Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers
When: 4:35 PM ET, Saturday, January 11, 2020
Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
SANTA CLARA – A goal-line stop in the waning moments of the regular-season finale allowed the San Francisco 49ers to secure the NFC’s top seed and home-field advantage throughout the conference’s playoffs. The 49ers also received a bye, allowing reinforcements to return to the lineup on Saturday when they host the visiting Minnesota Vikings in California.
“It’s kind of a confidence boost,” San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner said of seeing teammates Kwon Alexander (pectoral muscle), Dee Ford (hamstring) and Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) in the lineup to return for Saturday’s tilt. “It’s been a while since we had all those guys back on the field together. The more weapons we have, the more powerful we’ll be.”
The 49ers were plenty powerful this season, although the club has been idle since securing the NFC West title after stopping tight end Jacob Hollister inches short of the goal line during a 26-21 victory at Seattle on Dec. 29. While San Francisco has used the time off to get healthy, sixth-seeded Minnesota is nursing injuries — with wideout Adam Thielen sustaining an ankle ailment during Wednesday’s practice.
The two-time Pro Bowl selection had just returned from a hamstring injury to reel in seven receptions for 129 yards in the Vikings’ 26-20 overtime victory over New Orleans in their wild-card clash last week.
TIME: 4:35 p.m. ET. TV: NBC. LINE: 49ers -7. O/U: 44.5
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (11-6): Kirk Cousins silenced his critics about his inability to win the big game, outdueling Drew Brees by tossing a game-ending touchdown to tight end Kyle Rudolph in overtime to win his first playoff contest in his eight-year career. “He showed the quarterback that we knew he was, the quarterback we knew we were bringing in,” running back Dalvin Cook said of the 31-year-old Cousins. “I’ve been around Kirk for two years now. He’s grown since he got here. That’s part of being in the NFL — getting better each year, each week that you’re in this game. And Kirk has been doing that.” Cook showed no sign of a shoulder injury last week, rushing for 94 yards and two touchdowns while amassing 130 yards from scrimmage. “I never got injured. I got banged up,” the 24-year-old Cook said. “Injured and banged up are two completely different things. I didn’t get injured this year. We took a precaution of holding me out so I could be ready for this stretch. I was good.”
ABOUT THE 49ERS (13-3): Jimmy Garoppolo’s bid for his third Super Bowl title and first as a starter begins on Saturday after he completed 18 of 22 passes for 285 yards against the Seahawks. The 28-year-old has relied heavily tight end George Kittle, who led the team in receptions (85), targets (107), receiving yards (1,053) and matched Kendrick Bourne in receiving touchdowns (five). A potent rushing attack was responsible for a league-best 23 touchdowns, although the Vikings’ defense has permitted just eight for the third fewest in the NFL. Raheem Mostert led the 49ers with eight scores on the ground, with seven coming in the last six weeks.
- Minnesota’s Stefon Diggs has missed practices on Tuesday and Wednesday due to illness, although coach Mike Zimmer said he expects the wideout to “be fine.”
- San Francisco DE Arik Armstead collected a team-best 10.5 sacks, although he failed to register at least one in his last five games.
- The teams are meeting in the postseason for the sixth time, and first since the 1997 divisional round.
PREDICTION: 49ers 21, Vikings 20