Wild Card Preview: San Francisco 49ers AT Green Bay Packers

Posted: January 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

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The Rundown

Date and Time: Sunday, January 5th, 4:40 PM
Venue: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI (Partly cloudy, -5 degrees)
Spread: San Francisco by 2.5
Last Meeting: September 8th, 2013 (San Francisco 34, Green Bay 28)

Overview

Perhaps the best matchup of the wild card weekend is bringing up the rear as the San Francisco 49ers (12-4) head to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers (8-7-1). On the surface, this game looks like a mismatch. The 49ers come in winners of their last six games. The 49ers’ only losses this season have come to Seattle, Indianapolis, Carolina, and New Orleans, all playoff teams. San Francisco has also shown a recent ability to clip the Packers, having defeated them twice in a calendar year, including a 45-31 blowout in last year’s Divisional round.

As for Green Bay, the Packers shocked the world by overcoming a long-term injury to QB Aaron Rodgers to usurp both Detroit and Chicago and take the NFC North crown. The Packers got Rodgers back in an exciting victory over Chicago to win the division, and his ability to scramble and throw downfield immediately paid dividends in the game’s final moments. This week, Rodgers will have his hands full with the fiercely aggressive San Francisco defense, a unit that is top-10 in the league in both pass and rush defense.

The weather could play a major factor in this Sunday’s affair as it is expected to be -5 degrees by kickoff with a windchill that will make it feel like -15. San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick has already gone on the record saying that he doesn’t like playing in the cold, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the 49ers have some trouble adjusting as the Packers thrive in their friendly confines.

 Green Bay’s Chances

The Packers’ playoff hopes didn’t look good at all after a loss to Pittsburgh behind Matt Flynn in week 17. Granted, they looked even worse heading into halftime of week 15, prior to the team’s monumental comeback that day against Dallas. But, following the loss to the Steelers, the Packers required a Chicago loss to Philadelphia that evening followed by a victory over the Bears in the final week of the season. The Eagles did the Pack a favor, then it was Aaron Rodgers’ turn to save the day.

Now, it doesn’t seem quite so farfetched to think that Green Bay could make a little bit of a run. Rodgers, after all, is a Super Bowl MVP and someone that has proven it on the biggest stage. The Packers still have tremendous weapons on offense, especially with WR Randall Cobb returning last week (he caught two touchdowns including the game-winner). The running game is led by Rookie of the Year frontrunner Eddie Lacy, who gives Green Bay their best running threat since Ahman Green was tearing up Lambeau in the early-aughts. The Green Bay defense is going to miss Clay Matthews, who is out for the season. But, the secondary is talented and, if the Packers can find a pass rush, they have a good enough D to get to New York.

San Francisco’s Chances

The 49ers are the defending NFC champions. If Kyle Williams could have returned a punt or two in 2011, they’d be the back-to-back NFC champions. Now, they’ll look to achieve these goals without the benefits of a bye week for the first time. That could prove to be San Francisco’s downfall, even if the 49ers are 6-2 both at home and on the road this season. The 49ers have a great defense and a running game that most teams clamor for. But, their lack of a downfield passing attack even with the proficiency of Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis could be the thorn in their side.

If Colin Kaepernick can play more like he did in the 2012 playoffs as opposed to the 2013 regular season, than San Francisco should be considered a threat to overcome their road opponents and make a trip to New York in February. But, if Keapernick continues to provide the team with flaky QB play, the 49ers could be golfing by next week.

Prediction

As road favorites, the 49ers should feel confident against Green Bay. But, the Packers are still at home in a terrible environment for visiting teams, especially when the temperate is below zero. Green Bay also has the better quarterback, which, in the playoffs, can be enough when all else is equal.

I think that San Francisco will keep this one close. Perhaps, they’ll even have the lead going into the final minutes. But, it will be Rodgers who continues to establish his legacy as a historical titan at the position by driving the Packers down the field to win and advance to Seattle next weekend. Packers 24, 49ers 23

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