game (6th)
253.1 passing yards allowed/game (27th)
23.0 points allowed/game (18th)

3 interesting questions:

Who will make their "NFL debuts"? The Vikings are scheduled to have seven selections in this year's NFL draft, including the 11th overall pick on April 30. The incoming players will want to make a great first impression in their profession on the same weekend when all-time greats like Tingelhoff are enshrined. Tingelhoff is the sixth player who spent all or most of his career in Minnesota to be selected for the Hall of Fame in the past eight years and 13th to be enshrined as a Viking. He is part of a class that also includes RB Jerome Bettis, WR/RS Tim Brown, DE/LB Charles Haley, LB Junior Seau, G Will Shields, and contributors Bill Polian and Ron Wolf.

How much will starters play? The additional game likely won't mean that much more activity during the preseason for starters. Hunger for football will be high, so a couple of series by Teddy Bridgewater with new receiving weapon Mike Wallace could help satisfy that appetite — temporarily.

What threat will Pittsburgh pose? Ben Roethlisberger tied for first in the league in passing yards and ranked third in passer rating (103.3), Le'Veon Bell was second in rushing yards (1,361) and Antonio Brown topped the charts in receptions (129) and yards (1,698) last season. The triumvirate can pose a balanced test for defenses, and this will be the first game in which the 2015 Vikings can somewhat measure up to another team.


Vikings vs. Buccaneers

Week 2(Time/Date TBA, Aug. 14-16) | TCF Bank Stadium

Preseason series results: Teams have never met

2014 offensive stats/rankings VIKINGS:
5,048 total yards (27th)
1,804 net rushing yards (14th)
3,244 net passing yards (28th)
20.3 points/game (20th)
BUCCANEERS:
4,672 total yards (30th)
1,375 net rushing yards (29th)
3,297 net passing yards (25th)
17.3 points/game (29th)

2014 Defensive stats/rankings VIKINGS:
344.7 total yards allowed/game (14th)
121.4 rushing yards allowed/game (25th)
223.3 passing yards allowed/game (7th)
21.4 points allowed/game (11th)
BUCCANEERS:
368.9 total yards allowed/game (25th)
113.7 rushing yards allowed/game (19th)
255.3 passing yards allowed/game (28th)
25.6 points allowed/game (25th)

3 interesting questions:

Will the Vikings face the top overall pick in the NFL Draft in his NFL debut? Tampa Bay is scheduled to select from the first spot in three weeks. After nearly four months of projections and predictions, the league will find out if the Bucs stay in that spot. The amount of time that player receives in this game could depend on the position he plays.

How does Anthony Barr look in his second season? The linebacker provided one of the most dramatic finishes in Vikings history and in the NFL last season when he forced a fumble by fellow rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins, recovered the ball and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. Barr, whose promising first season ended early because of a knee injury, could see some rematch action against Seferian-Jenkins.

What does Tampa Bay's defense look like in its second year with Lovie Smith at the helm and former Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier as defensive coordinator? The Bucs brought in former Bears DT Henry Melton and S Chris Conte during free agency this offseason.


Vikings vs. Raiders

Week 3(Time/Date TBA, Aug. 21-23) | TCF Bank Stadium

Preseason series results: Vikings lead series 4-1

2014 offensive stats/rankings VIKINGS:
5,048 total yards (27th)
1,804 net rushing yards (14th)
3,244 net passing yards (28th)
20.3 points/game (20th)
RAIDERS:
4,515 total yards (32nd)
1,240 net rushing yards (32nd)
3,275 net passing yards (26th)
15.8 points/game (31st)

2014 Defensive stats/rankings VIKINGS:
344.7 total yards allowed/game (14th)
121.4 rushing yards allowed/game (25th)
223.3 passing yards allowed/game (7th)
21.4 points allowed/game (11th)
RAIDERS:
357.6 total yards allowed/game (21st)
119.4 rushing yards allowed/game (22nd)
238.1 passing yards allowed/game (16th)
28.3 points allowed/game (32nd)

3 interesting questions:

Will young QBs duel early in the game? Teddy Bridgewater (32nd overall) and Derek Carr (36th overall) were closely compared during their rookie campaigns. Even though neither of them enter this season battling for a job, both will likely want to show their competitive fire with any reps they play. Former Vikings QB Christian Ponder joined the Raiders in free agency this offseason.

How did Oakland's offseason overhaul go? According to the most recent tracking of free agent activity by NFL.com, 12 players arrived in Oakland and nine left via free agency in the past month. Additionally, seven players from the Raiders in 2014 remain unsigned or have been released.

Speaking of free agency, the Vikings went through less dramatic changes, trading backup QB Matt Cassel to Buffalo for a draft pick that was used in the trade to acquire Mike Wallace from Miami. The Vikings signed veteran QB Shaun Hill early and recently added backup QB Mike Kafka. Will the Vikings be tempted to fully unleash Wallace's skills into the offense yet, or will Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner exercise patience until the regular season?


Vikings at Cowboys

Week 4(Time/Date TBA, Aug. 28-29) | AT&T Stadium

Preseason series results: Vikings trail series 5-6-1

2014 offensive stats/rankings VIKINGS:
5,048 total yards (27th)
1,804 net rushing yards (14th)
3,244 net passing yards (28th)
20.3 points/game (20th)
COWBOYS:
6,122 total yards (7th)
2,354 net rushing yards (2nd)
3,768 net passing yards (16th)
29.2 points/game (5th)

2014 Defensive stats/rankings VIKINGS:
344.7 total yards allowed/game (14th)
121.4 rushing yards allowed/game (25th)
223.3 passing yards allowed/game (7th)
21.4 points allowed/game (11th)
COWBOYS:
355.1 total yards allowed/game (19th)
103.1 rushing yards allowed/game (8th)
251.9 passing yards allowed/game (26th)
22 points allowed/game (15th)

3 interesting questions:

Who will be in the backfield for the Cowboys? Dallas will try to replace the void created by DeMarco Murray's departure to Philadelphia via free agency. Murray led the NFL in rushing (1845 yards) by almost 500 yards in 2014 and also led the league with 2,261 yards from scrimmage.

Will Xavier Rhodes shadow Dez Bryant? Rhodes' talents at corner emerged as last season proceeded, and he began to follow some of the biggest receiving threats in the game (Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Chicago's Brandon Marshall). Will that continue this season with a matchup against Bryant, who led the league with 16 TD catches and helped Tony Romo lead the NFL with a 113.2 passer rating?

How does the Vikings defensive line look? In recent history, starters have played more in this preseason game than others. Dallas' offensive line may be the best that Minnesota sees during the preseason, and the extra reps should provide a nice measuring stick. There's no doubt that defensive end Brian Robison and other Texas natives on the roster will look forward to this game.


Vikings at Titans

Week 5(Time TBA, Sept. 3) | LP Field

Preseason series results: Vikings lead 6-1

2014 offensive stats/rankings VIKINGS:
5,048 total yards (27th)
1,804 net rushing yards (14th)
3,244 net passing yards (28th)
20.3 points/game (20th)
TITANS:
4,859 total yards (29th)
1,447 net rushing yards (26th)
3,412 net passing yards (22nd)
15.9 points/game (30th)

2014 Defensive stats/rankings VIKINGS:
344.7 total yards allowed/game (14th)
121.4 rushing yards allowed/game (25th)
223.3 passing yards allowed/game (7th)
21.4 points allowed/game (11th)
TITANS:
373.0 total yards allowed/game (27th)
137.2 rushing yards allowed/game (31st)
235.8 passing yards allowed/game (15th)
27.4 points allowed/game (tied for 29th)

3 interesting questions:

Who, if anyone, is still grappling for a roster spot with the Vikings? This game is generally viewed as less important than the one that precedes it because teams often rest starters for all or much of the game. It could be of extreme importance to a few players on rosters across the league as their final opportunities to state their cases for one of 53 roster spots or 10 additional openings on a team's practice squad.

How much have young Vikings grown in the past year? At the time of this post, 23 Vikings on the roster have been drafted by the club since 2012, and that number could increase given Minnesota's scheduled seven selections in this year's draft. Nine of the 10 players selected in 2014 made the team, and several could have an extended opportunity to show how much they've grown with a second pro season and training camp.

Will Minnesota see the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft in action that night? Tennessee is scheduled to pick second on April 30, three weeks from now, churning rumor mills about possible trade opportunities. If the Titans, however, hang on to the pick, they will have the option of all but the player that Tampa Bay selects. Tennessee tweeted photos of Marcus Mariota and Leonard Williams, players often mentioned as possibilities in mock drafts, visiting its facility Thursday.

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