With the San Francisco 49ers hosting the Minnesota Vikings for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, Niner Noise takes a look at five players to watch in the contest.
The Minnesota Vikings pose a unique challenge for the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the 2020 NFL playoffs.
Despite their 10-6 record and losing three of their last five regular-season contests, the Vikings are coming off one of the bigger upsets of the postseason, downing the highly favored New Orleans Saints on the road in the Wild Card round.
The Niners, meanwhile, look to benefit from the bye week, having secured the No. 1 overall seed in the postseason and home-field advantage between now and Super Bowl LIV.
To get there, though, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad will have to overtake a Vikings team, which also finished in the top 10 on both offense and defense, just like San Francisco. One could make the argument Minnesota is one of the more well-balanced squads in the postseason, making this divisional bout at Levi’s Stadium one worth watching.
There is going to be a lot of attention on some of the big-name 49ers players, of course, particularly quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle. But there are also a number of other key players to watch for this playoff bout.
Niner Noise reviews five you’ll want to pay attention to during the game.
No. 5: Center Ben Garland
The Vikings switched their two standout pass-rushers, Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, to the inside of the defensive line against the Saints, and these two wreaked havoc against a New Orleans offensive line, which had trouble protecting quarterback Drew Brees throughout the game.
It wouldn’t be shocking to see the same approach in the divisional round, especially considering the 49ers are starting a backup center, Ben Garland.
Garland, who is in for the injured Weston Richburg, has done an adequate job in pass protection over his three starts. But where things get complicated is his need to call out protection, recognize from where the rush is coming and so on.
Those tasks will be difficult against a Vikings team, which actually boasted as many sacks this season (48) as the Niners had.
Especially with Griffen and Hunter combining for 22.5.