49ers: Game breakdown and prediction for Divisional Round vs. Minnesota Vikings

49ers (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
49ers (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

13 wins later and the San Francisco 49ers now get their chance to prove themselves to be the best team in football this year. And it all starts this week.

First-round byes are over and now it’s time for the San Francisco 49ers to prove that they are indeed the best team in the NFC.

It all starts here with their matchup against the Minnesota Vikings who just pulled off a gigantic upset last week over the New Orleans Saints. Can the 49ers handle their business as usual, or will one of the most dangerous 6 seeds in years unseat them and end their magical season?

Looking at the Vikings, last week’s performance says it all about what kind of team they are and how much of a groove they’re in at the present moment. It had long been a running joke around the league that Kirk Cousins couldn’t show up in meaningful games.

But last week was different as he straight-up outplayed the great Drew Brees on his own home turf and made two of the best throws of his career to bring the Vikings a stunning win in the Bayou.

What the Niners face this week is a very good team with a defense that is arguably better than their own right now.

They face a heavy rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook and the best duo of wide receivers in the game today in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The Vikings may even use their fullback more often than any other team in football — outside of these very Niners of course.

Minnesota is extremely well-coached, they give you a ton of different looks with multiple tight end sets, and now their highly-paid quarterback has the confidence that he can win them important games.

I think the 49ers could be in a world of trouble if let the Vikings pick up right where they left off last week.

But here’s where I float back over to the Niners’ side. Just look at how good this team is.

I think we forgot a little bit about them as they were inactive this past week, but they finished off this year very strong in the regard that they outlasted two tough divisional opponents on the road and wound up sealing up the number one seed through nothing other than their own hard work.

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They went tit-for-tat with Jared Goff when the Los Angeles Rams were in a groove. They went up to Seattle and knocked off the great Russell Wilson. And for much of the year, they had the number two defense in all of football.

I think we’re going to see them get back to playing at that high level on the defensive side this week. The stage is set and the lights are going to be brighter than they’ve ever been for this young team.

They’re facing a veteran Vikings team with a veteran head coach in Mike Zimmer, but at the same time, they have the defensive personnel to overcome any adversity and explode in the face of the Skol.

Robert Saleh has had his defense grinding all year long, and until the last few weeks of the season when it seemed like everybody was hurt, he was leading a squad that shut you down on all fronts and took the ball away at a frenetic pace.

The Vikings are an extremely tough matchup this week, but I think we’re going to see the pass rush go off and run defense button-down now that Kwon Alexander is set to come off the injured reserve.

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This is going to be a game driven by big defensive plays and quality coaching on both sides, but I have the 49ers getting through this arduous task 27-23 and moving on to the NFC Championship Game with Minnesota covering the seven-point spread.

The big question is going to be whether or not the 49ers can do what they’ve done all year and batten down on the run game enough to dominate time of possession, wear out that stout Vikings defense, and keep a hot offense led by Cousins off the field.

And whether or not Jimmy Garoppolo (in his first playoff appearance) can avoid turning the ball over.

Two things will kill the Niners in this game. One will be if Garoppolo starts giving the ball up and the other will be if they get into a shootout with Cousins being as hot-handed as he is right now.

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Let’s see if the best team in the NFC can live up to the hype in the biggest moment.