The San Francisco 49ers head to Minnesota for Week 1 of the regular season for a matchup against the Vikings on Sunday. Our 49ers.com writers are back to break down the matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.
First Down: Who will score the 49ers first touchdown of 2018?
Joe Fann: George Kittle
Having Kittle back in the lineup is massive for the 49ers offense. The second-year tight end will be one of Jimmy Garoppolo's top receiving options in 2018 and he could end up being the team's best red-zone target. Expect to see Kittle used early and often on Sunday as Kyle Shanahan tries to get his tight end in favorable matchups.
Keiana Martin: Matt Breida
With Jerick McKinnon out for the season, the 49ers still feel confident in their options at running back. It will be interesting to see how San Francisco deploys its revised running back tandem of Brieda and Alfred Morris, who are likely to share snaps against the Vikings. Kyle Shanahan has a thing for multi-dimensional running backs, and as we saw last season, Breida fits the bill. With his skills as a pass catcher and rusher, Breida's number might be called first to find the end zone in Minnesota.
Second Down: Which rookie's NFL debut are you most eager to see?
Joe Fann: Fred Warner
Shanahan loves to use the phrase "the game isn't too big for him." With Warner, it's evident that he has the mental make up for this stage. Warner has impressed players and coaches alike while earning a starting job right out of the gate. He led the team with five tackles in his preseason start against the Indianapolis Colts. I wouldn't be surprised to see Warner's coming out party happen in his NFL debut.
Keiana Martin: Mike McGlinchey
If the Vikings defense wasn’t stout enough in 2017, the addition of Sheldon Richardson only elevated Minnesota’s talented crop of pass rushers. Mike McGlinchey has a tall task ahead of him in his NFL debut against Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. He’s held himself well against DeMarcus Lawrence in the preseason and J.J. Watt during the 49ers joint practices with the Texans. He’ll be tested against the Vikings top-rated defense on Sunday, a challenge he said he’s “more than ready” for.
View the top images from practice as the 49ers prepare for their Week 1 matchup with the Vikings.
Third Down: Which player returning from injury do you expect to make an impact?
Joe Fann: Arik Armstead
Armstead has no shortage of doubters. How nice would it be to see him stay away from the injury bug and prove he can be a valuable asset to the 49ers defense? Armstead was disruptive in his lone preseason action against the Colts. San Francisco would love for that to carry into the regular season. Remember, Robert Saleh really thought Armstead was coming on last season before he got hurt in Week 6. Maybe this is the year he really breaks out. He'll definitely have the opportunity to do so.
Keiana Martin: Pierre Garçon
Garçon has yet to take a regular season snap with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. That all changes this Sunday. Returning from a season-ending neck injury in 2017, Garçon has had all offseason to get in sync with his quarterback. He was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before getting injured. It will be interesting to see how the 49ers proven and reliable option performs with Jimmy G at the helm.
Fourth Down: What is your bold prediction?
Joe Fann: Richard Sherman gets an interception
All it will take is one big play from Sherman for the Faithful to welcome him with open arms. It's understandable why some fans are still skeptical of what Sherman will look like in 2018. Coming back from an Achilles injury is no joke. So why not remove some of those question marks immediately? Sherman will be tested against Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, which means that getting an interception against Kirk Cousins isn't likely to come easily. That will make it that much more impactful when he does grab a pick on Sunday.
Keiana Martin: Jimmy Garoppolo throws for 300-plus yards
There’s nothing 49ers fans want to see more than the team picking up right where it left off in 2017. Garoppolo averaged 308 yards per game over the final five contests of the season, and three of those were against top-15 defenses. The 49ers head to U.S. Bank Stadium to face a Vikings defense that ranked first in the NFL in both yards (275.9) and points allowed in 2017 (15.8). It’s a tall order, but as we saw in that final stretch of the season, Garoppolo and Co. are ready for the challenge.