WEEK 12 GAME OF THE WEEK: MINNESOTA VIKINGS VS SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Photo credit: Mike Morbeck via Flickr

The Ninety-Nine Yards team are back with us here at Belushi’s, talking through week 12 of the NFL with Dale Jones, a Minnesota Vikings fan since 2009.

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Week 12 gives us much to be thankful for as we get ready to kick off the festive season of football with 3 games on Thursday evening and into Friday morning, and an interesting slate of games on Sunday makes this week's “Game of the Week” a tough one to call.

Predicting the outcome of NFL games each week is becoming harder and harder to do, with every week throwing up results none of us would predict. Almost half of the teams in the National Football League are sitting on 5 or 6 wins, which means that most games each week are likely to have potential playoff implications.

This week’s Game of the Week focuses on two of those teams vying for playoff spots in the NFC, as the Minnesota Vikings travel out west to play the San Francisco 49ers.

PUSHING FOR POSTSEASON CONTENTION IN THE NFC

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Both the Minnesota Vikings & San Francisco 49ers enter Week 12 of the NFL season with a 5-5 record, having pulled themselves back into playoff contention in the NFC with consecutive wins in Weeks 10 & 11.

In Week 10 the 49ers put together an impressive performance to take away a seriously impressive 31-10 win against their divisional rival Los Angeles Rams, and they followed this up with a routine win on Sunday in Jacksonville, coming away with a 30-10 win against the Jaguars.

Minnesota on the other hand seem to have the uncanny ability to play it close against their opponents each week, regardless of who they may be facing. A 27-20 win in Los Angeles in Week 10 was followed up with a 34-31 victory against their divisional rival Green Bay Packers, coming courtesy of a last second field goal from the boot of Greg Joseph.

PLAYOFF CONTENDERS OR PRETENDERS?

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As we start to approach the business end of the season, each win or loss carries with it some additional weight, and the up and down nature of the results in the NFL this season perhaps places some extra importance on this Sunday’s game.

As it stands the Vikings currently occupy 6th place in the NFC standings and in possession of one of those all-important playoff places, with the 49ers just on the outside looking in. As they both hold the same win/loss record, a victory for either side would put a small amount of breathing space over the other, and perhaps more importantly swing a potentially important tie breaker in their favour.

The San Francisco 49ers look to head into this game as slight favourites, something which can often be attributed to the home team advantage in a game that looks close on paper. The oddity here however is that aside from the convincing home win against the Rams two weeks ago, the Niners have lost every other home game this season. The outcome of this game is likely to come down to whichever side's star players perform best on the day – and luckily there’s no shortage of those on either side.

ONES TO WATCH

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The home team will no doubt be hoping for big impacts on offence from the likes of Deebo Samuel & George Kittle. Wide receiver Samuel has been able to really make a name for himself this season, establishing himself as a top-level wide receiver with just shy of 1,000 receiving yards and 5 TD’s through the air so far this season. But it is his recent work slotting in to get some snaps at running back that has really been impressive of late. Standing in for injuries to the likes of Raheem Mostert & Eli Mitchell, Deebo has managed to rush for a TD in each of his last few games.

The recent return of Tight End George Kittle following a short layoff due to injury has also given the team a welcome boost in recent weeks, hauling in a receiving touchdown in each of the three games since his return.

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Hoping to put points up on the board to combat the San Francisco firepower will be the likes of Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and the ever-dependable Adam Thielen.

The Vikings will be keen to establish the run game, and getting Cook going will be vital in doing so. Since the Vikings bye week Cook has been able to rush for an average of 92 yards per game, and the Vikings will look for that to continue again.

A solid running game opens the possibility for big plays from the wide receivers, and quarterback Kirk Cousins has been able to find his favourite two receivers plenty in recent weeks. Second year receiver Justin Jefferson’s 8 receptions for 169 yards and 2 receiving TD’s isn’t a bad outing by anyone’s standards last week against Green Bay, and veteran wideout Adam Thielen has been able to haul in touchdowns in 4 of his last 5 games. And to give credit where it is due, Kirk Cousins, the man getting them the ball (and so often getting the blame when things don’t go well for Minnesota) has put up an impressive 21 TD to 2 Interception ratio this season so far.

THE FINAL WORD

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Both teams have put up good offensive numbers in the past couple of weeks as they’ve hauled themselves back into NFC Playoff contention, but who’s going to get the win on Sunday and end the week in one of those 7 available spots? It feels too close to call right now, and it’s set up to be an exciting matchup!

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Don’t forget you can follow Dale @DaleJones14 and the @NinetyNineYards team on Twitter for the latest in NFL conversation, and of course, keep an eye out on the blog for fresh content from the team.