The playoffs are here! Each team is 0-0 and only one goal remains: Super Bowl Champs. This weekend the Packers host what is becoming a familiar foe, the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card round in the NFL Playoffs. In what should be a cold afternoon, here are a few of the Packers keys to a Victory:
- Packers Defense vs. Colin Kaepernick – In the last 2 meetings between the Packers and 49ers, the Packers defense has been less than impressive and have been beaten both through the air and on the ground. Last year in the playoffs, Kaepernick had a coming out party as he rushed for 181 yards and 2 TD’s and set a QB record for rushing yards in a playoff game. During the game, he had the Packers defense on it’s heels as they attempted (and failed miserable) to defend the read option. Fast forward to Week 1 of the 2013 season and it wasn’t Kapernick’s legs that beat the Packers, but it was his arm as he threw for 412 yards and 3 TD’s as the 49ers won a close one, 34-28. Point being, Kaepernick can beat you with both his arm and legs. Will the Packers be able to keep his damage limited? Can they get some pressure to force a bad decision? This game will be a huge test on whether Dom Capers has been able to adapt a defensive game plan to slow down the 49ers offense and it all starts with Kaepernick.
- Time of Possession – In each meeting between the Packers and 49ers dating back to Week 1 of 2012, the 49ers have won the time of possession battle. Not only have they won the battle, they have won it by more and more each meeting. The Packers need to close that gap by establishing the run and putting together long scoring drives. Not only will that wear out the 49ers defense but it will help keep the Packers defense rested. It’s going to be tough to win the time of possession, the 49ers are built to dominate that stat, but if the Packers can keep it close, that keeps them in the game.
- Eddie Lacy – Eddie Lacy made his NFL debut against the 49ers in week 1 but against the tough 49ers defense, he wasn’t able to do much. Since then, Lacy has blossomed into one of the best young running backs in the NFL and a potential Rookie of the Year winner. In order for the Packers to win, he has to have a big game. As discussed above, keeping the ball away from the 49ers offense is going to be a key and Lacy can be the key to making that happen. The 49ers don’t give up many big plays, especially on the ground, but establishing the running game early will help open up throwing lanes for Aaron Rodgers as the game wears on. Lacy was drafted for games like these, time for him to start his playoff legacy.
- Packers Rush Defense vs. Frank Gore – This is where the game will be won or lost. The Packers rush defense, which has been non existent in recent weeks, has to keep Gore in check otherwise it will be a very long day. Gore is going to get his yards, he’s to talented not to, but limited the big plays is very important. The Packers did a good job of limiting Gore in Week 1 only giving up 44 yards on 21 carries (2.1 avg.) but he didn’t need to have a big game with how poor the Packers secondary was performing. With the Packers rush defense playing very poorly as of late, the 49ers game plan will call for a steady dose of Gore, will the Packers defense be ready? Can limit Frank Gore’s production? The answer to that question will go a long way to determining Sunday’s outcome.
- The Elements – As discussed throughout this piece, the weather isn’t supposed to be very pleasant this Sunday. Depending on what source you look at for the forecast, it is projected to be anywhere from 1 to -3 with wind chills dipping into the -20’s. That’s cold! Both teams have to deal with it but one would think that it has to be a slight advantage for the Packers. Both today and tomorrow at practice, the Packers are going outside to help acclimate themselves to the elements, something the 49ers aren’t able to do in San Francisco. The team that is able to mentally adapt to the weather will have the advantage.
- Aaron Rodgers – As everyone saw last week, Aaron Rodgers is a difference maker. What he did on the last drive will live in Packers lore! What will he do for an encore? The 49ers defense will be ready to make life difficult for Rodgers but if anyone is ready for the challenge, it is him. The Packers are a scary team in this years playoffs and the main reason is Rodgers, this weekend is his first chance to show why!
This has all the makings of a playoff classic! Will the Packers defense put together the necessary game plan to slow down the 49ers? Can the Packers put up points against the tough 49ers defense? Which team will ride its late season momentum into a playoff victory? All of those questions, and many more, will be answered on Sunday! Go Pack Go!
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