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49ers vs. Vikings preview: Turnovers and third downs will determine the winner

As will running the football

San Francisco 49ers v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The 49ers are set to take on the Minnesota Vikings in a game that has serious ramifications on the NFC playoff picture, something many couldn’t have imagined a couple of weeks ago. I will break down five quick statistics/facts that will help paint a clearer picture of this Vikings team and how they will match up against the hometown 49ers.


Turnovers

Turnovers, so commonly the deciding outcome of any given NFL game, and unfortunately for the 49ers, the Vikings do not commit many of them. As a result, Minnesota enters this game ranked #1 in the league in terms of limiting turnovers on offense, coughing up the ball only six times in ten games this season. The 49ers' defense also has had a well-publicized struggle with forcing turnovers, as they’ve only generated 9 in ten games this season, ranking them 28th in the league in that regard.

Minnesota’s defense ranks 15th in turnovers forced with 12, while the 49ers' offense ranks 20th in the league with 14 turnovers. However, it is important to note the 49ers have not turned the ball over in three of the last four games they have played, turning around a rough early-season stretch that saw them turn the ball over 11 times in their first six games.

Third down conversions

Third down is called the money down for a reason, and the offensive units who can consistently move the chains on said down are generally able to find sustained success as a team. The Vikings enter this game, converting 38.8% of their third-down attempts, which would rank them 18th in the league. Additionally, they will be matched up with a 49ers defense who is getting off the field on 3rd down at a rate of 39%, which would rank them 12th in the league.

On the flip side, Minnesota’s defense has been a top ten unit on third down, only allowing conversions on 37.1% of attempts. The 49ers' offense has been rolling the last couple of weeks, particularly on 3rd down, where they have converted over 54% of their attempts. This is a massive improvement from where they were prior, as, despite the bump up from the last couple of weeks, they still rank 22nd in the league at a 37.9% conversion rate.

Running the football

Funny enough, the Vikings and 49ers are having almost identical production from a yards per carry standpoint this season. Minnesota averages 4.3 yards per carry which ranks 15th in the league, and the 49ers sitting right behind them at 16th with 4.2 yards per carry this season.

Both of these teams' offenses are heavily dependent on effectively rushing the football, and on paper, the 49ers actually possess an advantage as the Vikings defense currently ranks 31st in the league in yards per carry allowed (the 49ers are 19th). While Kirk Cousins and the explosive Minnesota receiving corps are more than capable of winning a game on their own, the 49ers' main focus needs to be finding a way to slow down Dalvin Cook and the rushing attack.

Both of these teams enter this game at 5-5, and they match up very evenly with one another when you go through and look at all three sides of the ball. I expect a tough, hard-fought game that will ultimately be decided by the team that limits its own self-inflicted mistakes. I'm not trying to state the obvious, but my point is that ultimately, the talent level is so even between these squads, I don’t see an area that stands out where I truly feel either team will dominate the other on talent alone.