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49ers at Vikings: Why San Francisco might lose

We get an in depth look at this week’s temporary enemy, courtesy of Niners Nation

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday kids! Did we enjoy NFL Penaltyfest Kickoff last night?

Yeah, I was underwhelmed myself, but hey, at least football is back. As we’ve all known for months, the Beloved Purple take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at US Bank Stadium. Here on SB Nation, we usually contact the sister blog of our opponent and do a ‘Five Good Questions’ segment to get to know the opposing team a little better.

This week, we’re still talking with Niners Nation, the network blog about the San Francisco 49ers, but we’re doing it with a little twist to the 5GQ segment. I’ve exchanged emails with David ‘Fooch’ Fucillo, one of the Head Ball Coaches over there (hey, that’s what the masthead says) and All Around Good Guy (not on the masthead, but still accurate), and we’ve laid out cases why our teams might lose.

Kind of an internal scouting report, if you will.

So, without further delay, here’s Dave’s thoughts on why his beloved 49ers might lose to the Vikings this Sunday:

Why the 49ers might lose, by David Fucillo

There is plenty of optimism in the Bay Area (well, not for the Raiders), but I’m trying to be a little more realistic about a tough opener in Minnesota. The 49ers are a 6.5-point underdog, and I think we end up seeing the Vikings cover the spread on this one. A 49ers upset is not out of the realm of the possible, but it’s not going to be an easy one. And there are plenty of things that could go south that could create problems.

On offense, naturally Jimmy Garoppolo is the high profile figure. The 49ers won five straight when he took over as starter, and saw their offense reach levels not seen since the Harbaugh years. Garoppolo could easily come back to earth, but even if he plays well, there are some issues for the 49ers offense. The most significant is in the red zone. The 49ers were near the bottom of the league in touchdowns per red zone appearance. If they don’t improve in that area, it won’t matter nearly enough what they’re doing between the 20s.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention Jerick McKinnon’s absence. He tore his ACL last weekend and is done for the year. Alfred Morris and Matt Breida will split work in McKinnon’s absence, along with fullback Kyle Juszczyk specifically in the passing game. Morris knows Shanahan’s offense, but there are plenty of question marks considering he did not join the roster until midway through the preseason. If he shows up, this game could get really interesting, but if he struggles against this stout Vikings defense, San Francisco is in trouble.

On defense, it comes down to the pass defense. Reuben Foster’s absence due to suspension is problematic, but the 49ers have some potentially solid depth at linebacker. The bigger question is between the pass rush and the secondary. The 49ers pass rush was shaky at best last season, and the team did not do much to address it. If this group takes a step forward, it will be because defensive linemen Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas take a big step forward alongside DeForest Buckner this season. If they don’t get some consistent, healthy play from this group, the 49ers could be in a world of hurt.

The back half of the pass defense is another big question. The 49ers signed Richard Sherman to start opposite Ahkello Witherspoon. Sherman is returning from a torn Achilles and at 30 years of age, he faces plenty of questions. I have no doubt the Vikings will challenge him regularly on Sunday. If he does not prove himself back in pre-injury form, it will be a long day for the 49ers defense.

Thanks, Dave, for that unique perspective on this week’s Most Hated Enemy. Here’s to a good game with no injuries or penalties for tackling.

And may a catch be always in our favor. Skol!