The San Francisco 49ers are set to face the Green Bay Packers next Saturday for the right to go to the NFC Championship. It’s been 18 weeks since these two teams last faced off, ending in a 30-22 49er road victory. That was then, this is now. Since then the 49ers have made the switch at quarterback, and the Packers have gotten back into their winning ways.
So what should we expect from these 2 teams today? The Packers are going to put the ball in Rodger’s hand while the Niners are going to try and establish the run. While it is expected this game will be close, the team that can get an early lead might just hold it through the entire game. The Niners got of to the hot start in last year’s playoff games, and showed it at times this year against teams like the Packers, Bears, and Patriots. All 3 ended with a 49er victory.
Key Battles to Watch
Rodgers versus Pass Defense
Rodgers once again put up MVP type numbers, and is the most deserving quarterback for the award followed closely by Tom Brady. Of all the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, Rodgers is the best at using his legs and throwing on the run. The Packers have the most talent at the receiver position in the league and with the ability of Rodgers to escape pressure, there’s no wonder to why they’ve only lost 7 games in the last 2 years.
In order for the 49ers to make it 8 losses the pass rush is going to have to put Rodgers on his back. Aldon Smith finished 2nd in the league in sacks, but has been shut out since his name sake partner Justin Smith suffered a torn triceps against the Patriots. From all reports, Justin Smith should be a go. That’s good news for Niners fans.
As long as the pass rush can get to the quarterback that was sacked more than any other during the regular season, the secondary should be just fine. Rodgers will make his plays, but with the lack of a run game, it comes down to just limiting the damage.
49ers Offense versus 3rd Down
Last year was the shining moment in QB Alex Smith’s career. This year we will look for a repeat performance, but with Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick won the starting job because of his big play, big game ability. While the move at quarterback can be questioned and argued either way, the real judgment will come tonight. If Colin plays like a top 10 quarterback, the 49ers will have made the right move. If he comes up short then we wasted a postseason run with a great team to develop one player.
Kaepernick’s explosive playmaking ability should give the 49ers the upper hand on 3rd down. He is one of the best at avoiding pressure and either finding a guy downfield or just calling his own number. Keeping drives alive will be key in keeping Rodgers off the field and tiring out the Packers Defense.
Last season in the NFC Championship game this was the Niners biggest issue. The Niners were 1 of 13 on converting 3rd downs and still managed to look like the better team. The 49ers will have to manage 3rd downs better in today’s contest.
Ground game versus Packers run defense
The Packers defense has had issues against the run this season. Part of the may have to do with playing Adrian Peterson the last 2 weeks, but that isn’t the only reason they are in a 5 way tie for 23rd when it comes to yards per rush allowed. Their defensive numbers would look a lot worse had it not been for the offense giving them leads and forcing teams to play one dimensional.
Another weapon the 49ers didn’t use in the week 1 matchup was Kaepernick. It’s one thing when you know they are going to hand to Gore and he is hard to bring down, it’s another when you think it’s a pass and then the quarterback takes off for a long run. Coach Harbaugh will keep the Packers defensive coordinator Don Capers on his heels all day.
With a good mix of pass and run the 49ers are able to control the clock and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. The 49ers defense will hold form early, but just like in week 1 will not be impenetrable through the entire game.
Final score 27-24 San Francisco. The 49ers will move on to its 2nd NFC Championship in as any years under Harbaugh.