To say that we are excited about tomorrows game is a bit of an understatement! Playoff football is a whole different beast and has an excitement that the regular season just can’t offer. To help everyone get ready for tomorrows action, us here at Packers360.com (mattk21 & mgtitletown45) put together a wild card preview for your reading pleasure. Make sure to read all the way through as both of us offer our prediction on tomorrows game at the end.
Let us first recap how we got here; Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone heals, Rodgers’ hurls miraculous game winner to miraculously healed Cobb, sends the Bears (still suck) home, and now, the Packers come full circle. Like last year, the Packers began their season facing the rival 49ers and will face them in the playoffs. Will the Packers’ return the favor and end the 49ers season, exacting sweet revenge? Or will the bully 49ers have the Packers’ number once more?
Packers Offense vs. 49ers Defense
Packers Offensive Statistics: 8th overall offense (26.1 points), 3rd in Total Yards (400.1), 8th in Passing yards (266.1), 7th in Rushing Yards (133.5)
49ers Defensive Statistics: 3rd Overall Defense (17 points), 5th in Total yards (316.9), 7th in Pass Yards (221), 4th in Rushing Yards (95.9)
Packers Pass Offense vs. 49ers Pass Defense
Without question this answer is in the 49ers deficient secondary and the Packers’ unparalleled weapons. Rodgers needs to shrug off the paralyzing arctic environment and deliver a gem. In the 49ers last two games, facing two so-so quarterbacks in Matt Ryan (Falcons) and Carson Palmer (Cardinals), the once stout secondary allowed 755 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. Ryan and Palmer, although respectable quarterbacks, are not near the caliber of Rodgers.
Mix in an already porous secondary with the likelihood of savvy veteran slot cornerback Carlos Rogers being out with a tweaked hamstring, and the Packers’ have a ripe matchup for great success. Rogers’ absence is critical because it thins the depth chart, exposing extremely valuable matchups across the board for the Packers’ vaunted receiving corps. Randall Cobb, in the footing of an ice cold Lambeau field, could very well take over the game. Additionally, in week one Jordy Nelson torched the 49ers secondary to the tune of seven catches, 131 yards and a touchdown. No reason this unit cannot put up over 340 receiving yards.
The only member of the 49ers secondary to watch out for is headhunter Donte Whitner, talented rookie Eric Reid, and Tarell Brown, who has developed into an above average coverage corner. None of which, though, are anything to be feared. The 49ers are to be feared along their front seven.
Packers Run Offense vs. 49ers Run Defense
If the Packers intend to win this momentous matchup, it must battle heroically in the trenches. The health and effectiveness of beast Eddie Lacy is paramount, if Lacy and Starks can keep the Packers in manageable down and distances, keep the aggressive 49ers’ defense from honing in on one dimension of the Packers offense, victory is likely. Can they? Yes.
Although in the past McCarthy’s patience in sticking with the run in the playoffs (ahem, Dujuan Harris last year) is suspect, he knows he cannot win this game without controlling the time of possession. Do not expect instant success from Lacy and company running the ball but if McCarthy keeps feeding the Packers stable of backs, by fourth quarter, huge paralyzing gains are possible. The run game has a shot particularly if Rodgers, as I expect, is on point with his managing the line of scrimmage and delivering accurate strikes, forcing the 49ers to commit to the pass more than the run. But, at the end of the day, the Packers do not need gigantic gains from the running game, all it needs is clock control and maintaining positive yardage. Despite this, the 49ers boast the best front seven in football, led by the two of the best 3-4 middle linebackers in the game.
Packers Offense vs 49ers Defense Overall
A possessed Aaron Rodgers (in a good way, think 2010 Falcons), a banged up 49ers secondary, a mature Eddie Lacy and James Starks is the difference.
I probably don’t have to remind anyone of last years 49ers and Packers match up when Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers ran wild on the Packers defense. All Kaepernick did was set an NFL Record with 181 rushing yards as the 49ers took care of the Packers with relative ease by a score of 45-31. I also don’t have to remind anyone of this years Week 1 match up when Kaepernick set a career high of 412 passing yards in a 49ers 34-28 victory. Will this match up offer more of the same from the 49ers offense or will the Packers be up to the challenge?
49ers Offense vs. Packers Defense
49ers Offensive Statistics: 11th overall offense (25.4 points), 24th in Total Yards (323.8), 30th in Passing yards (186.2), 3rd in Rushing Yards (137.6)
Packers Defensive Statistics: 24th Overall Defense (26.8 points), 25th in Total yards (372.2), 24th in Pass Yards (247.2), 25th in Rushing Yards (125.0)
49ers Pass Offense vs Packers Pass Defense
In any of these categories, the numbers do not lie. The 49ers this season weren’t a prolific passing offense, except in Week 1 when they played the Packers defense. In that contest, all Colin Kaepernick did was set his career high in passing yards with 412 yards, 208 of those going to Anquan Boldin. With the temperature expected to be around 0 degrees at kickoff (-30’s with the wind chill), I don’t expect a repeat of those numbers but we did learn that Kaepernick is both a threat with his arm along with his legs.
Green Bay didn’t have the services of Morgan Burnett back in Week 1 and despite a down season, having a more seasoned player in the secondary should help. The 49ers are able to counter that by getting Michael Crabtree back from his torn Achilles Tendon injury he suffered earlier in the year. The major difference will be the absence of Clay Matthews, who has already been ruled out for this weeks game. He is able to both put pressure on the quarterback as well as drop back in coverage. The Packers need their crew of linebackers, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones to not only put pressure on Kaepernick, but also keep him contained.
The Packers defense needs to force some turnovers, a stat that they have improved at lately, in order to have a chance tomorrow. That will be touch as Kaepernick only threw 8 INT’s all season. It will be the task of Sam Shields and Tramon Williams to continue their solid play if the Packers hope to slow down the 49ers passing attack. It’s going to be cold but the passing game will still be part of the 49ers game plan, the Packers have to have a better showing than Week 1 if they hope to be victorious.
49ers Run Offense vs. Packers Run Defense
On paper, this is the biggest mismatch in this weeks game, but as we all know, games aren’t played on paper. The 49ers have a massive offensive line and a beast of a running back in Frank Gore that are able to dominate the line of scrimmage and control the game. If the Packers want to win this game, the defense has to be able to slow down the 49ers running attack, something they haven’t been able to do in recent weeks. The 49ers figured to have the running game be a big part of the game plan this week and with the temps supposed to be brutally cold tomorrow, it will be an even bigger part.
The key to slowing down the 49ers running game will the big boys up front, B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels. While Daniels has had an impressive sophomore season, B.J. Raji has been a major disappointment. The Packers need the Raji that was a force back in the 2010 playoffs to make a appearance and cause some havoc in the 49ers backfield. In addition to Raji and Daniels, the group of linebackers and secondary have to do a better job of tackling and filling the running lanes to limit the big plays a quick scores.
49ers Offense vs Packers Defense overall:
Colin Kaepernick’s arm and legs are still giving Dom Capers nightmares. Factor in the 3rd ranked rush offense with Frank Gore and the 49ers are down right scary. It will take the perfect game plan and execution for the Packers to win this game.
mgtitletown45 (Twitter handle @GBTitletown)
As I mentioned on my twitter account earlier today (Saturday), this Packers team has an aura of luck, magic, or fortune to its identity. The way in which Matt Flynn weathered the storm, the team rallied behind Rodgers, an amazing fourth quarter drive, the toss to Cobb to send the team to Lambeau. The mere fact the team made the playoffs demanded for an amazingly fortunate set of sequences.
Rodgers understands how rare making the playoffs can be and is laser focused after being slightly off last week. He understands the keys to winning this game and his competitive spirit will not let this team fall to the 49ers for a fourth time in a row. The MVP quarterback once again shows the entire world why he is one of, if not the best quarterback in the land. He delivers a flawless performance in eluding the pass rush, not turning the ball over, taking checkdowns, feeding Lacy when the defense dictates it, and delivering critical strikes deep to Jordy Nelson. Packers defense capitalizes on one or two critical Kaepernick mistakes, who is faltered and uneasy in the paralyzing cold. The 49ers team struggles adapting, the Packers gain fortunate breaks, Rodgers dazzles, and the Packers reignite Ice Bowl magic exacting sweet revenge versus the 49ers. The momentous win earns the Packers a right for more payback for the “Fail Mary” next week in Seattle. This is the year of redemption; for Rodgers, for McCarthy, for the Packers.
Prediction: Packers with a historic win, 31-27
Mattk21 (Twitter handle: mkhawk21)
This game has had me both excited and nervous all week long. The excitement of last weeks game has been tempered by the brutal reminder of last years playoff game against the 49ers. The moment I want to think that the Packers are better than that team, I think back to Week 1 when their running game didn’t beat us, but instead their passing game. Every inkling says that this is the 49ers game to win, but it isn’t that simple. My head and my heart are having a heated battle and here is why.
Getting Aaron Rodgers back turned this team into an instant contender. Do the Packers have flaws? Of course, but Rodgers helps to mask some of those flaws. The return of Randall Cobb adds an extra deminsion that the Packers haven’t had since early in the season. The emergence of Andrew Quarless helped make the blow of losing Jermichael Finley not hurt quite as bad. Matt Flynn leading 3 comebacks, 2 leading to victories and another to a tie helped make this weekends game even possible. There is a reason to believe that the Packers have destiny on their side.
Riding Aaron Rodgers arm and Eddie Lacy’s legs, the Packers are able to keep the 49ers offense off the field as well as the Packers defense. Frank Gore has a big game but the Packers are able to make just enough stops to keep the game close. The Packers are able to force two 49er turnovers that turn into scores for the Packers, which ends up being the difference.
Prediction: The Packers shake their 49er demons, winning 34-31. Go Pack Go!