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5 things you can count on in Vikings-49ers matchup

The Vikings will take on a shorthanded 49ers team on Monday night.
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At 2-4, the Minnesota Vikings need a win on Monday night and the football gods may have done them a favor by presenting them the shorthanded San Francisco 49ers team. Anything could happen when the Vikings are in prime time but here are five things you can count on when they meet the 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium.

1. A shorthanded 49ers team

While the Vikings were winning ugly against the Chicago Bears last week, the San Francisco 49ers were losing to the Cleveland Browns. Jake Moody's missed field goal that would have won the game was bad enough for the 49ers but they also had three key players go down with injuries. 

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel was ruled out after missing practice this week and All-Pro offensive tackle Trent Williams is doubtful after rolling his ankle against the Browns.

While Christian McCaffrey is reportedly trending toward playing with an oblique injury, this could be a blessing for the Vikings who have been one of the unluckiest teams in the NFL through the first six games. While the Vikings haven't played elite football they appear to be catching a break at a time where they need it the most.

2. Prime-time Kirk Cousins

Unfortunately for the Vikings, the 49ers defense is as healthy as it will ever be. Nick Bosa continues to be one of the best edge rushers in the NFL and San Francisco hasn't missed a beat, ranking second in points allowed and fourth in total yards this season.

This is bad news for Kirk Cousins who is still battling the stigma of his performance in prime-time games. Cousins has an 11-19 career record in prime-time games but has won four of his past six prime-time games dating back to a win over the Chicago Bears on Nov. 16, 2020.

Cousins has also put up big stats in the Vikings' previous prime-time game this season, throwing for 364 yards and four touchdowns in a Week 2 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Still, Cousins will enter Monday's game without Justin Jefferson and after last week's anemic showing against Chicago, it could be tough sledding for the Vikings passing game.

3. More blitzes from Brian Flores

The Vikings knew they would be blitzing more when they hired Brian Flores to replace Ed Donatell last offseason but injuries and poor performance have required Flores to take things to another level this year.

The Vikings rank first in the league with a 57.9 blitz percentage according to Pro Football Focus but that number jumped dramatically when Marcus Davenport was out of the lineup. 

Per Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks were blitzed on 69.3% of their dropbacks while Davenport missed the first three weeks with an ankle injury and just 52.6% while Davenport was on the field over the past two weeks. 

In addition, the Vikings blitzed Justin Fields on just 12 of 17 dropbacks with Davenport on the field in last week's win over the Bears, and then blitzed backup QB Tyson Bagent on 14 of his 15 dropbacks after Davenport left with an ankle injury.

With Davenport out for the next 4-6weeks (and possibly longer if he decides to get surgery), get ready for Flores to throw the kitchen sink at Brock Purdy on Monday night.

4. Dalton Risner's starting debut

After weeks of waiting, Dalton Risner will finally get a chance to start for the Vikings on Monday night. Risner entered the lineup when Ezra Cleveland left with a foot injury against the Bears and held up well, allowing no pressures on four pass-blocking snaps.

This is an incredibly small sample size as he played just 10 total snaps as the Vikings' offense managed just one first down in the second half. But Risner's bigger concern could be in the running game where he managed a 54.0 PFF grade in six run-blocking snaps.

Despite the criticism the offensive line has been one of the functioning aspects of the Vikings this season and throwing Risner into the mix creates an interesting dynamic. Either way, Vikings fans will finally get to see what they have with Risner taking over for Cleveland. 

5. 49ers' best chance to snap losing streak in MN

Sep 9, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The 49ers haven't beaten the Vikings in Minneapolis since Steve Young was throwing passes to Jerry Rice and John Taylor back in 1992. Since then, the 49ers have traveled to Minnesota six times and the Vikings have won all of them. 

  • 1994: Vikings 21, 49ers 14
  • 1999: Vikings 40, 49ers 16
  • 2003: Vikings 35, 49ers 7
  • 2009: Vikings 27, 49ers 24
  • 2012: Vikings 24, 49ers 13
  • 2018: Vikings 24, 49ers 16

But these 49ers are different. They're elite in the trenches and have a defense that is capable of shutting down anyone. It's definitely San Francisco's best chance to snap the six-game losing streak in Minneapolis, but it will require a much better performance than what they showed last week in Cleveland.