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Week 1 Game Preview: Vikings at 49ers

Football is back!!! The Minnesota Vikings (7-9) close out Week 1 of the regular season with a Monday Night Road game at the San Francisco 49ers (8-8). The game at Levi Stadium (home of Super Bowl 50) begins at 10:15 PM (ET) on ESPN.

The Vikings finished 7-9 in 2014 under first year coach Mike Zimmer without Adrian Peterson for 15 games. The Vikings look to continue that growth in 2015. The 49ers had a mediocre 2014 season and made sweeping changes across the board in San Francisco with retirements, changes in personnel and firing/losing Head Coach Jim Harbaugh

For more information on the 49ers and Vikings see the Know Your Enemy and Know Your Division articles below.

https://www.fiveyardslant.com/know-enemy-san-francisco-49ers/

https://www.fiveyardslant.com/know-division-minnesota-vikins/

Matchups

Vikings Passing Attack against the 49ers Coverage

The Vikings have plenty of weapons for second year pro Teddy Bridgewater. Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson, Jarius Wright and Kyle Rudolph can move the ball through the air with the focus on the 49ers’ defense on stopping Adrian Peterson. Bridgewater is a wildcard in year 2 after completing 64.4% of his passes with 14 TDS and 12 interceptions as a rookie

Trumaine Brock returns in 2015 after missing almost all of the 2014 season. Brock should match up well against Mike Wallace or Charles Johnson after a +10.6 2013 coverage grade. The second corner for the 49ers will be Kenneth Acker or Shareece Wright. Both may have some problems against Johnson or Wallace. Bridgewater should focus on beating these corners as often as possible.

Second year pro and former 2014 1st round pick Jimmie Ward will play the slot against Jarius Wright. Ward is more talented but Wright is an average slot WR that has experience.

Tight End Kyle Rudolph will be Bridgewater’s best weapon in this game. Navarro Bowman can cover but ILB Michael Wilhoite, OLB Corey Lemonier, OLB Ahmad Brooks and OLB Aaron Lynch may struggle against Rudolph. Safeties Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid are good coverage men to monitor Rudolph in the middle of the field.

Advantage: Vikings

Vikings Run Game against 49ers Run Defense

The Vikings were a top two ranked run team each year in 2011-2013 with Adrian Peterson. Peterson is a huge asset for Minnesota in the run game and opening up the passing game. Everyone is high on the Vikings due to the return of Peterson and what he can bring for the Vikings offense.

The Vikings rushing attack took a hit with the loss of Right Tackle Phil Loadholdt for the year. Center John O’Sullivan may not play in Week 1 either with back spasms. Veteran center Joe Berger and rookie Right tackle TJ Clemmings must step up and allow Adrian Peterson to return to form. Kalil, Michael Harris and Brandon Fusco struggled in run blocking in 2014 and must improve for Peterson.

The 49ers had an above average run defense allowing 4.0 YPC in 2014 but lost DE Justin Smith, ILB Chris Borland and OLB Aldon Smith this offseason to retirements and off field incidents. The 49ers may have some trouble stopping Peterson which will allow the Vikings offense to have a productive day.

Advantage: Vikings

Vikings run Defense against 49ers Rushing Attack

The Vikings allowed 4.3 YPC in 2014 which was 24th in the league. Minnesota hopes improved defensive line play from the same front four and new MLBs Gerald Hodges and Erik Kendricks will help their run defense.

2014 second round pick, Carlos Hyde had a decent rookie season with 4 YPC on 83 carries. Reggie Bush was added but struggled in 2014 with Detroit’s poor run blocking and injuries. If healthy, the tandem could have solid numbers on the ground against Minnesota.

The 49ers run blocking is set on the left side with Joe Staley and Alex Boone but may struggle on the right side and center.

The Vikings defense should improve with their MLB upgrades and second year in Zimmer’s system but the 49ers should have a decent day running the ball with Hyde, Bush and Kaepernick scrambles.

Advantage: Push

Vikings Pass Rush against 49ers Protection

The Vikings can rush the passer well with their front four. The Vikings also have an effective blitzer with OLB 1st round pick Anthony Barr. Barr had 4 sacks, 5 hits and 11 hurries in 12 games coming on the blitz. Barr should produce even more in year 2 of his career. Everson Griffen is the stud rusher (+12.4) with 12 sacks, 13 hits and 40 hurries on the 2014 season. Brian Robison struggled (-8.3) at the left end with 4.5 sacks, 11 hits and 37 hurries but has played better in past seasons.

Shariff Floyd is a top 5 DT (+8.9) in the league brining 4.5 sacks, 5 hits and 20 hurries despite missing 2 games. Tom Johnson had 6.5 sacks, 6 hits and 18 hurries (+5.0) out of nowhere in a backup pass rushing DT role. Scott Crichton and 3rd round pick Danielle Hunter are young talented backup DEs for the Vikings.

The 49ers have very good left tackle protection with Joe Staley. Staley blocking Everson Griffen will be the key matchup of the game to protect Colin Kaepernick. Alex Boone is a good left guard in pass protection to help against Floyd or Linval Joseph. Kaepernick has good mobility to avoid pressure.

The right side of the line is where the 49ers will have problems. Marcus Martin starters at center over injured Daniel Kilgore (PUP). Right Guard Jordan Levy and Right Tackle Erik Pears are huge problems for the 49ers. Linval Joseph, Shariff Floyd, Brian Robison should have big games.

Advantage: Vikings

Vikings Coverage against 49ers Weapons

The Vikings must improve their coverage to take the next step on defense. Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith are good cover guys. However, Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Vernon Davis are still a very good test for the Vikings back 7.

Gerald Hodges, rookie Lance Kendricks Chad Greenway and Anthony Barr will have their hands full with Vernon Davis and Reggie Bush out of the backfield. Strong safety Robert Blanton is also average in coverage. If the 49ers want to have offensive success, Kaepernick will need to exploit the Vikings LBs and strong safeties with Davis and Bush. Torrey Smith is an excellent deep threat and will test the rookie Trae Waynes or 37 year old veteran Terrence Newman. Captain Munnerlyn should win his matchups in the slot.

Advantage: 49ers

49ers Pass Rush

The 49ers pass rush took a major hit with the release of Aldon Smith for off field incidents and the retirement of Justin Smith. Rookie Arin Armstead and OLBs, Ahmad Brooks, Corey Lemonier, Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch is not enough pass rush firepower.

The Vikings protection was pretty awful in 2014. Rookie TJ Clemmings gets the start over the injured Loadholdt this year and Mike Harris is the new right guard. If O’Sullivan can’t play, the 49ers could get some interior rush and send Bowman on the blitz. If the Vikings can’t protect Bridgewater against the 49ers lack of pass rush; Minnesota will have to rely on Peterson too much in this game.

Advantage: Push

QBs

Colin Kaepernick and Teddy Bridgewater are the big wildcards in this game. Both should be under some pressure a good amount but are mobile and have plenty of weapons at their disposal.

Bridgewater was good under pressure in 2014 and must continue if pressure near 40% of the time. Bridgewater should be better in his second year under Norv Turner and will have less focus on him with Peterson back in the fold. Bridgewater will need to be a game manager for Minnesota in this game and season.

Kaepernick completed 60% of his passes in 2014 with 19 TDs and 10 interceptions. Kaepernick had over 600 yards rushing too on 100 carries. Colin may have to do more in 2015 than in 2014 if the 49ers defense takes another step backwards. The 49ers signal caller has plenty of weapons but may struggle under pressure. The 49ers run game is questionable without Frank Gore which puts even more on Kaepernick’s plate for 2015. This could spell disaster for San Francisco.

Advantage: Minnesota

Summary

The Vikings were 2-6 on the road last year; but the 49ers were only 4-4 at home. The Vikings are on the road but have plenty of advantages in this game per the matchups.

The Vikings should get pressure and run the ball well with Peterson and McKinnon. Bridgewater can be a good manager in this game and make enough plays with plenty of weapons to target. If the Vikings can protect Bridgewater, they may win this game by double digits. The only issue for Minnesota is stopping Boldin, Davis and Smith and avoiding costly turnovers on the road.

Final Score Prediction: Vikings 28 49ers 20