Let’s face it: seeing the Minnesota Vikings on the schedule doesn’t exactly inspire thoughts of “critical matchup” if you’re a San Francisco 49er.
Whether as a fan or player, the 3-13 Vikings of 2011 haven’t done much this season to dispel that inferior identity of last season.
Be that as it may, this is still a legitimate NFL opponent that features quality players on both sides of the ball. Adrian Peterson is one of the most dynamic backs in the league, while Jared Allen and his 22 sacks last year lead a strong pass rush.
Percy Harvin is always a threat on kickoff returns to take it to the house as well.
The 49ers have been stellar in most phases of the game through Week 2. They’ve scored in the run and in pass game, have shut down two high-powered offenses and even tallied a record-tying field goal.
All of this has come against two NFC North teams; now it’s time for round three against a squad from that same division.
San Francisco is 2-0 while Minnesota dropped to 1-1 after a last-second loss on Sunday. The Vikings squeaked by a poor Jaguars team in Week 1 and followed that up by losing to a Colts team coming of a 214 record in 2011.
Both Peterson and quarterback Christian Ponder have exceeded expectations so far this season. AP overcame a devastating knee injury in short order and Ponder has played beyond his years in the early goings.
Each has two touchdowns on the season.
Alex Smith has been perfect thus far with four TD passes and zero interceptions. Tight end Vernon Davis and RB Frank Gore have five scores between them, while linebacker NaVorro Bowman has been a one-man wrecking ball in the middle of the defense.
Moving forward to the actual game versus the Vikings: let’s analyze eight critical matchups that will factor the most significantly towards a Niners victory on Sunday.