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49ers Are Heavy Home Favorites Over No. 6 Seed Vikings

As 8-point dogs, NFC No. 6 seed Minnesota went into New Orleans and defeated the No. 3 seed Saints 26-20 in overtime. The return of Dalvin Cook and re-emergence of Adam Thielen proved to be the difference maker as the Vikings' road record improved to 5-4 SU and ATS this season.

Thanks to a Week 17 win at Seattle, the 49ers captured the NFC West crown and finished with the conference's best record, which earned them a first-round playoff BYE. San Francisco finished the regular season 13-3 SU and 9-6-1 ATS. However, at 6-2, the Niners' ATS road record was much better than its 3-4-1 mark at Levi's Stadium.

Minnesota Vikings vs San Francisco 49ers

Opening Odds Analysis

The 49ers opened as 7.5-point home favorites, but the line slid to San Francisco -6.5 by Monday morning. Minnesota's moneyline opened at +269 and point total 45.5. The total has gone OVER in five of the 49ers' last six home games with an average combined score of 56.33.

Injury Update 1/11/20

Minnesota News and Notes

What a difference a healthy Dalvin Cook and productive Adam Thielen make, right?

After missing the previous two games and being limited by a shoulder injury since Week 13, Cook rushed a season-high 28 times for 94 yards and two scores. Thielen saw more than eight targets for the first time this season and hauled in seven receptions for 129 yards. Though he was hobbled by a hamstring injury midway through the season, it was only the second time Thielen posted 76-or-more yards in a game.

As a whole, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense converted 10-of-18 third downs and three of the team's four red zone trips resulted in touchdowns. Simply stated, the efficiency of these two facets of the game was the difference between a Vikings wild card win and loss.

That's not to detract from what the Vikings defense accomplished against the Saints. Heading into Sunday's matchup, New Orleans had scored 34 or more points in six of their last seven games and scored touchdowns on 80 percent of their red zone trips over their past three. The Saints were rolling and Minnesota's D held them to 4-of-11 on third down and only allowed two red zone trips.

The Vikings' ability to hold New Orleans to a field goal after an opening drive fumble set the tone for the rest of the game in my opinion.

On the injury front, NFL Network is reporting cornerback Mackenzie Alexander has a small meniscus tear. He sat out the wild card game against the Saints.

San Francisco News and Notes

How much did injuries on the defensive side of the ball impact the 49ers down the stretch? Well, San Francisco's D allowed 19.4 points per game on the season compared to 31.75 PAPG the final four weeks. Granted, some of that could be general wear and tear of a long 16-game season. Whichever way you want to spin the data, it sounds like two key pieces of the Niners defensive unit are slated to return this weekend. 

NFL Network is reporting that defensive end Dee Ford should return from a hamstring injury and ESPN reports linebacker Kwon Alexander - who missed half the season with a torn pec - also has a shot to return against the Vikings.

Minnesota's offensive line will have their hands full should Ford return as his 6.5 sacks on the season compliment Nick Bosa's pass rush from the other side. The Vikings are one of eight teams to allow 1.8-or-fewer sacks per game, but just allowed the Saints pass rush to sack Cousins three times.

The matchup to watch will be tight end George Kittle against the Vikings secondary. Minnesota finished the regular season ranked 12th in receiving yards allowed to opposing tight ends during the regular season. However, they just let Saints tight end Jared Cook catch five balls for 54 yards. Kittle accounts for 26 percent of Jimmy Garoppolo's passing yards this season.

Meanwhile, Minnesota's front seven will be tasked with stopping the three-headed backfield of Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman. The Vikings held Saints backs to 3.5 yards per carry.

Key Defensive Metric Watch

While opposing offenses converted just 33.3 percent of their third downs against San Francisco this season, the 49ers regressed the final three weeks of the season where their opponents converted 50 pecent of their third downs - ranked 28th.

Even worse, when opposing offenses reached the 49ers red zone, they converted 60 percent of their trips into touchdowns. That rate soared to 90 percent the final three weeks of the season. Both these metrics rank in the bottom 10 of the NFL.

Betting Pick: 49ers -7 (Updated 1/11/20)

After thinking about this matchup throughout the week, learning of Adam Thielen's latest ankle injury and with the return of several key defensive pieces for the Niners, Minnesota - on a short week - falls short of the cover.

Original Pick

My primary concern in backing the Vikings again is that Cook's season-high 28 carries comes back to bite Minnesota on the short week. Other than that, this matchup is a story of which defense performs at a higher level, stops the opposing team on third down and in the red zone, which we just saw Mike Zimmer's squad accomplish against the 34-points-per-game Saints.

Shark Bites
  • The Vikings are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games after consecutive ATS wins.
  • The 49ers are 3-4-1 ATS at home this season.
  • The Vikings are 2-8 SU and 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games as underdog.