The sixth-seeded Minnesota Vikings go for a second straight upset on Saturday when they visit the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers in their NFC divisional round encounter in Santa Clara.

The Vikings earned a trip west after venturing south for a 26-20 overtime victory over third-seeded New Orleans last Sunday.

Kirk Cousins' short touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph on the first possession of the extra session ended the Saints' season.

The Vikings had just five days to prepare for the 49ers, but the rivals are hardly strangers.

The clubs met in the season opener last year, with the Vikings handing 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo his first NFL loss as a starter by picking him off three times, once for a touchdown, in a 24-16 home win.

Garoppolo had more passing yards (261) than Cousins (244) that day in their one and only head-to-head meeting.

The franchises have dueled five times in the postseason, with the 49ers winning four. The Vikings' lone win came at the end of the 1987 season in San Francisco.

The 49ers (13-3) finished this regular season with the second-best record in the NFL behind Baltimore (14-2). The Vikings (10-6) snuck into the playoffs as the NFL's second wild card.

This year's rematch features a 49ers team that led the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 23, against a Vikings defence that allowed just eight rushing scores, tied for the third-best in the league.

Nonetheless, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made it clear earlier this week that that he's not totally focused on stalling the San Francisco running game.

The 49ers also feature All-Pro tight end George Kittle.

"He's great with run after the catch, and they use him on a lot of screens," Zimmer said.

"They use him in all different ways. He's very nifty. He'll give you ahead-fake and a shake and go the other way. And he's got great speed. You combine those things with his run-after-catch ability and the way he can get open in routes, and it makes him very difficult."

Vikings receiver Adam Thielen is resting up after sustaining a gash to his ankle in practice, but is expected to play through the pain.

The 49ers earned the right to host the divisional-round game by virtue of a 26-21 win at Seattle in the regular-season finale.

The victory also earned the team a much-needed week off after a second-half schedule that included two match-ups with the Seahawks, as well as head-to-heads with Green Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams.

The week off was the first of the season for 49ers wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who was traded in-season from Denver, which hadn't had its bye, to San Francisco, which already had its break.

It also gave the side an extra week to examine starting outside linebacker Kwon Alexander, who had been expected to miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn left pectoral in Week 9.

Alexander was formally cleared to practice this week and is available to play.

"Now it's a coaching decision," coach Kyle Shanahan said.

Defensive end Dee Ford (quad/hamstring), safety Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) and right guard MikePerson (neck) are also set to play.

The game also represents the third meeting as opponents for Cousins and Shanahan, who worked together as rookie and offensive coordinator for Washington in 2012.

The quarterback has gone 2-0 since Shanahan got the head-coaching gig in San Francisco, including a 26-24 Redskins home win over the 49ers in 2017 when he went up against CJ Beathard.

Shanahan didn't have to be beaten twice to gain respect for Cousins.

"I liked how efficient he was coming out of college, watching him on film, and then being with him for (two) years and seeing first-hand how talented he was as a thrower," Shanahan said this week.

"I also saw how his mind worked and how he worked at it. He understood everything that was happening, whether it was good or bad, and always tried to learn from things."

SATURDAY 11 JANUARY 
San Francisco 49ers v Minnesota Vikings, Levi's Stadium, 9.35pm