The Divisional round of the 2020 NFL Playoffs begins on Saturday with the Minnesota Vikings, the No. 6 seed in the NFC, going head-to-head with the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers at 4:35 p.m. ET on NBC. The Vikings improbably made it out of Wild Card weekend with an overtime victory against the New Orleans Saints, but now must tackle another tough challenge on the road in San Francisco. Minnesota was the largest underdog on the board last weekend and isn’t a stranger to pulling off an upset, but it certainly won’t come easy against a well-rested, motivated Niners squad returning to the postseason after a six-year hiatus.
Oddsmakers don’t like Minnesota’s chances to reach the NFC Championship Game, opening them as seven-point ‘dogs in this 2020 NFL Playoff contest. That line hasn’t moved since first going up on the board and has been drawing an exactly even split of public action for both bets and cash wagered against the spread. The total—which started at 46.5 points—has shifted, however, dropping down to 44.5 points over the last few days. The sharp bettors are responsible for this adjustment, as 59% of the public tickets are on the over. The larger wagers like the under though, evidenced by 56% of the money coming in on that side of the line.
Will the 49ers come through with a rare win over the Vikings—they’ve beaten them just once in their last five tries—to reach the conference championship for the first time in six years, or will Minnesota improbably secure upset on the road during the 2020 NFL Playoffs by going into San Francisco and handling business on Saturday? Pro handicapper Jon Price of SportsInformationTraders.com has a prediction on this matchup that you will not want to miss. Before seeing which side the Vegas expert is picking to both win and cover the spread, take a look at the full schedule of games, kickoff start times, TV viewing info, updated odds and the bracket for the entire Divisional Round slate. You can also find key betting trends, an in-depth preview and more to help you make an informed decision when betting on the Vikings vs. 49ers 2020 NFL Playoff battle.
2020 NFL Playoff Bracket
2020 NFL Playoffs Viewing Guide
Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers Betting Trends
- The Vikings are 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS over their last five games—dating back to the 2007 campaign—against the 49ers.
- The total has gone UNDER in six of the last seven matchups between these teams, including the past three in a row.
- The home team has covered in five of the last seven contests involving the Vikings and 49ers. The underdog also has the same cover rate over the last seven.
- The 49ers are 9-1 SU and 7-3 ATS over their last 10 home games against this opponent.
- San Francisco has won four of the five postseason bouts between these foes, but hasn’t matched up with Minnesota in the playoffs since 1998.
- The Niners went 6-2 SU but just 3-4-1 ATS as a home favorite during the 2019 NFL season, while the Vikings went 2-2 SU and ATS as a road underdog.
- These teams had very similar cover percentages during the regular season, with San Francisco holding a slight edge at 9-6-1 ATS, compared to Minnesota at 9-7.
- San Francisco went 2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS with a rest advantage in 2019, while Minnesota was 2-2 SU and ATS in games where the team had less rest than its opponent.
Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers Preview and Prediction
After knocking out one 13-win team as a massive underdog, Minnesota’s next task will be to repeat that task on Saturday. The Vikings came away with a huge upset over the Saints in the Superdome by playing strong defense and making enough big plays on offense to notch a “W” in overtime and now must find a way to do the same against a 13-win 49ers squad in the first ever postseason game held at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. While Minnesota proved it could handle an elite offense like New Orleans’ in the 2020 NFL Playoffs, it now faces off against a foe that not only boasts a potent offense, but also employs one of the best defenses the NFL has to offer.
San Francisco finished the season ranked at or near the top of the league in many important defensive categories. The club was No. 2 in total defense (281.8 yards per game), No. 1 in pass defense (169.2) and No. 8 in scoring (19.4 points per game). The Niners also racked up 27 takeaways on the year, having intercepted 12 passes and recovered 15 fumbles, and sacked the opposing quarterback 48 times, which tied them for the fifth-best mark in the NFL. Although the team was in the middle of the pack in terms of rushing yardage allowed (112.6 per game), it tied for the fourth-fewest touchdowns allowed on the ground at 11. Despite that, the 49ers realize that they are vulnerable against the rush and are committed to stopping it when they take the field for their Divisional Round showdown with Minnesota. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner credited Vikings running back Dalvin Cook as one of the best at his position and believes Minnesota will try to use him to set the tone early (via SFGate.com):
Coming into this game, throughout the year, obviously against the run hasn’t been our strong suit throughout the year. I know they’re definitely going to challenge us in the run game early. Especially with Dalvin Cook back there, he’s one of the best in the league. We’ve just got to do a really good job with shutting that down early.
Cook was an important figure in the Vikings’ upset of the Saints, rushing a game-high 28 times for 94 yards and a pair of scores. He also chipped in as part of the passing game, hauling in three receptions for 36 yards. With both of Minnesota’s top receivers currently showing up on the injury report, the 24-year-old could be in line for an even bigger role this Saturday. The team relied especially heavily on wideout Adam Thielen in the Wild Card, who came through with seven receptions for 129 yards, including a 43-yard catch on an incredible throw from quarterback Kirk Cousins that set up the game-winning pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph just three plays later. Unfortunately for the Vikings, Thielen is officially questionable with an ankle injury that he suffered in practice on Wednesday. The receiver needed stitches after getting cleated, but the franchise is hopeful that Thielen will be able to give it a go this weekend despite not practicing further following the injury.
Ian Rapoport tweeted more information about Thielen’s ankle and status for the Divisional round matchup with San Francisco:
Minnesota did get some good news regarding its other talented receiver, Stefon Diggs, when he was able to return to practice after missing a couple of days with the flu. The wideout said that it won’t stop him for suiting up on Saturday, but the Vikings can hardly afford to have him limited, especially if Thielen isn’t 100%. Diggs didn’t see many targets come his away against New Orleans, catching just two passes for 19 yards in the contest. The team did utilize him as a rusher to try and get him more involved, but he took his two totes for only eight yards. The 26-year-old out of Maryland knows he’ll have his work cut out matching up with San Francisco’s elite cornerback Richard Sherman—who conceded just one catch for 18 yards when these teams last played in Week 1 of the 2018 campaign—but believes he will be ready for the battle in the 2020 NFL Playoffs (as per NBCSports.com):
[Sherman] has been one of the best players in our league for a long time. I have a lot of respect for the guy. He’s very talented individual, very smart. I would say facing him increases the competitive juices. I’ve got them regardless. Even if I was 30 percent, I’d be out there. It’s football and it’s that time of the year. Nothing’s going to be perfect. Everyone’s got bumps and bruises, and I won’t let a little flu keep me from the game.
Sam Ekstrom posted a clip of the only time Diggs beat Sherman in their last head-to-head bout:
Even if the Vikings can get their offense going against the elite San Francisco defense, they’ll still have to find a way to stop one of the most unique and creative offenses in the league in order to continue their improbable run in the 2020 NFL Playoffs. Under head coach Kyle Shanahan, the Niners have consistently created mismatches and found ways to beat opposing defenses in a myriad of ways. The squad ranked No. 4 in the league in total offense (381.1 yards per game) and No. 2 in both rushing yards (144.1) and scoring (29.9 points per game) this year. San Francisco built an identity around pounding the rock with three solid running backs—Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman—and spreading the ball out to its stable of talented pass-catchers headlined by All-Pro tight end George Kittle. Kittle is the player most likely to cause the Minnesota coaching staff to lose sleep as they try to gameplan to contain him in the Divisional Round on Saturday. The third-year TE was incredible during the 2019 campaign, reeling in 85 receptions for 1,053 yards and five scores in 14 games while doing nearly everything required from his position at a Pro Bowl level.
Kittle is the focal point of a passing attack that also employs veteran slot receiver Emmanuel Sanders and an impressive rookie deep threat in Deebo Samuels, as well as a versatile full back in Kyle Juszczyk who can create mismatches all over the field. Shanahan is constantly putting all these pieces in motion and finding ways to get them open, allowing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to pick apart defenses that can’t overcommit to stopping the pass due to San Francisco’s powerhouse ground game. This versatility has given the opposition fits throughout the year, allowing the team to win or keep every game close—the 49ers never lost by more than one score in any of their three 2019 defeats—during its resurgent campaign.
Warren Sharp noted that the Vikings has allowed the most rushing yardage in the league when facing a formation that San Francisco utilizes more than any other team:
If Minnesota is going to win, it will have to control the line of scrimmage. Vikings defensive Danielle Hunter was dominant in the Wild Card, getting past one of the league’s best offensive lines to sack Drew Brees 1.5 times. Everson Griffen was responsible for the other 1.5 sacks on the day and the team combined to hit the future Hall of Famer seven times total in the contest. The 49ers don’t have as an elite of an o-line as the Saints had this year, which could be a point of vulnerability as the team starts its 2020 NFL Playoff journey. Garoppolo has also been mistake prone at times as San Fran’s starter, losing five fumbles and throwing 13 interceptions this year, so getting after him will be a key point of emphasis for Minnesota in the Divisional round.
Eric Thompson pointed out the stark difference between Jimmy G’s PFF grades when he’s under pressure or not:
It’s worth noting that favorites of a touchdown or more are just 24-36 ATS since 2003 in the NFL Playoffs, a stat that makes it hard to trust San Francisco in its Divisional Round matchup with the Vikings on Saturday. While the home team is healthy and rested after earning the top overall seed in the NFC, Minnesota is battle-tested and coming off a hard-fought Wild Card clash. It’s likely this one comes down to how well each team executes in the red zone, an area the 49ers surprisingly struggled in during the regular season, only scoring touchdowns on 53% of their trips inside the opponent’s 20. Considering the Minnesota defense allows TDs on just 44% of red zone possessions, forcing the Niners to settle for field goals down near the goal line could make all the difference when determining which side covers the spread.
As of Friday afternoon, the Vikings with the points seems the most palatable play, but it’s worth monitoring the status of the injuries within Minnesota’s receiving corps before making a final call. Not having Diggs and Thielen at full health could make all the difference in a game the Vikings may struggle to keep close even if those wideouts were operating at their peak, so make sure both will be on the field and relatively healthy before firing this bet up.
Pick: Minnesota +7
Prediction: San Francisco 24 – Minnesota 21