The San Francisco 49ers learned Sunday they’ll face the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
Despite enjoying the benefit of a bye week, San Francisco 49ers fans were fully engaged in the first round of the NFL playoffs. The game between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings, a game that would determine the Niners’ opponent in this weekend’s divisional round, became must-see TV.
While no team remaining at this point in the playoffs should be taken lightly, 49ers fans should be thrilled with Vikings’ last second victory. The win eliminates any chance that Kyle Shanahan’s squad will have to contend with the perennial NFC juggernaut Saints, giving them a significantly better draw against Minnesota.
The Minnesota Vikings
New Orleans went 13-3 in 2019 despite playing several games without Pro-Bowl quarterback Drew Brees. They ranked 9th in the NFL in yards per game and third in total points. Their trio of Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas were also one of the most dangerous tandems in football.
While the 10-6 Vikings are certainly no easy task, they appear to be a better match up for the 49ers. The team’s most dangerous weapon is their rushing attack. Superstar Dalvin Cook led the way toward 2,133 total rushing yards throughout the course of the season (good for the 6th best mark in the league). Their passing offense on the other hand is notably inconsistent. Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ aerial attack ranked a meager 23rd in the NFL.
Stopping Dalvin Cook is key
The 49ers will need to spend a great deal of their game plan focusing on stopping Cook. While the team’s run defense has been suspect in recent weeks (17th overall during the 2019 regular season), they will have the benefit of playing a one-sided offense. San Francisco’s 2nd ranked overall defense can utilize All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman to help control opposing receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen This should allow their front line to stack the box and force the game into Cousins’ hands.
Much like their opponent, San Francisco also boasts one of the most dangerous rushing attacks in the sport. While the Saints 4th best run defense would have been a potential nightmare, the Vikings middle-of-the-pack should allow Shanahan’s zone blocking system to thrive.
Kirk Cousins is no Drew Brees
At the end of the day the 49ers avoid a match up with future Hall-of-Famer and 2018 NFL MVP runner-up Drew Brees. In his place, they face a good, but often inconsistent, Kirk Cousins. Throw in the advantage they have against Minnesota’s run defense and it becomes clear that Niners were clear winners in the Wildcard round. Even though they didn’t need to play an actual game.