NFL expert Tom Selwyn (@Tom_Selwyn) shares his expert opinion on the best bets available from Saturday night's divisional round play-off showdown from San Francisco.
Minnesota Vikings @ San Francisco 49ers | Saturday 11th January 2019, 21:35 | Sky Sports
It’s safe to say that the Vikings stunned most people – myself included – last week when they went into New Orleans and beat the red-hot Saints. Their reward is a trip to the West Coast to face the #1 seed 49ers. If people thought that Minnesota was overmatched against the Saints, then the same should still be true against the 49ers who have shown themselves to be one of the best in the league throughout the season.
Of course, it’s fair to wonder if the Vikings prefer to be in this situation again. They were 4-4 on the road during the regular season and showed no real signs they’d be able to put in the type of complete performance they had against the Saints. In other words, there appears to be something to be said for playing loose and free of pressure against a team that’s supposed to win.
It’s my feeling that they’ll certainly need another performance like last week’s to advance to the Conference Championship game as I struggle to think of an area where Minnesota is definitively superior to San Francisco. I would take the Vikings’ starting WRs no doubt, but Adam Thielen hurt himself during training this week and Stefon Diggs is battling an illness.
But with respect to Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph and his key TD last week, San Francisco’s George Kittle is by far and away the best TE in this game, and probably the whole league. He’s been on fire since returning from injury, averaging just over 85 yards and 6.5 receptions per-game since his return (including his lone dud of 17 yards against the Ravens) and he’s who I’ll be focussing on for this pick.
Minnesota has actually been decent against TEs this year, even if four of their games were against a combination of Green Bay’s Jimmy Graham and whoever was at TE for the Bears, sitting at 12th in terms of yards given up to the position (during the regular season).
Kittle is entirely different prospect, however, and despite limiting the Saints offense last week their TE Jared Cook still accumulated 54 yards on five receptions (five targets).
Kittle is a better player than Cook and also benefits from being San Francisco’s #1 receiver (25 more targets than the next most targeted), unlike Cook who has the record breaking Michael Thomas ahead of him in the pecking order. He’s also a Yards After Catch monster, piling up 602 yards after the catch this year, trailing only Austin Ekeler and Christian McCaffrey.
Now, you know Minnesota will be paying attention to him, but I have faith that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will be able to get him open with his creative play-calling. Regardless, whoever Kittle ends up being lined up against I believe is a mismatch, but especially if he gets lined up against Andrew Sendejo, the Vikings Safety who was covering the slot in place of injured CB Mackenzie Alexander last week.
The line for Kittle is big, sitting at 77.5 currently, but for all the reasons I’ve outlined I think he’ll go Over that. He’s such a fun player to watch and I hope he takes over the game!
Minnesota Vikings @ San Francisco 49ers – George Kittle to have Over 77.5 Receiving Yards (17/20 Paddy Power)