It’s 16 days until 49ers training camp begins! For the next two weeks, we want to look at each opponent and provide a reason for and against the 49ers beating them. We’ve included a poll for the community to vote on whether they expect a win or a loss. We’ll see what kind of prediction this provides at the end.
The 49ers will open up the season with a tough one, a road game against the Minnesota Vikings. You can read our opponent preview to see what the Vikings have been up to, and it’s obvious the 49ers have their work cut out for them. With few weaknesses, the Vikings upgraded the areas of need (namely quarterback) to make them even more feared in 2018. Here’s a reason the 49ers will win and one they won’t.
Reason For: Kyle Shanahan
The 49ers head coach brings a few situations with him that make him the biggest reason they can win. For one thing, Minnesota’s stout defense doesn’t look so nasty when you see that Shanahan managed to craft a game plan that resulted in the 49ers laying 44 points against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that had one of the best defenses in the league last year. Oh, and that was with a quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo who didn’t know the full offense.
That’s obvious. What’s not so obvious is what Shanahan knows on the other side of the ball. Kirk Cousins may have gotten a lot of money and lit up a lot of scoreboards, but his former offensive coordinator certainly helped him get to that point. Given that Shanahan had a hand in Cousins’ drafting while working for Washington, and helping Cousins begin his steps to the next level, he also knows Cousins’ tendencies and weaknesses. Remember when we talked about what Richard Sherman pointed out on Garoppolo? It’s things like that Shanahan will be able to offer in assistance with the defensive game plan.
This might lead to a few more visits to 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s office than usual in the week leading up to the Vikings.
Reason Against: No Reuben Foster
The 49ers defense is one big question mark heading into 2018, and that question mark will be even bolder for two games with the Reuben Foster suspension. Last season, the defense would transform within a down when Foster came on and off the field due to his various injuries. When forced out of games, the defense was an entirely different unit. The 49ers will welcome back Malcolm Smith, who is returning from an injury that kept him out of the entire 2017 season. He would have started next to Foster, but instead will start next to either rookie Fred Warner or veteran Brock Coyle.
The Vikings offensive line has some issues (ranked 22nd by Pro Football Focus), but it manages to make up for it with good pass catchers and an even better quarterback than the one last year throwing to them. If Case Keenum could thrive in this offense, there’s no reason why Kirk Cousins couldn’t. To stop the Vikings defense, the 49ers will need a flawless game plan, one that is considerably more difficult, maybe unreachable when one of their best players can’t be on the field. The Vikings run game can be contained, especially against the 49ers front, but if they turn to the air, it’s going to be even harder to defend without Foster flying around there with assistance.
Plus, we all know what happened in the preseason when the 49ers sent Foster after the Vikings. We aren’t getting that on game day and it will be sorely missed, maybe even consequential.
If you can’t see the poll below, click here.
What will happen in Week 1 at the Minnesota Vikings?
This poll is closed