Welcome to the mailbag! You can submit questions for our weekly Access Vikings podcasts and/or these mailbags on Twitter to @Andrew_Krammer and @GoesslingStrib, or via email to Andrew.Krammer@startribune.com.
From @JrJobes: Why do the Vikings get one less day off? Seems like it would make more sense if teams that played this past Saturday play Saturday again.
AK: The NFL could’ve avoided this by having both NFC games on Sunday again, but perhaps for the drama of Sunday’s teams (or hours of pregame shows) knowing the possible title-game destinations, they did not. Meaning if the Vikings win on Saturday, the Packers will know they’ll host the NFC title game if they beat Seattle on Sunday. Whichever NFC wild-card team won last Sunday to play San Francisco got the short end of the stick, because the divisional round playoff dates and times were predetermined based on teams with first-round byes. So San Francisco’s game was already scheduled for the early Saturday slot before the Vikings won in New Orleans.
From @KiddCann: Can the Vikings offensive line hold up against the 49ers defensive line?
AK: This is a pivotal matchup toward Saturday’s outcome, and the Vikings offense will continue to run its staple concepts to mitigate pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins. A big factor is whether running back Dalvin Cook can continue to find the creases in the outside-zone running scheme, which can open up opportunities in the passing game. Cook called the 49ers front the best the Vikings will see this season, and it’s on par if not better than the Packers, Bears, Broncos and Eagles — fronts that slowed the offense. San Francisco is also healthier than New Orleans up front, potentially returning Dee Ford from injury. Standout rookie Nick Bosa will give left tackle Riley Reiff a handful in pass protection, so the Vikings may have to help him when they’re not concerned about DeForest Buckner in the middle. The 49ers defense has previously played a lot of single-high safety coverage, meaning there will be opportunities in the play-action passing game if Cousins has time.
From @RyanGunn_THD: Headlines you would expect to see if the Vikings win Saturday? Looking for themes needed to win.
AK: “Gold Rush.” Cook was a spark plug as the Vikings built the 13-10 lead by halftime in New Orleans, and showed his red-zone value with his second touchdown in the third quarter. They’ll need him to again duck and slip tacklers in the run and passing game, where the Vikings’ screens can help slow a strong pass rush. “Purple Pain in the Bay.” The Vikings defense, led by Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, continue to make game-changing plays in critical moments as they succeed with two pillars: red-zone stops and no explosive plays allowed. “Left My Doubts in San Fran.” Because a win against the 49ers would mean the Vikings took down two 13-3 teams on the road — something they hadn’t done against winning opponents in the past two regular seasons — and are on a special run.
From @chanpc1969: Sick and injured players’ potential impact?
AK: Receiver Adam Thielen needed stitches this week for a significant laceration after he was “tangled up” and cleated during Wednesday’s practice, a league source told the Star Tribune on Thursday morning. He’s listed questionable after he didn’t move around all that much during Thursday’s practice. Even if he plays short of full strength, it’s not ideal given how a healthy Thielen looked during his 129-yard outing in New Orleans. Receiver Stefon Diggs has been dealing with an illness, but his two days away from practice were precautionary. He’s expected to play. The Vikings will be shorthanded in the secondary again as cornerback Mackensie Alexander underwent knee surgery this week and safety Jayron Kearse (toe/knee) is listed doubtful to play.
From: @santisanchezg8: Where can I listen to the podcast? Is it on Spotify?
AK: Yes! You can find our Access Vikings podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and most places you get your podcasts. If you’re a Twin Cities sports fan, you can also find Star Tribune reporters with similar podcasts covering the Timberwolves, the Twins and Minnesota high school sports.