We’re a little under five hours away from the 49ers matchup against the Vikings. It’ll be a loud, raucous environment as there’s a definite home-field advantage for Minnesota. But both teams are banged up and missing key stars. Justin Jefferson, Deebo Samuel, and Trent Williams will all miss.
Let’s get into some predictions for tonight.
It’s not fair to criticize the Vikings for how they played against the Bears last week when San Francisco dropped the ball on the road themselves. But I’m going to anyway.
Six of the Vikings' 11 drives didn’t gain at least ten yards. They’re one-dimensional, as evidenced by their 24th rush ranking in scheduled adjusted efficiency, so Chicago wasn’t just a one-off game.
Kirk Cousins has to shoulder even more of the load without Justin Jefferson, which means he’s overreliant on tight end T.J. Hockenson. During the past three years, no defense in the NFL has allowed fewer yards over the middle of the field than the 49ers. We know why.
This year is no different with Fred Warner manning the middle. The Niners are 29 percentage points better than the second placed Bills at defending passes over the middle of the field. Warner makes the 49ers otherworldly.
That means it’ll come down to Deommodore Lenoir and Charvarius Ward matching up with rookie Jordan Addison and K.J. Osborn. But, more importantly, how the Vikings can hold up against a 49ers pass rush.
Per Sports Info Solutions, the Vikings have the third-highest blown block rate in the NFL in pass protection as a collective unit. That does not bode well going against a 49ers defensive line that has more QB knockdowns than any team in the NFL.
Cousins does a good job of getting rid of the ball to avoid sacks when he’s under pressure, but that doesn’t mean the result of the throw is a positive outcome. Under pressure, Cousins has the 10-worst adjusted accuracy in the NFL.
Trent Williams will be a massive loss, as will Deebo Samuel. But Kyle Shanahan has had a full week to craft an offense without two of his best players. He’ll protect his offensive tackles by getting the ball out quickly against a blitz-happy Vikings defense.
Unfortunately, National Tight End’s Day will be bypassed as one would think George Kittle looks more like a left tackle just as much as a receiver tonight. Minnesota goes out of their way to take away the team’s top option and forces somebody else to beat them.
Hello, Jauan Jennings. The Vikings are dead last in the NFL in allowing yardage and in DVOA to the opposition’s WR2. They’re fifth-worst at defending the slot. Between Jennings and Ray-Ray McCloud, one of the two, or both, should be in for a big night.
Shanahan will scheme Brandon Aiyuk and Kittle open, but it’ll come down to the “other” receivers to win their 1-on-1 matchups.
Christian McCaffrey’s role as a pass-catcher will depend on his pain tolerance. With a torn oblique, reaching for passes outside your frame hurts typing out. Minnesota is middle of the pack to below average at defending the run, but are one of the worst rushing defenses on early downs. Monday night will be a good time to get Jordan Mason and Elijah Mitchell going on the ground.
Expecting Brock Purdy to duplicate his performance from the Giants game because the Vikings will blitz at an extreme rate isn’t realistic. One area where Purdy has excelled all season is getting the ball to the open receiver. Assuming Shanahan will do the heavy-lifting, Brock only needs to play point guard and continue distributing on time and in stride, so the skill players can maximize the yardage after the catch.
I don’t see many avenues where the Vikings light up the scoreboard, or where they get stops defensively. Minnesota is just what the doctor ordered for the 49ers.
Shanahan will dial up a trick play for one of his star wideouts. Are you gonna be the one to tell Christian McCaffrey that he’s not playing after he worked so hard to get to play in the first place? Getting out early and playing with a lead will help limit McCaffrey’s exposure.
We’ll see both teams trade scores early, before one makes an adjustment and the other chases its tail until it’s too late. The Vikings are one of the few opponents where the 49ers can get away without Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel.
Too many people are forgetting about the other side of the ball. The Vikings’ best weapon is a tight end. As good as Jordan Addison will be, the loss of Justin Jefferson has proven too much for the rest of the offense to overcome his loss — against lesser opponents than the 49ers defense.
Kyle’s prediction: 49ers 30, Vikings 14