San Francisco Niners and Minnesota Vikings

Hannah Foslien / Stringer

The NFC Divisional Playoffs come Levi’s Stadium on Saturday afternoon

ESPN Radio
January 10, 2020 - 6:12 pm

By Charlie O. Mallonee @Charlieo1320

At 1:35 PM on Saturday afternoon, Kyle Shanahan will coach his first postseason game as a head coach as he leads the San Francisco 49ers (13-3) against the Minnesota Vikings (11-6). The Vikings won their Wild Card game on the road in New Orleans last weekend over the Saints, 26-20 in overtime.

Defensive similarities

 These teams tied for fifth in sacks (48) this season while finishing in the bottom 10 in blitz percentage. In other words, they both can create pressure while relying solely on their defensive fronts. And quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo (64.9 passer rating) and Kirk Cousins (61.0 passer rating) both had their struggles when under duress in 2019.” Nick Wagner ESPN.com

Possible wild ending

Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com sees a possible last-second win: “This game will be decided on the final possession. Minnesota and San Francisco might be the most evenly matched teams in the postseason, both with dominant running games and defensive line play. And while the Vikings are coming off a 26-20 overtime victory in the wild-card round, every 49ers game since Week 13 has been decided by a play in the final 10 seconds, including three on the final play. That trend continues Saturday with a nail-biting finish.”

Play action game

Jimmy Garoppolo threw for an NFL-best 1670 yards off play-action this season. Kirk Cousins threw for a league-leading 13 touchdowns using play-action calls.

Leading target

No 49ers fan will be surprised to learn that George Kittle will be a key target for Jimmy Garoppolo on Saturday. Look for the Niners offense to open opportunities for Kittle to make catches up the middle versus the Vikings zone defense. Kittle makes most of his receptions and gains his best yards after catch on passes in the middle of the field.

Jimmy Garoppolo on how the Vikings defend against Tight Ends: “I mean, their overall scheme, I think, helps them with that. They have talented safeties, talented linebackers who are the guys covering them. They do good in man-to-man situations. It will be tough on us to get those completions.”

Key player transaction for the 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers announced on Friday they have activated LB Kwon Alexander from the Injured Reserve List. In order to make room on the roster, the team placed DL Kentavius Street on the Injured Reserve List.

Alexander (6-1, 227) started each of the team’s first eight games of the season and registered 34 tackles, four passes defensed, one interception, one forced fumble and 0.5 sack. He was placed on the Injured Reserve List on November 5, 2019.

Kyle Shanahan on having Alexander back: “Kwon is a very good linebacker. He runs and hits. He's smart in our defense. The energy you guys see him walk around and live his life by is the energy that he brings on the football field, too. Our team loves him. We're fired up when he's out there and he's a good player also.”

How do the oddsmakers see the game?

  • The 49ers are the favorites minus 7 points
  • The Over/Under is 44.5 points
  • The Money Line is San Francisco -320 and Minnesota +260
  • FiveThirtyEight.com Elo system gives the 49ers a 67% chance of winning the game

ESPN 1320 is your Official 49ers radio station in Sacramento. The pregame show starts at 12:35 PM with the kickoff scheduled for 1:35 PM.

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