The San Francisco 49ers begin their 2018 campaign by traveling to Minnesota to face the defending NFC North Champion Vikings. Jimmy Garoppolo will make his first Week 1 start in the red and gold and Kirk Cousins will be making his first start as a member of the Purple People Eaters. Here we will discuss the odds and analysis from a betting perspective.

When: Sunday, September 9th at 10:00am PST
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Odds: Vikings -6.5, total at 46

Minnesota Vikings
It's understandable that the Vikings are expected to win by more than a field goal here, as they were one game away from making the Super Bowl last season and return an elite defense. Football Outsiders project Minnesota to finish atop the NFC North with a 11.5 percent projected defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) and 20.7 percent chance of reaching the Conference Championship game. ESPN's football power index (FPI) has the Vikings ranked 6th at 3.8, predicting that they win 10 games with a 62.5 percent chance of making the playoffs.

Minnesota's 2017 offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur left to become the head coach of the New York Giants but they return a healthy Dalvin Cook and signed a new quarterback, Kirk Cousins, who they believe is the guy to help them reach the next level. The Vikings finished 2017 ranked 6th in weighted offense and 1st in weighted defense.

San Francisco 49ers
A lot of offseason hype surrounding the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo has become more tempered as of late, particularly after the season-ending injury to running back Jerick McKinnon. Football Outsiders project San Francisco to finish 3rd in the NFC West with a -4.9 percent projected DVOA and 6.5 percent chance of making it to the Conference Championship game. ESPN's FPI has the Niners ranked 15th at 0.4, predicting they win 8 games with a 35.9 percent chance of making the playoffs.

Though the Niners offense lost McKinnon and Trent Brown, the team drafted Mike McGlinchey and added Weston Richburg to help shore up the offensive line and drafted Dante Pettis as a big-bodied target for Garoppolo. Defensively, San Francisco will be without Reuben Foster for this game but its linebackers will get help from 3rd round draft pick Fred Warner and Malcolm Smith, while Richard Sherman has been added to a promising young secondary. The 49ers finished 2017 ranked 9th in weighted offense and 25th in weighted defense.

Prediction
Jimmy Garoppolo faces a daunting task in going into one of the loudest stadiums in all the NFL and trying to upset a team that many have predicted to go to the Super Bowl. We have already predicted the Vikings to win the game but what about the outcome against the spread (ATS)? This spread first opened at Vikings -4 but has shifted to as much as Vikings -6.5 since McKinnon went out with an ACL tear. This shift seems like a bit of an overreaction considering that Matt Breida has shown to be a capable runner and has Alfred Morris to complement him.

While many consider Kirk Cousins an upgrade at quarterback, Cousins finished 2017 with a defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR) of 395, DVOA of -0.6 percent and total QBR of 52.3, while Vikings 2017 starter, Case Keenum finished 2017 with a DYAR of 1293, DVOA of 28.1 percent and total QBR of 69.7, significantly better than Cousins in all 3 categories and among the best in the NFL. In comparison, Jimmy Garoppolo finished 2017 with DYAR of 598, DVOA of 39.1 percent and total QBR of 80.5, higher than Cousins in all three categories. We can concede that Cousins' numbers could look better in the Vikings offense but there is a strong possibility that he is not the Purple Jesus who Vikings fans are hoping for and he may be less talented than Garoppolo when it's all said and done.

Jimmy G will certainly have his work cut out for him against one of the top defenses in the NFL that also added George Iloka, but we expect the 49ers offense to be competitive enough to score some points, though it could be a low scoring game overall. One X-factor is how the Niners' defense performs without Foster, but we are going to go out on a limb and predict that San Francisco's defense, after so many years of taking defensive linemen in the first round, will take a step in the right direction and be stronger than many expect. Based on that expectation and the improved overall competitiveness of the 49ers with Jimmy G at the helm and Kyle Shanahan calling plays, we expect the 49ers to keep the margin within +6.5 points in what we expect to be a low scoring affair. Pick: 49ers +6.5

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports



Poll

  • What is your best bet for 49ers at Vikings on 9/9/18?
  • Vikings -6.5
  • 49ers +6.5
  • Under 46
  • Over 46