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It’s all about the pass rush, so which team poses a bigger threat this game?

Will the short week hurt the Minnesota’s defensive line? Eric Thompson of Daily Norseman joins us to discuss.

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

To kick July off, Eric Thompson of Norse Code joined me to debate the better quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo or Kirk Cousins? Reading back through the best-case scenario, it was the San Francisco 49ers getting off to a hot start, responding to adversity, and winning double-digit games as they stroll into the playoffs. Not too far off.

My buddy Eric is back again, this time to discuss the Divisional round matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and the San Francisco 49ers. Eric was kind enough to take the time and answer five questions. Here they are.

Do the Vikings traveling across the country on a short week worry you, and how much of a factor will that play in the game?

Traveling on a short week certainly isn’t ideal, but on its own, that part isn’t a huge concern for the Vikings. The Vikings were much better at home this season, but last week’s upset win over the Saints showed that they could win in the most hostile of environments.

However, traveling on a short week with injury concerns is a different story. Stefon Diggs didn’t practice on Tuesday or Wednesday due to an illness. He should be fine by game time, but you never know. Adam Thielen appears to have sustained an ankle injury in Wednesday’s practice. If either of their star wide receivers isn’t at full strength Saturday, it’s hard to imagine the offense doing much.

The defense has its fair share of maladies as well, especially in the secondary. Mackensie Alexander and Mike Hughes are out, which eliminates any cornerback depth the team had. Xavier Rhodes (finally) had a solid game in New Orleans but seems to get banged up on a weekly basis. If any of those ailments to star players hinder their respective performances on Saturday, suddenly that quick turnaround means a lot more.

What do you think Minnesota’s biggest advantage is in this game? What will be the reason they pull off the upset?

It has to be their pass-rushing duo of Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen. Saints All-Pro right tackle Ryan Ramcyzk had gone the entire regular season--over 1,000 snaps--without giving up a sack. He gave up two to Hunter on Sunday. Griffen had a relatively quiet second half of the season after an excellent bounce-back start to his year, but he showed up in a big way in New Orleans. Ifeadi Odenigbo has also been great at creating pressure as a rotational end, especially down the stretch. If they could do that on the road against a Saints line that was one of the best pass-blocking units in the league, they should be able to make some waves against a 49ers line that was more middle of the road.

If the Vikings do pull off the upset, I think their pass rush will be one of the main catalysts. This is Jimmy Garoppolo’s first playoff game. If they can make him uncomfortable in the pocket early and often, perhaps they can force some mistakes and give their offense some favorable field position. If they can’t create pressure and Garoppolo has time to find George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Emmanuel Sanders, it could be a long day.

The 49ers defensive line should be healthy for the first time since Week 11. When this unit was healthy, they were a terror for opposing offenses. Do you think the Vikings will be able to slow down the Niners pass rush?

I think the Vikings’ pass rush is their biggest advantage on Saturday. I think their pass blocking is probably their biggest disadvantage, especially in the middle of the line. Left guard Pat Elflein and rookie center Garrett Bradbury have struggled mightily at times, especially against dominant interior pass rushers like Kenny Clark, Chris Jones, and Grady Jarrett. Joey Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford will all be problematic for the Vikings on Sunday; they’re too talented to be kept quiet for 60 minutes. But I’m more concerned about DeForest Buckner. In four of the five Vikings losses that actually counted this season, their offense was short-circuited by interior pressure. It led to hurried throws, turnovers, and Kirk Cousins playing more skittish than a horse walking into a glue factory. The Minnesota offense can be explosive and dynamic when they’re firing on all cylinders, but that all goes away pretty quickly when they’re breached in the middle.