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Week 1 Preview: Vikings at 49ers

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The Sports Xchange

Minnesota Vikings (0-0) at San Francisco 49ers (0-0)

Monday, 10:20 p.m. ET, at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif. – TV: ESPN

*TV announcers: Chris Berman, Trent Dilfer, Lindsay Czarniak

*Keys to the game: The Vikings are eager to have QB Teddy Bridgewater and RB Adrian Peterson on the field together in a game for the first time – Bridgewater took over the starting job while Peterson was on the commissioner’s exempt list last season and Peterson sat out the preseason again. Peterson may be 30, but he also has fresh legs and an ax to grind. That’s a serious threat to a 49ers front seven that has LB Navorro Bowman back but lost playmakers such as Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis and Chris Borland off last year’s team. With the o-line the biggest concern, look for the Vikings to pound Peterson early on, set Bridgewater up to feature TE Kyle Rudolph on play-action and then take some vertical shots to WR Mike Wallace against a shaky secondary.

The 49ers are expected to be cautious out of the gate with their own o-line concerns. RB Carlos Hyde is poised for a breakout year, but only if he can hit the line with a head of steam. The unknown is whether new head coach Jim Tomsula will let coordinator Geep Chryst turn QB Colin Kaepernick loose. This will be the first true test of how much Kaepernick’s fundamentals have improved, but it’s his legs that can make the difference and help that o-line.

*Matchup to watch – Vikings NT Linval Joseph and DT Sharrif Floyd vs. 49ers offensive line: Minnesota has high hopes for Floyd developing into a backfield disruptor if he can stay healthy. The 49ers lost two starters on the o-line and have scrambled to find a workable mix, with RG Jordan Devey recently acquired from New England and starting next to aging veteran RT Erik Pears.

*Player spotlight – Vikings RT T.J. Clemmings: After initially having a chance to compete for the right guard job, Clemmings was thrust into the right tackle spot when Phil Loadholt was lost for the season.

*Fast facts: This is the first meeting between the teams at Levi’s Stadium. … Vikings DE Everson Griffen has 10 sacks in his past 12 games. … 49ers WR Anquan Boldin is the only player in NFL history with two 200-yard receiving games on Kickoff Weekend.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The much maligned sod at Levi’s Stadium could play a significant role if it gets chewed up by a pair of offenses expected to feature their ground games early on. The Vikings enter with a more well-balanced offense and a defense capable of dominating in the trenches.

*Our pick: Vikings 23-20


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