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Minnesota vs. San Francisco Preview Article

VirginiaCavs

CTG Junior Moderator
Vikings vs. 49ers NFL Week 12 Picks and Expert Insights

Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, November 28, 2021 at 4:25 p.m. ET at Levi's Stadium in San Francisco, California

How The 49ers Have Lost Their Games

This season, San Francisco has lost five games.

It will be clear from looking at these five games that Minnesota does not fit the profile of a team that one should expect to beat or cover the spread against the 49ers.

San Francisco lost to a Packer team that established an early lead, such that the 49ers had to pass the ball a lot.

Then, the 49ers lost to Seattle despite accruing over 200 more yards.

They lost afterward to an Arizona team that they could not complete drives against and to a Colt team that dominated time of possession with its necessary combination of strong running backs, solid offensive line, and excellent defense.

Most recently, they lost again to Arizona, which replicated its success against superstar Derrick Henry by shutting down San Francisco's running game.

In sum, San Francisco loses to teams that race to an early lead, control time of possession, and shut down its ground game. The 49ers also lose when their offense flounders in the red zone.

San Francisco's Current Success

Currently, the 49ers enjoy 2-0 SU and ATS streaks. Their blowout win over the Rams surprised many.

They could have suffered a let-down in Jacksonville as they were coming off a big win and had to travel across the country on a short week. But they also dominated the Jags.

Easily winning the time of possession battle and strong running have gone hand-in-hand in these most recent triumphs.

Against the Rams, for example, the 49ers held the ball for over 39 minutes and amassed 156 rushing yards on 44 attempts.

Penalties are hurting them less and they are more clinical on third downs and red zone opportunities.

The latter successes are also a product of developments in the passing game.

Importantly, Brandon Aiyuk has developed solid chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo.

Aiyuk has caught 20 passes in his past four games after mustering nine receptions in the rest of his season.

George Kittle has also emerged as a red zone threat. The All-Pro tight end has caught a touchdown in three consecutive games.

Thus, the 49ers understand how to be lethally efficient on offense, with their strong running and efficient passing.

Minnesota's Vulnerability

Minnesota is just the team to struggle with a San Francisco squad that owns the fourth-highest run-play percentage because, like last year, its run defense is struggling.

The Vikings did invest heavily in run defense during recent offseasons, but this investment is not panning out because the personnel that they acquired are not able to play.

They acquired Michael Pierce, who is out indefinitely with an elbow injury. Likewise, they acquired another defensive lineman in Dalvin Tomlinson, who is also out indefinitely.

Without these would-be run-stoppers, they have to rely on the same-old ineptitude embodied by guys like Nick Vigil, who statistically ranks towards the very bottom, among linebackers, in run defense.

Hence, the Vikings rank 27th in limiting opposing rush yards per game and they struggle even more in this respect on the road.

49er Pass Defense vs. Kirk Cousins & Company

Viking sympathizers might try to say that the Viking offense will help Minnesota to a fast start, which will force the 49ers to abandon the run.

But this won't happen because Minnesota's defense won't be successful, while San Francisco's will be.

The 49ers rank third in limiting opposing passing yards because they have succeeded against many high-quality quarterback-wide receiver combinations.

They've stifled Matthew Stafford, limited Russell Wilson to a season-low in passing yards, and so on, even though both are recognized as solid quarterbacks with great wide receivers.

Only Aaron Rodgers proved to be too much for the 49er defense.

But reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, with his three All-Pro selections, is not somebody who you can compare Viking quarterback Kirk Cousins with.

Without having that good of a quarterback, Minnesota's pass attack does not have the necessary weaponry to hurt the 49er secondary and outpace the 49er team.

Plus, San Francisco's ball-control game will further impede Cousins from finding any sort of a rhythm because he will be spending so much time on the sidelines.

The Verdict

San Francisco will use its strong ground game to take advantage of Minnesota's continually weak run defense.

Also with its improved passing efficiency and the increased pass-catching roles of Aiyuk and Kittle, the 49ers will control time of possession and succeed in the red zone.

Conversely, Minnesota's Cousins-led pass attack won't succeed against San Francisco's deservedly highly-ranked pass defense.

Best Bet: 49ers -3.5 at +102 with Heritage
 

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