As soon as Kyle Rudolph snagged that fade from the sky in New Orleans, it began. The search for magic in a maze of logic. The #6 seed Minnesota Vikings were headed to Santa Clara to face the #1 seed San Francisco 49ers and the doubts, questions and concerns were rearing their ugly heads. Spend some time scrolling your newsfeed and you'll be quite surprised by the amount of people, whether they be media analysts, fans or former players, all picking the Vikings to win this game. The puzzling reasoning ranges from what happened in the 1988 playoffs to Minnesota's top ranked pass defense vs. TEs to Kirk Cousins "monkey off the back moment". Whatever the reason may be, you need not go far to find a fool doubting these 49ers. In a world filled with insanity, let us please return to reason. Take my hand and put aside the mythical, magical quest for something divine and step into the realm of January 10th, 2020 as we examine why the 49ers will beat the Minnesota Vikings.

Recency Bias


This one is quite obvious. If you asked anyone six weeks ago who would win if the Vikings played the 49ers in the division round at Levi's Stadium you would be hard-pressed to find someone who would pick the Vikings. Oh, what a week can do. The majority of media analysts picked these Vikings to get decimated by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. The same Saints who many picked to win be the NFC Champions come early February, well, we know what happened to the Saints. So here we are, the Vikings gaining the shine of beating the media darling Saints in OT on the road, have now succeeded the Saints as the newly-crowned media darling. On the other side of the spectrum, the 49ers have not played since their thrilling win over Seattle to clinch the #1 seed. As much as some want to create a "New Vikings" narrative, this is the same team that lost to the Matt Moore-led Chiefs.

Quality of Quarterbacks


It's amazing what one pass can do. If you asked most fans prior to last Sunday what Kirk Cousins is most known for the resounding answer would be; coming up short in big situations. When comparing the two quarterbacks it is painfully obvious who is the better player, and in the playoffs usually the better quarterback gets the win. Comparing career records alone, Kirk Cousins is 44-42-2 roughly a .500 record, Jimmy Garoppolo is 20-5. I`m not a mathematician but that seems fairly better than .500.

The antithesis to Cousin's choker reputation would be Garoppolo's clutch gene. In 25 starts, Garappolo has had 7 fourth quarter comebacks and 7 game-winning drives. Once again, bad with math, but that seems to shake out around over 1/3 of the games Jimmy has won have been directly related to him coming up big when the game is on the line. Plain and simple, having Jimmy Garoppolo over Kirk Cousins, we like that!

Viking Conquests?


Minnesota won its biggest game of the year last Sunday, that cannot be debated. What can be noted though, is the fact that when Minnesota beat the Saints in the Wild Card round, that was only the second team with a winning record that the Vikings have beaten. The other winning team the Vikings beat were the mediocre Philadelphia Eagles. Against winning teams the Vikings had a record of 2-4, which doesn't sound like it will transfer well into the playoffs. On the contrary, the 49ers were 5-2 vs. teams with winning records.

Key Injuries



Throughout the second half of the season the 49ers have been decimated by injuries. In a fortuitous twist of fate, it appears that the 49ers are nearly at full-strength just in time for their playoff run. It is a lock that Jaquiski Tartt and Kwon Alexander will be returning for this divisional playoff game, with Dee Ford still being listed as questionable. Getting even two of these three back would be a tremendous shot of life into an exhausted 49ers defense coming off a much needed bye week. In November and December the 49ers defense was unrecognizable to the defense of September and October. The key being these three defensive standouts were watching from the sideline (Ford & Alexander for the majority of that time, Tartt from December 1st until now). Expect the 49ers defense to look much more like the unit from September that suffocated offenses at will.

Peering at the other sideline, Minnesota may be without its best WR, Adam Thielen. During practice this week Thielen went down with an ankle injury, the cause of which wasn't known initially. Now we are hearing it was a laceration on his ankle that required stitches. It's hard to imagine a top-flight WR playing at a high-level, or playing at all, with stitches in his ankle. It's one to keep an eye on, but don't be surprised if Thielen is not his usual self, or not on the field at all.

Overwhelming Home-Field Advantage


The 49ers battled tooth and nail to gain the home-field advantage and the bye in Week 17. Little did we know then, just how big that advantage would be. Not only do the 49ers come equipped with a crowd that is experiencing the first 49ers playoff game at Levi's stadium, but the actual field will become a huge advantage. Of those two wins the Vikings had against winning teams, both came in a dome on artificial turf. The 49ers play in an open-air stadium on natural grass. When you dive into the numbers, Kirk Cousins on natural grass field: 5 TDs/3 INTs, 60.2% completion rate, and a QB rating of 83.8. Compare those numbers to his artificial turf statistics: 21 TDs/3 INTs, and a QB rating 117.3. Playing Kirk Cousins on a grass field in front of a crazed Levi's Stadium, we like that!

So, 49ers fans, take a breather. Don't fall victim to manufactured Minnesota mumbo-jumbo. While any team can win on any given....Saturday, there are so many more reasons to be confident than cautious. Sit back, crack open a brew and get your popcorn ready for the first time in six years. It's playoff football in San Francisco.
  • Written by:
    36 year old husband & father of 4, life-long 49ers fan living in Hudson Valley New York.