Last week, we took tabs on 30 experts as the team took on the New Orleans Saints during the Wild Card round. Only one of those experts predicted a Vikings victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"They went 13-3 for a reason," Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "They are the No. 1 seed for a reason. Even in their three losses, I believe it was an overtime loss, the loss to the Falcons was on the last play of the game, and they lost to the Ravens, who are one of the better teams in football. They went down to New Orleans and won as well this season."
"I think it starts with their defense, their pass rush, the front four they have, and they are really well-coached," Cousins added. "We have a tough opponent, but that's the playoffs. When you play long enough and play well enough, you are going to run into the best of the best, and you get a chance to measure yourself up against them."
Let's see what the experts think this week as Minnesota has again been called an underdog heading into the Divisional round against the San Francisco 49ers.
Vikings 30, 49ers 27 — Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com
The 49ers have done everything right to get to this point, with home-field advantage over a thinner-than-usual NFC field. They have overcome an avalanche of injuries all season and look healthier than ever with pass rusher Dee Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander expected to return, in addition to having both tackles, George Kittle and the defensive backfield at full strength. A sluggish late-season pass rush should be fresher after the bye. The Niners only lost three games all season, all in the final seconds. The team's offense made consistent strides late in the year.
If running Kyle Shanahan's offense is a test to be passed, Jimmy Garoppolo now comfortably knows the answers on third down. After starting the season with a five-receiver rotation, the team has a clear alpha in Emmanuel Sanders, a playmaking No. 2 in Deebo Samuel and a solid slot receiver in the red zone with Kendrick Bourne. General Manager John Lynch and Shanahan did almost everything right the last three years to build the franchise to this very moment. Yet I suddenly believe they are going to lose this week because, football.
The Vikings are not your average No. 6 seed. On pure talent, they are the second-best NFC team left (behind the 49ers) and have the fourth-best roster in the playoffs after you also factor in the top two seeds in the AFC. They boast a singular amount of continuity on defense, with eight of their defensive starters having played at least five seasons together under Mike Zimmer. They can throw a lot of different looks at an offense with their top three safeties. That experience and talent allows them to adjust their plans weekly in the playoffs, like they did when they dominated the base Saints offense for three quarters. They are strongest in situational football, ranking second in red-zone defense and posting a +12 in turnover margin. The offensive brain trust of Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak is savvy, while the health of Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen together makes the top-heavy offense unlike the group we saw for much of the year. (Though the Vikings now have to monitor a bad ankle cut Thielen suffered in practice on Wednesday.)
Whether it's Danielle Hunter or Stefon Diggs or ball-hawking safety Anthony Harris or Eric Kendricks, the most instinctive linebacker in football, the Vikings have athletes. Just like the 49ers.
The best game of the best football weekend of the year is the first one, and I can't wait for it. Season after season, we re-learn in the playoffs that teams don't advance based on the best resume. As much as I loved everything about this berserker 49ers team all season, I can't shake the feeling that it's not their time yet. This Vikings team looks ready.
49ers 26, Vikings 23 — John Breech, CBS Sports
The Vikings were my NFC pick to get the Super Bowl this year, and as much as I hate to do it, I'm going to be picking against them in this game. They have to fly halfway across the country, and they'll be playing on just just five days of rest (every other team playing in the divisional round got a full week's rest or more), and it feels like too much to ask for them to pull off the upset. That being said, if they somehow manage to win, I'm pre-picking them to beat either the Seahawks or Packers next week. That's right, I'm now pre-picking games.
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.
Vikings 20, 49ers 16 — Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
The Vikings have a major disadvantage here, having played Sunday on the road and now back out on the road against a team with rest. The 49ers earned that right of the top seed, but it's a big edge for them. Even so, I think the Vikings will hang around here. The Minnesota defense came up big against the Saintsand should have success slowing the 49ers. But the San Francisco defense is special. Dare I say it: I still think Kirk Cousinsand Dalvin Cook get the best of it on this day. Upset special.
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 27, Vikings 20 — Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News
The Vikings have been a gritty road team all season, but their overtime upset of the Saints marked their first victory over a winning team. The 49ers present them a more explosive, versatile offense and a defense that's good on every level. Minnesota will have some rushing success in San Francisco with a lot more Dalvin Cook. But the Niners back seven is strong, deep and now healthier in coverage, and it operates behind a relentless pass rush.
Kirk Cousins won't be able to hit on the big pass plays the Vikings need, and Jimmy Garoppolo, helped by many wrinkles involving his backs, receivers and tight end George Kittle, will have more success throwing downfield. The 49ers will give the Vikings multiple looks with speed and quickness, keeping Garoppolo mostly clean. Their close, big-game experience and home-field advantage will pay off nicely as they take control in the second half.
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.
Vikings 27, 49ers 24 (OT) — Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
Thirty-two years ago, Anthony Carter and the Vikings shocked the 49ers in San Francisco, six days after shocking the Saints in New Orleans. One year earlier, the Vikings stole a regular-season game in San Francisco with a 27-24 overtime win. Earlier this year, the 49ers lost their first game of the year, 27-24 in overtime. So what the hell? Lightning strikes all over again for the Vikings, who are good enough to keep it close, and if they can keep it close, anything can happen.
49ers 24, Vikings 17 — Pittsburgh Post Gazette
The Vikings did it all in New Orleans — runs by Dalvin Cook, great throws by Kirk Cousins, pressure from the defense. But the 49ers run the ball and play defense better than any team in the league, a tough combo to beat. This is the first playoff appearance for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Cousins got his first [playoff victory last week]. The game will be decided by which quarterback makes the fewer mistakes.
Win Percentage: 48.7%, Average Score: Vikings 21.9, 49ers 22.9 — FOX Sports
FiveThirtyEight's 2019 NFL forecast uses an Elo-based model to calculate each team's chances of advancing to the playoffs and winning Super Bowl LIV. Playoff probabilities are based on 20,000 simulations of the season and will update after each game.