Week 1 of the 2018 regular season is here, and the Vikings and 49ers will spend it together at U.S. Bank Stadium in one of the more intriguing opening day matchups on the NFL calendar. Here are five storylines to watch in the buildup to Sunday's game.
1. Vikings D versus Jimmy G
The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the NFL. The 49ers have one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. They square off on Sunday. The Vikings defense is particularly suffocating and unrelenting at U.S. Bank Stadium, where it allowed 13.8 points per game. No team allowed fewer touchdown passes than the Vikings (13) and the Vikings finished 2018 ranked No. 2 in passing yards allowed (192.4). The 49ers acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at the trading deadline last year and started him in the final five games of the season. Garoppolo guided the 49ers to a 5-0 record, helped the offense average 28.8 points per game and led the NFL in passing yards per game (311.6) in Weeks 13-17. Something has to give on Sunday.
2. Dalvin Cook makes his (regular season) return
Dalvin Cook was off to a promising start as a rookie last season before a knee injury during a Week 4 contest at U.S. Bank Stadium knocked him out for the remainder of 2017. Now, Cook is set to play in Week 1 and complete his comeback. Cook was a full participant in training camp but saw only limited action in one preseason game. The limited action figures to come to an end now.
3. Finally! First full look at new elements of Vikings offense
Some things stayed the same for the Vikings offense this offseason. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen remain a dynamic duo. So do Cook and Latavius Murray. Kyle Rudolph is still sure-handed and Riley Reiff is still a sure thing at left tackle. But there is some new to this operation, too, and those new components will be fully unleashed for the first time on Sunday. What will John DeFilippo's influence be on the offensive scheme? How will Kirk Cousins distribute the ball? Who will start at left guard and center? All interesting questions that will be answered at noon on Sunday.
4. Lots of defensive talent on the field
Do you like defense? If so, you'll like Sunday's game because it features a lot of talent on defense. The Vikings feature former 1st-rounders Anthony Barr, Mike Hughes, Xavier Rhodes, Sheldon Richardson, Harrison Smith and Trae Waynes. Plus, Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter bookend the defensive line while Linval Joseph anchors it and Eric Kendricks roams the middle as the unit's tackling machine. The 49ers have three former 1st-roudners on their defensive line – Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas, plus they have former 1st-rounder Jimmy Ward and Richard Sherman in the secondary. And don't sleep on linebacker Fred Warner, 3rd-round rookie who impressed this summer and figures to be a starter. The 49ers also have 2017 1st-rounder Reuben Foster, but he won't play on Sunday because of a suspension.
5. 1998 Vikings will be honored on Sunday
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Minnesota Vikings team that went 15-1 and went to the NFC Championship Game, several players and coaches from that record-breaking squad will take part in in-game ceremonies, including a halftime program.