for thcr The Minnesota Vikings, fresh off of an upset over the New Orleans Saints in the wild card round, take on the top seed San Francisco 49ers, who sport a 13-3 record. The winner of this game will be one win away from the Super Bowl as they will advance to next Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks or Green Bay Packers.
49ers look to move one step closer to Super Bowl after banner regular season
San Francisco claimed the top seed in the playoffs for the first time since 1997 by virtue of winning in the final game of the season at Seattle, making a goal-line stand on the final series of the game to lock up the NFC West.
The 49ers own a potent offense, finishing second in the league in points scored (479), rushing yards per game (144), led the league in rushing touchdowns (23) and were third in point differential (+169). The defense is outstanding, as well, surrendering just 281.8 yards per game, second in the league.
With 48 sacks, San Francisco ranked fourth in that category as well as owning the game's best pass defense at 169.2 yards a game. They also were proficient at forcing turnovers, fourth in the NFL with 27. All of this led to the club winning their first eight games, establishing themselves as the team to beat in the NFC.
Vikings look to cause second straight upset to reach conference championship game for second time in three seasons
Minnesota blew a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter in New Orleans before rebounding with a 75-yard drive in overtime, winning with a touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Kyle Rudolph to send the Vikings to the divisional round.
Cousins, who had been criticized for his failure in the big games, was 19 of 31 with 242 passing yards and that overtime touchdown pass. Running back Dalvin Cook finished with 94 yards and two scores. Wide receiver Adam Thielen caught seven passes for 129 yards, including a 43-yarder in overtime to set up the winning score.
The Vikings defense held the Saints explosive weapons, running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas, to 55 total yards and seven catches for 70 yards, respectively. Drew Brees was sacked three times and intercepted once while being held to just 205 passing yards.
San Francisco looking to extend dominance over Minnesota in playoffs
This is the sixth playoff matchup between the two teams with San Francisco winning four of the previous five, outscoring Minnesota 154-94. In a bit of irony, the only win for the Vikings, a 36-24 victory in 1988, came in the divisional playoffs after an upset on the road in New Orleans with the 49ers also being the top seed.
On the injury front, Minnesota will be without Mackesnie Alexander, who is nursing a knee injury. Safety Jayron Kearse is listed as doubtful with both toe and knee issues while Thielen is questionable with an ankle. San Francisco is relatively healthy with only defensive ends Dee Ford and Kentavius Stewart questionable with quad/hamstring and knee injuries, respectively.
The game will be broadcast on NBC beginning at 3pm with the pregame show. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:35pm with Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst) and Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter) on the call.