The San Francisco 49ers have torn through the top two teams in the NFC North from last season in the first two weeks of the season, and in Week 3 they face the Minnesota Vikings.
Will San Francisco continue their domination of the NFC North, or will the Vikings stage an epic upset?
Let’s take a look at three bold predictions for this Sunday’s game.
Christian Ponder has his statement game against the 49ers
Christian Ponder was thrown into the fire as a rookie quarterback after the Donovan McNabb experiment failed.
Ponder had the deck stacked against him with a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator, no offseason program and an offensive line that was downright offensive.
This year Ponder has made strides with a 75.8 completion percentage (best in the NFL) and no interceptions through his first two games, but inconsistency in the red zone and two costly fumbles have limited the Vikings' offense.
The Vikings' coaching staff has kept the game plan fairly simple in the first two weeks to allow Ponder to build confidence and have limited Adrian Peterson in the running game by swapping series with Toby Gerhart but this week things will be different.
Look for Ponder to air the ball out down the field, and for the Vikings to lean hard on Peterson, especially late in the game. Ponder has the arm to sling the ball down field, and even without his full complement of receivers (Jerome Simpson is still suspended this week) Ponder will finally emerge this week as the Vikings' franchise quarterback.
The Vikings' defense will certainly need to do their part to prevent the 49ers from long-sustained drives, which means that Jared Allen needs to not only show up, but actually get to the quarterback this week against the 49ers.
Randy Moss catches his final touchdown at the Metrodome
Randy Moss comes back to a place he knows well when he returns to the Metrodome this week as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. Moss is no stranger to the end zone in this building, and he will certainly be looking to find the stripe at least once in this game against his former team.
So far with the 49ers, the Superfreak has been a good soldier collecting only five receptions for 61 yards and one touchdown against the Packers, but if there is ever a time for the San Francisco coaching staff to let Randy be Randy, it’s this week in a familiar stadium against a porous secondary.
With the San Francisco passing game actually looking dangerous this season with the addition of Mario Manningham and Moss and with Michael Crabtree finally showing some promise and tight end Vernon Davis continuing to be a threat on every play there will be plays for Moss to run down field with single coverage, where he will certainly prevail.
Look for the 49ers to air the ball out Randy early in the game, and then utilize him as a decoy or short route receiver until late in the game where they will go deep to the Freak again. If the game is tight late (and it will be) the Niners will need Moss fresh against the Vikings' secondary, but mark my words, he will find the end zone this week.
It all comes down to the kicking game
So far this season there have been reasons to cheer and cheer loudly for both veteran kicker David Akers and for Vikings' rookie Blair Walsh. Akers bonked a 63-yarder off the cross bar and over against the Packers in Week 1, while the Blair Walsh Project hit a 55-yarder in his rookie debut to help his team get to overtime against the Jags, and the eventual game winner in overtime.
Both of these teams are built to play in close games, and the outcome of this game certainly could come down to the kicker that doesn’t make a mistake. That includes kickoffs as well as field goals.
The Vikings' kick returner, Percy Harvin ,is a threat to score every time that he touches the ball, so Akers will certainly try to put the ball through the end zone on every kick off, and Walsh will follow suit against the 49ers' solid special teams players.
In the end, this game will be a close one, and my bold prediction is that a Blair Walsh field goal is the difference in the end and the Vikings squeak out a win by three points at home.