By Jerrell Richardson
By beating the Packers in Week 1, in Green Bay no less, San Francisco should have plenty of confidence that they can beat the NFC North Champs again on Saturday. While the early season victory means nothing now, the fact that the game is in San Francisco does. The Packers have struggled outside of Lambeau this year, and can’t be happy to have to go to San Francisco to try and keep their season alive.
Green Bay Packers (11-5)
Those who doubted that the Packers were going to have something to say about the eventual NFC representative in this year’s Super Bowl were crazy. Even as the team has dealt with several key injuries, they have had an impressive season. Their defense has struggled at times, but by finishing the regular season winning 9 out of 11, they look as dangerous as ever. The team manhandled the Vikings in their playoff opener, but that was in Green Bay where they can be invincible. By getting them on the road, not only does San Francisco have a chance, but they can look at the Packers season and feel that they have them right where they want them. After losing at home to San Francisco in the season opener, every single loss for the Packers this season has come on the road, and coincidentally against a playoff team. This proves that the only way to beat them is to get them on the road against a quality opponent, which is exactly what Green Bay is up against on Saturday.
He Is A Bad Man
Even with the crowd on their side, the 49ers will need more then a few cheers to move on to the next round. Green Bay is lead by the most complete quarterback in the NFL, and is facing him at a time when quarterback play is the most crucial. Rodgers has quietly had another great season with 4,295 yards passing, completed 67.2 percent of his attempts and had 39 touchdown passes. These numbers were only slightly down from the ridiculous season he had last year en route to MVP honors and he is the main reason the 49ers should be worried. He has a bevy of talented receivers to spread the ball too and can use his legs to extend plays or run for first downs. He demands discipline from a defense and can literally do it all. Despite his multiple talents, the team is still vulnerable as their defense is not on the same level of the team’s high powered offense. Despite the big names that they have on the defensive side of the ball, it’s their suspect defense that is the reason that Rodgers must put up MVP type numbers for them to win week in and week out.
Defense Is A Liability
The Packers’ defense prescribes to the bend but don’t break philosophy. They will give up yards, but rely on a big play or an offense to stall to get off the field. They do have a ferocious pass rush, and have been better against the pass (ranked 11th) the run (ranked 17th) this season, so it will be important for the 49ers to remain balance in their offensive approach. If San Francisco can mix the pass and run effectively, then it will come down to protecting the ball. Turnovers are magnified in the playoffs, and will more times then not result in a big play. Winning this battle will go a long way in determining the winner of the game.
Strength vs. Strength
The Packers and 49ers are complete opposites. Green Bay relies on its top ranked offense, while San Francisco will need their intimidating defense to lead the way through the playoffs. With this game in San Francisco, it makes this match up swing in the favor of the 49ers, but this advantage is very minimal, and if there is any team that can handle adverse conditions, it’s the Packers. However, the fact can’t be ignored that Green Bay has already lost to the 49ers this season, and every other defeat was on the road. The game on Saturday will come down to a few key plays and probably a little bit of luck, but any advantage helps. If the better all around team prevails, then the 49ers will be back in the NFC Championship Game, but Aaron Rodgers is more the capable of pulling off the road upset, despite the odds stacked against him.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.