In a rematch of the week one matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, the Packers head to the bay area to try to advance to the NFC Championship game. The game will be on Saturday at 8:00 pm eastern time and will be on FOX.
Key Injuries: There are not too many injuries for each team to worry about heading into the game. For the 49ers, Justin Smith is expected to play and is listed as probable despite having a partially torn triceps muscle. Smith has not played since mid-December when he suffered the injury against the New England Patriots. Smith is expected to have surgery in the offseason, but is toughing it out as most NFL players do in the playoffs. For the Packers, wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are also expected to play, despite not practicing in the middle of the week.
What to watch for: The key for the 49ers will be to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers. Aldon and Justin Smith have been excellent in the middle of the line of scrimmage disrupting the run game and getting pressure on quarterbacks all season. Rodgers has shown all year that when he has time he is the best quarterback in the NFL. However he has also shown that when he has to shuffle his feet and move around in the pocket, he takes his eyes off of the receivers and has to account for the pass rush. Against the Giants the Packers could not generate a consistent drive all game, and were consequently blown out. However, when the Packers have been able to protect Rodgers he can pick apart any defense.
Key matchups: Clay Matthews against Colin Kaepernick will be a very important matchup in this game. Matthews is one of the best linebackers in the league, and the Packers have to contain Kaepernick in order to make him a pocket passer. A lot of Kaepernick’s effectiveness comes from his ability to run, and the 49ers use of him in the option read offense. If Matthews, AJ Hawk and the other linebackers can contain him, the Packers can keep the 49ers offense stalled. The run game in general is a large part of the offense, so containing Kaepernick, and even Frank Gore, will be vital to the Packers stopping the 49ers.
The Pick: I think the 49ers are rested and ready to go, but the Packers have the playoff experience and an up and coming run game to back up Aaron Rodgers on the road. I think the Packers can sneak away with a win in San Francisco, coming out on top 24-20. The Packers can move on to face either the Falcons or the Seahawks, but this one will be close and an exciting game.