A complete betting guide to Vikings vs. 49ers

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 09: Minnesota Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph (82) catches a touchdown pass from Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during an NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and the San Francisco 49ers on September 9, 2018 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the 49ers 24-16.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 09: Minnesota Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph (82) catches a touchdown pass from Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during an NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and the San Francisco 49ers on September 9, 2018 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the 49ers 24-16.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

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Vikings at 49ers Picks & Divisional Round Betting Odds

  • Odds: 49ers -7
  • Over/Under: 44.5
  • Kickoff: 4:35 p.m. ET on Saturday
  • TV Channel: NBC

The Divisional Round kicks off with a showdown between the NFC’s 6- and 1-seeded teams: The Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers.

It’s no surprise that the 49ers are getting a slight majority of support from the public, but considering the Vikings’ upset win against the Saints on Wild Card Weekend, is this 7-point spread too high?

Our experts preview Saturday’s game, featuring their projections and picks.

Vikings-49ers Injury Report

Which team is healthier? 49ers

The 49ers are in decent shape heading into this game. Only DL Dee Ford (quad/hamstring) was listed as questionable. He did manage limited practices all week, so he appears on track to play considering he didn’t practice at all leading up to their Week 17 game.

The Vikings have ruled out CB Mackensie Alexander (knee), but the big story is WR Adam Thielen, who had to get stitches after a cut on his ankle during Wednesday’s practice. He’s listed as questionable, but Thielen sounds optimistic that he’ll play. Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Divisional Round Odds

  • Projected Spread: 49ers -7.5
  • Projected Total: 45.5

Biggest Mismatch When Vikings Have the Ball

49ers Pass Defense vs. Vikings Pass Offense

The 49ers’ pass defense has been fantastic. They ranked second in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA for the season, trailing only New England. They also finished tied for fifth with 48 sacks and allowed the fourth-fewest receiving yards to opposing wide receivers.

The Vikings’ pass offense, meanwhile, suffered a setback when Thielen injured his ankle at practice. Stefon Diggs will again be the focus of the pass defense, and he draws a very difficult matchup against Richard Sherman, who ranks first among cornerback according to Pro Football Focus. He also ranks first in coverage rating and is the only cornerback with a PFF rating over 90.

Often, strong pass defense teams can be attacked through the air by the running backs, but that’s not the case with the 49ers, who allow the third-fewest receptions and second-fewest receiving yards to the position. They’re also the only team to not allow a receiving touchdown to an opposing running back this season.

There’s not an advantage at the tight end position, either, with the 49ers allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to the position. Neither veteran Kyle Rudolph (367 receiving yards) or rookie Irv Smith Jr. (311 receiving yards) are likely to have much success on the road.

It’s clear that to have success against the 49ers, the Vikings will need to rely on their running game. Mike Randle

Biggest Mismatch When 49ers Have the Ball

Vikings Pass Rush vs. 49ers Offensive Line

The 49ers have few weaknesses on offense.

They have a strong rushing attack with multiple backs and rank eighth in pass offense DVOA. Their midseason acquisition of Emmanuel Sanders also elevated the play of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel. But their offensive line has shown signs of weakness in pass protection, which could be a problem against a strong Vikings pass rush.

The 49ers ranked middle of the league in adjusted sack rate while the Vikings ranked fifth-best with 48 sacks. Defensive end Danielle Hunter was rated the fifth-best pass rusher by PFF, recording 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in last week’s win at New Orleans. Everson Griffen also remains one of the top pass rushers, also tallying 1.5 sacks against the Saints.

The 49ers lost starting center Weston Richburg to a torn patella tendon in Week 14, forcing Ben Garland into the starting role. Also, guard Mike Person was limited in practice and is trying to return from both shoulder and neck injuries.

If the 49ers can keep Garoppolo protected, they’ll be able to take advantage of his 55.6% deep ball completion percentage (first among all quarterbacks) against an overrated Vikings secondary. But their offensive line will have to contain the trio of Hunter, Griffen and Ifeadi Odenigbo, who combined for 29.5 sacks during the regular season. — Randle

PRO System Match

It’s been historically profitable to bet underdogs in the playoffs. Since 2003, pooches have gone 98-77-4 (56%) against the spread in the postseason.

Part of the reason is because casual bettors like to wager on the favorite, so oddsmakers will inflate the line to make it easier for the underdog to cover. So the optimal situation is to bet sizable underdogs when they’re getting little public support.

Bettors following our PRO System of backing postseason underdogs (between 5.5 and 14 points) that are receiving fewer than 50% of tickets (in a matchup with a closing total of 50 or lower) would have gone 29-12-1 (71%) since 2003.

As of writing, 58% of spread tickets are backing the 49ers as 7-point favorites (see live public betting data here). But the Vikings shocked the Saints in the Wild Card Round, and history suggests Cousins & Co. could cash tickets for bettors again on Saturday. — John Ewing

PRO Systems are data-driven betting strategies that turn winning long-term trends into easy-to-follow picks, all handpicked and monitored by our team of analysts. Try Action PRO now and instantly access real-time game matches for every PRO System.

Expert Pick

Chris Raybon: 49ers -7

Despite the trends working against them, as Ewing detailed above, I like the 49ers here. Why? Two words: Kirk Cousins.

No, this isn’t about Cousins’ poor track record in games that start after 1 p.m. ET — though it is, in fact, mind-bogglingly poor at 11-25 straight-up and 12-24 against the spread, per Bet Labs.

It’s all based on X’s and O’s.

The key to neutralizing the Vikings’ pass game is getting pressure on Cousins without blitzing, something the 49ers excel at.

According to Pro Football Reference, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh called blitzes at the fourth-lowest rate (20.9%), yet his defense tied for second in pressure rate (28,7%). This blueprint was laid out most recently by the Packers in Week 16, when they blitzed Cousins just once on 36 dropbacks but still got pressure 47.2% of the time, resulting in a listless 16-of-31, 122-yard performance as the offense was held to 10 points.

Even with the win over the Saints, the Vikings are only 2-4 SU and ATS against teams that finished better than .500, with Cousins struggling mightily against organic pressure in each loss.

The 49ers not only boast a ferocious front four led by Joey Bosa, but also the second-best pass coverage unit in the league according to PFF’s grades. Being able to hold up in coverage will afford the 49ers the luxury of honing in on Cook on early downs, which also throws the Vikings off their playaction game, in which Cousins is most comfortable.

In addition to a defense that allowed a league-best 4.8 nets yards per dropback, the 49ers also boast the NFL’s second-highest scoring offense (29.2 PPG). Mike Zimmer’s defense is no slouch, either, ranking fifth in points allowed (18.9) — and I don’t expect Garoppolo to play a clean game in his first playoff start. But with ample time to prepare, Kyle Shanahan is sure to have a few creative tricks up his sleeve, namely on early downs, where the Vikings rank just 24th in passing success rate allowed (51%) and 32nd in rushing success rate allowed (55%) (per Sharp Football Stats).

The bye is generally overrated, but there are some situational factors that make me wary of the Vikings on a short week:

  • Cousins lost valuable practice time with both Diggs (illness) and Thielen (ankle) during the week, while offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski took time away to interview for Cleveland’s head coaching gig on Thursday.
  • The Vikings have a tendency to struggle outdoors, failing to cover in 4-of-6 outdoor games this season and 7-of-9 dating back to last season, including their past five as an underdog.
  • The 49ers are 5-2 SU and ATS this season against teams that finished with a winning record, and a lot of factors point toward each of those marks improving to 6-2 by Saturday evening.

Raybon’s Pick: 49ers -7

Raybon is 205-157-11 (56.6%) betting on the NFL overall. Follow his picks in our free app.