It’s home sweet home this week for the Vikings.
Minnesota was on the road for its first two preseason games but will make its 2017 debut at U.S. Bank Stadium at 7 p.m. (CT) Sunday when the Vikings host San Francisco on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
Minnesota went 8-8 in 2016 and missed the postseason while the 49ers went 2-14.
Here are three areas to watch in Sunday’s preseason contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:
The Vikings defensive line is one of the strongest, deepest units on the team and arguably in the NFL. Minnesota’s first-, second- and third-team defenses have created pressures on quarterbacks in the first two road games and will get a little extra boost from crowd noise on Sunday.
The Vikings are not game-planning or deploying many complicated schemes during the preseason, so it could come down to 1-on-1 matchups.
Minnesota has recorded 6.0 sacks, and San Francisco has allowed 3.0 so far this preseason. The Vikings starters are expected to play a little longer in this game, allowing more opportunities for Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, who each have one sack.
Rookie defensive ends Tashawn Bower (2.0 sacks), Ifeadi Odenigbo (1.0) and Jaleel Johnson (1.0) have also capitalized this preseason.
There was noticeable improvement from Minnesota’s first-team offense from Week 1 to Week 2 of the preseason.
The Vikings sputtered some against Buffalo before moving the chains and finding chunk plays both on the ground and through the air in Seattle.
Yet the offense has recorded just three points — a 29-yard field goal — through two games. Finding the end zone (and igniting an already enthusiastic home crowd) should be a goal for the Vikings against the 49ers.
Minnesota could look for its trio of running backs to make hay on the ground as San Francisco allowed a league-worst 165.9 yards per game on the ground in 2016.
In the wake of Chad Greenway’s retirement following the 2016 season, there’s the question of who will step in to fill Greenway’s shoes – or should we say cleats? – at the weakside linebacker position. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks remain established at strongside and middle linebacker, respectively.
Minnesota has started two different players at the third linebacker spot in its first two preseason games: Edmond Robinson at Buffalo and Ben Gedeon last week at Seattle. In practice, Emmanuel Lamur has also gotten reps there with the first team. Will the Vikings take a look at a third starter option against the 49ers, or will Robinson or the rookie Gedeon get a second shot to make their cases for the regular season?
— Vikings wide receiver Michael Floyd has had five or more catches in seven games against the 49ers; The former first-round pick of Arizona had two games with eight catches, and two of his three best single-game yardage totals have been against the 49ers (166 in 2012 and 153 in 2014).
— The Vikings defense allowed 207.9 passing yards per game in 2016, which ranked third in the NFL; The 49ers passing offense finished last in the league, averaging 181.9 per game.
— The 49ers had 10 games that were decided by 12 or more points (one win, nine losses), including seven by 17 or more; The 2016 Vikings had six games (four wins, two losses) that were decided by 12 or more points.
—The Vikings won both of their preseason games at U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016, getting wins over the Chargers and Rams on their home field.
“This is usually the last chance to go out there and get a lot accomplished. I think it is important for us to go out there and play well so that we can have something to build off of going forward into Week 1.” — Quarterback Sam Bradford on being sharp in the Vikings third preseason game.