The 49ers will face their toughest challenge of the year, offensively, as they travel to Minnesota to take on a 2-0 Vikings squad that hasn't surrendered a 100-yard rusher since November 11th 2007 when Ryan Grant racked up 116 yards against them.
This is going to be especially challenging to the 49ers because so much of their game plan revolves around Frank Gore and their rushing attack. I still expect the 49ers to be aggressive running the football, but they're going to have to establish their passing game early on and put that in the minds of Viking defenders. After Gore's explosion for 207 yards last week, the Vikings will be zeroing in on #21 and Shaun Hill will have to beat them through the air. Now, Hill is a capable quarterback, don't get me wrong, but in the first two games of this season, he hasn't been asked to necessarily win the football game, and he may have to do just that if the 49ers are going to upset the Vikes' at home. He's only thrown for 353 yards and a score in the two games so far and hasn't really been under any pressure to move the ball down field through the air yet, but he will on Sunday. I'd really like to see Vernon Davis utilized more in the passing game, starting on Sunday. With Michael Crabtree's arrival still uncertain, Davis is probably the most explosive wr/te on this offense, and he needs to be touching the ball more than just the 2 times he did last Sunday vs. the Seahawks. The Vikings have had some issues with athletic, pass-catching tight-ends and Vernon Davis could have a field day on them if he's handles the ball 6-8 times.
Not only will the Niners have to get their passing game going while figuring out a way to open up room for Gore, but they're going to have themselves a nice challenge on defense as well. They'll be going against the NFL's leading rusher, and one the leagues all-time great quarterbacks, who knows exactly how to expose defensive shortcomings. They're not going to fully shut down Adrian Peterson, but they're going to have to figure out a way to contain him. The 49ers actually have a vastly improving defense though, and they're strength their speed at the linebacker position and that should help slow the run. In fact, the Niners have allowed just 106 yards on the ground through the first two weeks of the season, and if they could hold Peterson to 100 yards or less, they should win this game. Brett Favre is still very much a threat, even at age 40, but I'm not sure he's got the weapons to beat a tough Niner secondary without getting a big game from Peterson. Anyway, it's setting up to be a very good game between these teams, and I can't wait to see these star RB's duke it out. I love what the Niners are doing and the direction they're headed, but I still see the Vikings edging them in this contest by the score of 24-17.
Raiders Preview: The Raiders will host the Broncos in Oakland on Sunday, in a game that should be a low scoring match-up of two of the leagues' lesser offenses. The Raiders barely mustered any offense last week in Kansas City, as they only netted 166 yards of total offense, but still won the game with their stingy defense. They're going to need to put up a little more O on Sunday, but it should be another relatively low scoring game. The Broncos have their own issues on offense with their new QB Kyle Orton, and without a clear-cut #1 running back. If the Raiders can keep the defensive pressure up, and get something resembling any kind of offensive rhythm, they should win this football game. Denver just isn't that good, and the Raiders are catching them at the right time, so if they play a good all-around game, they'll probably pull this one off and improve to 2-1.