NFL: 49ers-Vikings preview

The Examiner breaks down the 49ers-Vikings game, including what it will take to win, the matchups, a word about the coaches, our humble predictions and broadcast information.

THREE KEYS TO A VICTORY

1. Though the Niners enter the game against the Vikings dead last in passing (145.1 yards per game), veteran receiver Arnaz Battle has been the team’s most valued player (not most valuable) in the air. Battle has a touchdown reception in each of the Niners’ last two games. And in the two games prior (Weeks 10 and 11), he averaged five catches for 82 yards. Battle is listed as questionable for Sunday because of an ankle injury, but he won’t want to miss this game as the Vikings are giving up a league-worst 278.8 yards in the air.

2. Niners running back Frank Gore averaged 4.8 yards per carry on Sunday against Carolina. But here’s the thing — he only had 12 carries (resulting in 58 yards). Sure, the Niners were down early to the Panthers, meaning they had to go to the air more often, but the Niners need to get Gore more involved, whether its on the ground or with short passes.

3. With Alex Smith not likely to start for a third straight week, Trent Dilfer gets the starting nod once again. If there’s a time to show consistency, Sunday would be perfect. Though the Vikes are just coming off a six-interception day against the New York Giants.

KEY MATCHUPS

ADRIAN PETERSON vs. PATRICK WILLIS

Peterson: Leading Offensive ROY candidate still leads league in rushing despite missing two games.

Willis: Leading Defensive ROY candidate already has 128 tackles — 100 of them are solo.

DARREN SHARPER vs. VERNON DAVIS

Sharper: Veteran has three interceptions this season and is still a hard-hitting threat in the secondary.

Davis: Niners’ tight end had just one catch for 19 yards last week. Must get more involved.

STEVE HUTCHINSON vs. MARQUES DOUGLAS

Hutchinson: Big-money left guard should get tons of credit for Peterson’s success this season.

Douglas: Defensive end must plug holes and help Niners’ D-line try to immobalize Vikes’ running game.

COACHES' CORNER

Sunday is the annual Red Fog Day. Fans are encouraged to wear red jerseys, hats and shirts and get into the game. But it’s going to take more than a 12th-man gimmick for Mike Nolan and the Niners to be successful.

In just his second season, Vikings coach Brad Childress has put together a competitive club. With the NFC North all but captured by Green Bay, there’s still a wild-card spot to be claimed. And Minnesota wants it.

THE EXAMINER PREDICTS …

The Vikings are in a unique situation — they’re playing this late in the season with hopes of making the playoffs and they’re favored to win despite playing on the road and on grass. Still, there’s no reason to pick the Niners in this one. VIKINGS 31, 49ERS 12

Vikings at 49ers

Sunday, 1:05 p.m.

TV: KTVU (Ch. 2)

Radio: KNBR (680 AM)

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