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Date: Saturday, January 11th, 2020
Time: 4:35 PM ET
Location: Levi’s Stadium (San Fransisco, CA)
Minnesota Vikings Analysis
Finishing the regular season at 10-6, the Vikings went into a hostile environment and defeated the Saints during Wild Card Weekend. The game went to OT, and the Vikings victory came on the shoulders of a huge play from Cousins to Thielen that put them inside the five yard line. This ultimately led to a “controversial” TD pass to Kyle Rudolph to end the game. With four of their six losses coming on the road this year, the main concern for them was whether Kirk Cousins could play at his top level in such hostile environments. He certainly proved everyone wrong Sunday and hopes to carry on that momentum. The Vikings boast one of the most balanced teams in the NFL offensively and defensively. This is what makes them such a dangerous threat. We all know about the run game and the talented receivers on this team. The natural throwing ability of Cousins is elite. Their secondary and front seven have been middle of the pack stastically on the defensive end. Yet, they have what it takes to step up in huge moments. The turnover margin for the Vikings tied for 4th out of all teams this season, with 31 total takeaways on the year. This can decide the outcome of any close game, especially in the playoffs. Not only are the Vikings as talented as anyone, but also have what it takes to play up to their competition.
Minnesota Vikings Depth Chart
San Fransisco 49ers Analysis
The 49ers are coming off a bye week as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They have dominated pretty much all season. With their lone 3 losses against the Seahawks, Ravens, and Falcons, the 49ers are the obvious favorite to reach the Super Bowl. The other side of the bracket in the NFC features two teams (Seahawks, Packers) that are not nearly as talented across the board. The Vikings are the only team in the NFC that can match up with them at all positions. As a result, they will need to bring their A game after a layoff last week. The 49ers offense is not exactly lethal with tons of firepower, but is very effective. They have one of, if not the best offensive line in the game. Jimmy Garoppolo should have plenty of time to stand in the pocket and make plays, although the Viking pass rush has the ability to disrupt at times. With a range of backs, the 49ers tend to go with the hot hand. Lately, Raheem Mosert has been that guy. With several pass catchers they utulize, their offensive of production is unpredictable. Game planning against the 49ers is tough because you know they like to run the ball. There are also games when Garoppolo likes to take over, making them one of the best teams in all aspects of football.
San Francisco 49ers Depth Chart
Kirk Cousins has the arm and accuracy to thrive in the Vikings offense. Given the run game for Minnesota, it opens up doors for Cousins to make big plays downfield. He does not have to carry the offense, and that shows with his fantasy rank for QBs at 15 for the season. Yet and still, we all know how talented of a pocket passer he can be. Perhaps the future QB long-term, he is the agressive threat the Vikings have been looking for this entire time. The key for Cousins in this matchup will be to get the ball out quickly and handle the pressure. He has only thrown six Ints on the year, so turnovers should not be a huge problem for Cousins. The 49ers do rank 1st for pass defense on the year, so we will need to see the best of Cousins if the Vikings hope to advance to the conference championship. With the running game, a mixture of talented receivers, and a reliable tight end, Cousins has all the tools to make things happen in the passing game despite the stiff defense of the 49ers.
Jimmy Garropolo is in the playoffs as a No. 1 seed and Tom Brady is not. That says a lot about what the Patriots actually gave up. If Brady does decide to leave this offseason, the Patriots will regret letting go of a franchise guy. Ranking 14th in fantasy production this year, Garropolo has only needed to be great when necessary. There have been several games when the run game got going, so not much was asked of Jimmy. There have also been high scoring games as a result of a lethal passing attack from Jimmy. With 10 games on the year of 240+ passing yards, his command of the offense is lethal. He has solid, healthy targets to throw to, and the Vikings rank 15th in passing yards given up per game. Given that they are at home, Garoppolo could easily have a huge day in a stategame game to begin his postseason dominance.
Dalvin Cook has been a special back this year, ranking 5th in fantasy production for his position. This is the first year he has been used as an every-down back, and he has certainly not disappointed. San Fransisco ranks 17th in rush yards allowed this season. As a result, he could have a big game. The key for Dalvin Cook will be yards after contact. If Cousins is able to keep the defense honest and take shots down the field, that will only open up more space for Cook. As a solid pass catcher out the backfield, Cook will definitely receive an excess of 20+ carries. His yards per carry have not been great of late. In the Wild Card game against the Saints, he only averaged 3.4 ypg on 28 touches. His last 100 yard game came Week 7 agains the Lions. This is cause for concern as the run defense of the 49ers is not too shabby. Cook has shown to be a lot more effective in the 1st half in comparison to the 2nd half, so he will need to get off to a hot start. RB Alexander Mattison will look to spell Cook at times throughout the game as well.
With one of the best offensive lines to date, the run game can be lethal for the 49ers. Mostert has been the feature back of late, although Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida also have what it takes to have huge games if they get going. The key for the 49ers will be rotating these backs and riding the hot hand, as the Vikings are middle of the pack for run defense. Any of these running backs can have a huge day at home.
Adam Thielen was perhaps the player of the game in their playoff victory against the Saints. Diggs may be their best wideout talent-wise, but was obviously frustrated early for lack of targets during the Wild Card game. Both Diggs and Thielen will need to be an elite one-two punch if the passing game has any chance of being successful. The zone coverage of the 49ers defense will allow for some short-intermediate pickups early on. Diggs and Thielen will need to get separation against the stiff secondary. When they do get the ball, they will need to take care of it in space. San Fransisco had a total of 15 fumble recoveries on the year, ranking 4th. A potential X-factor in this matchup will be Kyle Rudolph. As a red zone target, he is almost unguardable. When the Vikings do get into field goal range, he can play a key role in 3rd down conversions and at the goal line. The Vikings have the talented pass catchers that can have success against this 49ers defense. It can be done, as the Saints eclisped 400 yards through the air against the 49ers in their regular season matchup. It will come down to how much the run game opens up the passing game and vice versa.
The 49ers have a top 3 tight end in the game in Greg Kittle. He catches like a receiver, and is very reliable in 3rd and long situations. Although Kittle has been the best for the receiving game statistically, Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders are not too shabby as well. The running backs are also effective catching out of the backfield. Considering the o-line of the 49ers, Garropolo will have plenty of time to sit back and pick and choose his open targets. Although they do not have the depth in receiving like other playoff teams, their three main receivers are very consistent and reliable.
For the Vikings, Dalvin Cook is the clear cut favorite to have a huge game against the 49ers defense. The stout secondary and passing defense of San Fransisco will make it hard for Cousins or any pass catcher to thrive or have a huge day for fantasy. Unless Cousins plays at an all-time great level, huge numbers should not be expected. For the 49ers, it is hard to predict any particular player to put up huge numbers. Given how balanced their attack is, the only player to 100% trust for a solid day fantasy-wise is Garropolo. Look for one of the running backs to break loose and for the 49ers to ride the wave in this divisional matchup. Greg Kittle will also have a solid day with an excess of targets throughout the game.
San Fransisco is currently a seven-point favorite. The balance of both teams will create a competitive and close game. The 49ers are the No.1 seed and Garropolo will hope to have a great playoff debut. Yet, if there is any team in the NFC to match their talent across the board, it is the Vikings. This game will come down to quaterback play in the fourth quarter.