Franchise Sports

Niners vs Vikings Divisional Round Preview: San Francisco should have too much

Home » NFL » Niners vs Vikings Divisional Round Preview: San Francisco should have too much

The path to the Super Bowl is paved in Red & Gold.

Thanks to a 13-3 record (with a few tie-breakers) the San Francisco 49ers will play their first playoff game since Jan 2013. The 49ers will host the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round on Saturday.

The Vikings are coming off an impressive overtime Wildcard victory against the 13-3 Saints that was played in the Superdome. The Vikings were the underdogs in New Orleans and will be again in San Francisco, however, after that victory in the ‘Big Easy’, Kirk Cousins and co. should not be underestimated.

Whether you like it or not, Kirk Cousins is an elite quarterback. Whether he’s the star of the show or sitting a few rows back doesn’t matter. He’s in the clubhouse. Cousins showed his true potential against New Orleans, throwing for 242 yards, 1 (game-winning) touchdown and 0 interceptions. While it is a worn out and tired cliche that Cousins does not fare well when the pressure is on him, there is some truth to it. But as we saw this past weekend, even the greats in Tom Brady and Drew Brees can succumb to pressure.

If head coaching prospect Kevin Stefanski and veteran coach Gary Kubiak can scheme up an offensive gameplan that allows Cousins to ease himself in to the game and grow some confidence, the 49er defence will need to bring their ‘A game’.


Some minor injury concerns are surrounding the wide receiver duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but those seem to be minor ailments and should not affect the star duo too much come gameday. The third weapon on this offence, running back Dalvin Cook showed no signs of rust, rushing for 2 touchdowns and 94 yards.

If the Niners are to make the day-long for Cousins, stopping Cook must be top of the checklist.

Luckily for the 49er defence, they appear to be getting healthy at the perfect time. Starters Jaquiski Tartt, Kwon Alexander and Dee Ford are all predicted to return. After Tartt’s absence, the Niners D showed a dip in form, giving up scores of 46, 29, 31 and 21. The partnership between Jimmie Ward and Tartt goes back to high school and is one of the most effective in the NFL.

In the front seven, the return of Kwon Alexander is a huge gain. The versatile linebacker was playing at a break-neck pace before tearing his pectoral muscle on Halloween. Alexander was a huge reason for the Niners vaunted defence earlier in the season and brings the ability to cover tight ends as well as the cover ground on stretches and toss cracks to the outside. However, Alexander’s return will be limited as he takes the role of SAM from Azeez Al-Shairr, leaving the impressive rookie Dre Greenlaw at WILL in nickel packages.

Dee Ford rounds out the return list and offers serious speed and pass-rushing ability from the edge. His partnership with rookie starlet Nick Bosa was deadly earlier in the season.


Stefanski and Kubiak’s scheme is similar to that of Kyle Shanahan’s. Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak worked together in Denver. Kubiak’s offence revolves around a lot of outside zone and stretch runs, play-action, RPOs and giving the defence similar looks at the line of scrimmage. The 49ers similarity with this type of offence should stand them in good stead.

On the flip side, this will be Jimmy Garropolo’s first playoff start after winning two rings with the Patriots as Tom Brady’s backup. Despite his lack of literal postseason experience, Garoppolo has led this 49er team into various battles and playoff-like atmospheres throughout the regular season and has shown time after time he can stay calm and composed under the bright lights.

And of course, there’s George Kittle.

If the Vikings were to slow the 49ers on offence it would come from upfront. Edge rushers Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffin proved to be game wreckers against New Orleans. Hunter having 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble, Griffin having 1.5 sacks and 3 QB hits. Hunter and Griffin found extraordinary success rushing from the inside, attacking the interior of the Saints offensive line. This could be a tactic they reuse against the Niners as the Californian team lost Weston Richburg, their starting C in Week Fourteen.

Harrison Smith is ever-present on the back end of the defence and will enjoy matching up 1-on-1 with George Kittle. Despite the dip in form for cornerback Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings secondary has been able to hold up so far. However, with Jayron Kearse‘s injury against NO, the stretched-thin secondary will once again face an uphill battle against Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel.

The Vikings have the ability to make Saturday difficult for San Francisco. If Shanahan, Garropolo and Saleh are complacent then they could be in for a rude awakening. However, due to the painful past playoff experiences of Shanahan, I doubt this will be the case. The Vikings may make it difficult, but expect a 49er win in sunny San Francisco.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *