| 49ers 27, Vikings 23 — Cody Benjamin, CBS Sports |

As soon as the Vikings upset the Saints on Sunday, I decided I was going to take them to advance to the NFC title game. But then I reconsidered Kyle Shanahan’s offensive strategy and weapons (translation: I got scared) and decided otherwise. That, of course, doesn’t even account for San Francisco’s vaunted defense, which has the talent to get after Kirk Cousins. In reality, Minnesota should still be competitive here. Dalvin Cook looked fresh as ever in New Orleans, and the Niners are more vulnerable to surrendering points than people realize. Jimmy Garoppolois also bound for some playoff hiccups. Still, the 49ers are better coached and well-rounded.

| 49ers 27, Vikings 20 — Tadd Haislop, Sporting News |

The Vikings ran over the Saints on their way to the Divisional round, both literally and figuratively. The zone rushing attack spearheaded by a healthy Dalvin Cook was too much for a banged-up New Orleans defense, and San Francisco, though supposedly at full health, will have similar issues. The problem for the Vikings is that the 49ers own zone rushing attack is even better.

In New Orleans, Minnesota’s stingy defense was able to focus on Michael Thomas containment and take advantage of the Saints critical mistakes. In San Francisco, though, Mike Zimmer’s crew will have their hands full against a more diverse, complete attack. With a trio of talented running backs, the NFL’s best tight end in George Kittle, a deep receiving corps led by breakout star Deebo Samuel and a smooth, savvy distributor in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers are slightly more loaded than an impressive (and notably healthy) Vikings team.

| 49ers 28, Vikings 10 — Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk |

The Vikings put on an impressive performance in New Orleans, winning a game that few thought they could. The 49ers, however, have been the best team in the NFC all season, and there’s little reason to believe that will change in the playoffs. Look for George Kittle to have a big game for San Francisco and the 49ers defense to shut down Kirk Cousins and the Vikings passing game.

Alright alright alright… let me admit something before I let loose on everyone right when you’re coming to life on the biggest of Purple Fridays:

I woke up this morning at about 3 AM, finished last night’s Wild vs Calgary postgame graphic for Instagram (spoiler: they lost), and hit the Vikings @ 49ers “deep dive” for the first time, with a full pot of coffee by my side.

All week long I’ve watched from afar, as everyone (especially national reporters and personalities) got lost in Jimmy Garoppolo’s beautiful eyes, as they gazed with him into a future that lays just over 24 hours ahead of us now, and holds the NFC Divisional Round games of the National Football League Playoffs in its hands…

He’s a gorgeous human being. It’s difficult to deny that, even as a heterosexual male like myself (we think). But for those few who can peer through Jimmy’s baby blues and see his (many) deficiencies, it’s still nearly impossible to get around Kyle Shanahan’s — massive, huge, incredible, advanced, big, veiny, futuristic, but still retro — football brain. With all of those adjectives, you can clearly pick up on how intelligent he really is..

If you read or listen to anyone who knows anything, it sure seems like Shanahan Jr’s genius is ALWAYS showing… I mean the guy’s only 40 and he’s been an offensive coordinator or head coach in the league forever (11 years exactly), so numbers should back that up, right?

Well, with all of the salivating mouths dropping around the nation for Shanahan and Garoppolo, I figured I had to be misremembering recent history, because I couldn’t recall Kyle or Jimmy ever heading a team on a playoff run… or playoff victory…. or playoff game, for that matter. I also can’t remember either guy reaching elite level as a HC or QB until this year, either…

I talked about this very thought last night on MN Sports Fan Daily – LIVE, before my research was done this morning.

But, I had to be wrong because, even as a #1 seed, coaches and QB’s without past playoff experience are NEVER handed victories like the Niners have been for this entire week…. especially QB’s and HC’s who are young and unproven.

So, I took a closer look…

Kyle Shanahan – Career Overview (via pro-football-reference.com)

Jimmy Garoppolo – 2019 Breakdown + Career Overview (via pro-football-reference.com)

Really, I just want to go through GIPHY.com and run an endless thread of gifs to finish this blog.

How stupid is this? Kyle Shanahan has had 3 pretty good seasons and has been promoted each time, even though everything in-between is average or bad. Jimmy G hasn’t proven anything since being traded to the Niners and this season… he’s been… ok… He’s had a few games that stick out positively (green highlights above) but he’s also had some really shitty games too (red above). The San Francisco 49ers have one really good season (a season in which they were 3-2 in their last 5 games and 5-3 in their last 8) and now we are ready to dub them the NFC Champions? Is this the same league where NOBODY could trust Kirk Cousins because he’s never done anything in a big game, until last week?

Is this the same league that continually wipes out playoff newcomers, no matter how good their regular seasons were? Does nobody remember Lamar Jackson’s first year in this tournament, when the LA Chargers suddenly knew how to play defense, shutting down the budding star and holding him under 50% passing and an early 2018 exit?

Even the great Patrick Mahomes struggled in the playoffs last year, throwing for just 3 touchdowns in two games and 51% completion in the second round, when they lost to the Patriots.

Not enough proof? Remember Tom Brady…. he’s had some playoff success, right? Not much in his first two years… In Tom’s first 5 postseason games (’01, ’03 — both Super Bowl winners) he threw for 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and never posted a QB Rating over 87.0. It wasn’t until his 6th postseason game (’03’ Super Bowl), that he established what would become the greatest postseason career of all-time.

But Jimmy G is just going to come out in his first postseason appearance (not riding the bench behind Brady), overcome everything the prior greats couldn’t, and lead his team (and young head coach) over a postseason veteran Vikings defense? GTFO.

You don’t just jump into the playoff scene and start beating teams, who have already been there and done that. The 49ers had a great season… but that’s where this will all end for them. Mike Zimmer and Co. are about to punch these Bay Area pussies in the mouth and I’d be surprised to see any counterpunches coming back. In fact, after my deep dive this morning, I’m confident in saying, the Vikings are a lock in this game and will win by at least 10 points.

Why? Because if history is tells us anything, it’s certainly NOT that the 49ers will win tomorrow. No, history tells us that Mike Zimmer is on the precipice of reaching the ultimate prize. In his 6th season as a head coach, with 4 playoff games under his belt through 3 different seasons (and a SB as a DC); history tells us that Mike Zimmer and his team of grizzly postseason veterans, are much more likely to bust through to glory this season, than the postseason greenhorn Niners are to even win a game. The Vikings have seen the lowest of postseason lows (2017 wide-left) and the highest of postseason highs (Minneapolis Miracle). Most of the these Niners have never seen the field for a playoff down, especially on offense.. 

30-10 is my final prediction, and the Vikings advance to the NFC Championship for the 2nd time in 3 years.

It’s time to show these young bucks where their place is, inside of the postseason NFC.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan