The San Francisco 49ers face off against the Green Bay Packers in Saturday's divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The Niners are coming off their first-round bye week earned as the No. 1 seed in the NFC, which has allowed them to get healthy and get back key contributors like Arik Armstead.
They are facing off against the upstart Packers who are red hot coming off their dominant Wild Card victory over the Dallas Cowboys. They have all of the momentum as they have been playing essentially must-win football games for over a month, building confidence with each of their victories.
It is precisely because it's been some time since the 49ers played a truly meaningful game for them, while the Packers have been playing crucial games every week.
As such, the Niners need to get off to a hot start.
After the Packers elected to receive after the coin toss in last week's contest against the Cowboys, promptly scoring a touchdown and going on to dominate, it seems likely that they will elect to receive again if they win the coin toss. On the other side, head coach Kyle Shanahan almost always elects to kick off to start the game, so San Francisco gets the ball to start the second half.
Therefore, it seems highly likely that the 49ers will start the game on defense, barring something unforeseen. That defense, which likely benefited the most from the rest afforded by the bye week, will be put to the test right away as they try to slow down Green Bay's red-hot quarterback, Jordan Love.
This is a 49ers team that also has shown throughout Shanahan's tenure as head coach that they struggle to play from behind. If the Packers come out and punch the Niners in the mouth like they did to the Cowboys, it may rattle the Niners especially since they have rarely been in that situation this season.
Getting off to a hot start is important in any game, but it may hold even greater importance in this postseason matchup between two longtime foes.