MINNEAPOLIS — WHO: Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 28 at 3:25 p.m. CT
WHERE: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, CA.
The 5-5 Minnesota Vikings travel back to California for the second time in three weeks to play the 5-5 San Francisco 49ers, after scoring a huge win over the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings and 49ers have both won two consecutive games, but the Niners are 1-4 at home this season, so that's something Minnesota can try to take advantage of on Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Playoffs, is that you? We don't want to get too ahead of ourselves, but the Vikings are currently in the last spot in the last NFC Wildcard Race. Minnesota now has a 59% chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. After getting back to .500, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said Monday, "We don't want to be 6-5, we want to be 12-5 if we can. I think it's important this week that if we can get another win, we can hopefully stack a few together."
Getting a win Sunday won't be easy, and might feel like looking into the mirror when they get onto the field. The 49ers have similar characteristics to the Vikings, with a couple inspiring wins after not getting off to the best start this season. The last time the purple invaded California, game day ended with a win against the Chargers. Fans would love a similar result with their Thanksgiving leftovers.
Here are three keys to the game for Sunday:
Stay aggressive. The Vikings rise to the occasion this season when their backs are against the wall. How about doing that without the wall? Or maybe play like their backs are against the wall every game? The offense scored four touchdowns in the win over the Packers and Kirk Cousins played as aggressive as we've seen him all season. He threw for 341 yards, three touchdowns and completed 68.6% of his passes against Green Bay. He routinely put the ball in the air for his playmakers and it paid off. Justin Jefferson followed a monster performance with another monster performance. He caught 8 passes for a season-high 169 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's win. The Minnesota offense features arguably the most talented weapons in the league with Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn and Dalvin Cook. It's no surprise that the team enjoys success when they're heavily involved in the game plan. Keep feeding them early and often.
Slow down Deebo. If you're a fan of the movie series Friday, you know Deebo was not a character to be messed with. However, Deebo was eventually conquered, as tough as it was to do so. The Vikings have a similar task on Sunday, defending Deebo Samuel. He is a threat to opposing defenses whenever the ball is in his hands. San Francisco gets the ball in his hands in a variety of ways. Samuel already has 994 receiving yards this season, but he also rushed for 79 yards in Sunday's win over the Jaguars. He has back-to-back games with rushing touchdowns as well. Samuel is a match up nightmare and will put a lot of pressure on the Vikings defense, but just like Craig, the guys in purple hope to get the last laugh.
Don't let up. Mike Zimmer said he wanted to see Kirk Cousins go for the jugular. I think that's strong advice for the whole team. Every game, except for the one against Seattle, has come down to the last possession. After Sunday's win over the Packers, Mike Zimmer said, "I guess every one of these games is going to come down to the last play of the game, like they have all year." Maybe they don't have to, though. Wouldn't it be nice to just see the Vikings consider your blood pressure and put a team away? Zimmer blamed himself for changing the defensive approach in the second half and allowing the Packers to make a 21-7 run. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, Coach. Keep that same energy. Keep applying pressure.
The Vikings have won four of the last six games. They are surging at the right time, and continue to preach that all their goals are still in front of them. It goes without saying (I'm saying it anyway) that they can't afford to stub their toes the rest of the way.
It goes down from the house that jeans built, at Levi's Stadium Sunday. I'll be live tweeting (@ReggieWilsonTV) during the game. We'll have all of your game day coverage throughout the evening on KARE and make sure to stay up for Vikings Extra after Sunday Night Football.