Wild Card Weekend: San Francisco 49ers At Green Bay Packers
- QuarterbackColin Kaepernick was the dominant player on the field when the 49ers defeated the Packers in last year’s divisional playoff victory for the 49ers. While Kaepernick has not been as effective this season, he seems to have an edge on a Green Bay defense that has battled injuries and ineffectiveness. Kaepernick combines athleticism and confidence and he could cause problems for the Packers once again.The Packers got the good news they were hoping for last week when Aaron Rodgers returned from his separated left shoulder and led the Packers to a miraculous, last-minute victory over the Bears to win the NFC North title. Rodgers was not at his best throughout the game, but he came through with the game-winning TD pass to Randall Cobb when the season was on the line.
- OffenseThe 49ers want to assert themselves against the Packers and unleash running back Frank Gore on their struggling defense. Gore ran for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns, and his ability to run over tacklers can give the Niners a big edge in the fourth quarter. Anquan Boldin plays the same kind of game from the wide receiver position while Vernon Davis can stretch the field as a tight end.The Packers have a running game of their own that they have not been able to show the 49ers in the past. Rookie Eddie Lacy and hard-running James Starks will be able to test the Niners’ strong run defense. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson should be able to get open and he rarely drops the ball. Cobb came back from his broken leg to make the play of the year for the Packers.
- DefenseThe Niners rank fifth overall on defense and they are particularly strong against the run. They have done as good a job against Rodgers as any team in recent years, but they must put pressure on him if they are going to stop him this time. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman led the Niners with 145 tackles and he also had four forced fumbles. Cornerback Tramaine Brock led the team with five interceptions.The Packers could have a huge problem stopping the 49ers’ running game, since they finished 25th in yards allowed this year and they are unlikely to have Clay Matthews (broken thumb) on the field in this game. Linebacker A.J. Hawk led the Packers with 118 tackles and 5.0 sacks, while cornerback Sam Shields had 21 passes defensed and four interceptions.
- Special TeamsThe 49ers have done a solid job in coverage this season and LaMichael James has the speed to break long plays when returning punts or kickoffs. The big improvement came at the PK position, where Phil Dawson made 32-of-36 FG attempts, including 4-of-6 from 50 yards or longer.The Packers had some problems with their coverage teams this season, as opponents outgained them on both punt and kickoff returns. After a disastrous season in 2012, Mason Crosby had a huge bounce-back season as he made 33-of-37 FG attempts.
The Packers are flying high after getting Rodgers back and defeating the Bears in Week 17 to win the division, but they may not have the athleticism or power to hold off the 49ers despite their homefield advantage. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor