NFL Divisional Round Betting: Vikings Thirst For Another Road Upset
Admittedly, while there were some people who thought the Minnesota Vikings could go into New Orleans and keep things competitive with the Saints, not many figured they would fight tooth and nail and go into overtime to pull off the upset. But they did. And here they are, confident that they can earn the right to go to the NFC title game.
But obviously they have a huge obstacle to overcome. The San Francisco 49ers are the NFC’s #1 seed at top NFL betting sites. And they have earned it, battling a lot of injuries along the way. So they will host this Divisional Round game, which begins at 4:35 PM ET on Saturday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
It’s on NBC, and while BetAnySports customers are watching it, they can place wagers in real-time utilizing the software available through Sports Betting Ultra.
San Francisco Offense -- Jimmy G’s Playoff Debut
This game brings together two teams that use the ground game as a staple of the offense. While the Vikings have their “ace” in Dalvin Cook, the Niners use multiple people back there. So you will see Matt Breida or Raheem Mostert or Tevin Coleman, according to the situation. But they will pound it. Tight and George Kittle has a warrior-like mentality, and he was named first-team All-Pro. The wide receivers looked thin at the beginning of the season. But Emmanuel Sanders was acquired. And Deebo Samuel, the rookie from South Carolina, has worked out very well.
One sign of strength is that the Niners went through injuries to both offensive tackles during the season, but continue chugging along. One concern might be that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is making his first playoff start. And generally, first-time starters in the playoffs have not been a great proposition.
Minnesota Defense -- It’s About the Takeaways
The Vikings finished fourth in the NFL this season with 30 takeaways. So you would think it would be important for them to force some turnovers on the part of the Niners. One of the things that has been a real concern is the depth at the cornerback position. Mike Hughes has been put on injured reserve, and the Vikings only had four healthy corners last week in New Orleans. Marcus Sherels has been re-signed, and he knows the defensive scheme.
The Vikings did a really good job against Drew Brees last week, and this week they’ll be facing a quarterback (Garoppolo) who also throws a lot of short passes. In fact, Jimmy G and Brees a right at the bottom the NFL in terms of Intended Air Yards per attempt.
One thing to take note of is that Minnesota faced Garoppolo in the Niners in the season opener 2018. And he was confused. They limited Jimmy G to 15 of 33 passing and intercepted three times.
Here are the numbers…..
In the NFC playoff betting odds on this game, the Niners are solid favorites:
|Vikings||+7 (-103)||44½ (-110)||+269|
|49ers||-7 (-117)||44½ (-110)||-334|
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San Francisco Defense -- Pass Rush Could Be Key
The Niners can get a lot of pressure with a lot of people. With Nick Boso and Arik Armstead, along with a now-healthy Dee Ford, they will try to take advantage if Kurt Cousins takes longer than usual to get rid of the ball. And that pass rush, which gathered 48 sacks, takes pressure off the San Francisco secondary. While the 49ers were winning their first seven games of the season, they gave up only 77 points. They slow down a bit since then, and are now yielding an average of 19 points a game.
Minnesota Offense -- Graduation Day For Cousins
Kirk Cousins had gone through his career with a reputation as someone who couldn’t when when the stakes were high. And when you sign a free-agent contract like he did, there’s a lot to live up to. When Cousins inkied a deal for three years and $84 million, he became the highest paid player in the NFL on a per-year basis.
But he performed brilliantly in overtime against the Saints, and perhaps get that monkey off his back. Now let’s focus on his numbers; Cousins was a 69% passer on the season. The offensive staff made him roll out a lot more after the first four or five games, and that buys him time. Also, he’s been great with play-action, registering a quarterback rating of 123. Projected over a full season, that would have led the league.
Of course, play-action will work best if Cook really gets loose. Cook did much better in the first half of the season and he did the second. But you have to consider that Minnesota started throwing the ball a lot more around the fifth or sixth game of the schedule. Cook had 94 yards against the Saints last weekend. It was hard-earned, as he did it on 28 carries. But as long as the Niners know that the Vikings are not afraid to use him in any situation, they have to account for him.
San Francisco’s quarterback rating allowed in play-action situations was 112.9, and that’s pretty good news for the Vikings. And this week Minnesota faces another short-baller with Garoppolo, who has not experienced the post-season pressure. Remember that in this game, Minnesota is the team with the guys who have playoff experience.
It’s an interesting matchup with coaches. Gary Kubiak, the offensive “advisor” for the Vikings, worked extensively under Mike Shanahan in Denver. And Kyle Shanahan is very familiar with the zone blocking schemes the Vikings employ. And, we might add, vice versa. The Niners have not covered numbers easily at home (3-4-1 ATS) Cousins could get rid of the ball quickly enough to mitigate pass rush pressure. And we think this is one that might go down to the wire. Take the points.
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