By TPR Staff

As the divisional round of the playoffs liftoff this Saturday evening, we’ll be getting the exact match up I thought we would a few weeks ago; only the venue will be different. I thought the Pack had the second seed wrapped up, but instead they’ll travel with the third seed in better weather conditions to face the team that got the second seed in the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park.

Green Bay Packers (3) @ San Francisco 49ers (2)

 When these two teams met in the season opener, many predicted that we’d be seeing them again come January.  But things are quite a bit different now than they were in the Niners 30-22 victory in Lambeau. The Green Bay offense is clicking now and they entered the postseason playing much better ball than San Francisco.

But the most glaringly obvious change is at quarterback for the Niners. In their week one victory, Alex Smith was behind center and had a decent game throwing two touchdowns with no interceptions and was simply a field general enough for the defense to make plays and carry them home. Now they’re running with Colin Kaepernick.

When the change was made at quarterback, I was one of the ones who suggested that while it wasn’t a surprising move, I’m not so sure I would have made it. Benching a guy who has been that consistent for you due to injury seems low and when you’re in “win now” mode, I’m not so sure putting in a green quarterback this late in the year is the best option.

However, Kaepernick has played well enough for the Niners to go 5-2 down the stretch with him under center. During those seven starts, he threw for ten touchdowns and had a rating of 100.4 while rushing for 237 yards and two scores. Kaepernick is capable and while I’m not the biggest believer of Alex Smith, I just prefer to go with the veteran guy at this stage and it feels like Harbaugh is playing with fire here.

For the Packers, their offense has been as explosive as ever since their sluggish 2-3 start to the season. Since then they’ve reeled off ten wins in the last twelve, including last week, and have scored under 24 points only twice. basically  if you aren’t the New York Giants, you haven’t really been able to slow down Aaron Rodgers and even as good as this Niners defense is, it’s hard to think they’ll stop him.

The achilles heel for the Packers all season has been their poor rushing defense. Adrian Peterson, while he has destroyed pretty much everyone, ran for over 400 yards in two regular season contests against them. To think they won’t see a healthy dose of Frank Gore this weekend would be wishful thinking.

It was another 1,200 yard rushing season for Gore  who continues to be one of the most consistent runners in the league. Pounding the ground and eating up the time of possession will be the key to this game. Keeping MVP Aaron Rodgers with minimal snaps is ideal to keep the San Francisco defense fresh so that they can play to the level they did most of the season.

This is a hard game to figure, as it is arguably the two best teams in the conference. With normal weather conditions expected, it’s hard to give to much of a home field advantage lock to San Francisco other than noise, which Rodgers seems immune to. Can the Niners defense get off the field on third and long? That’s how they beat teams all season and they’ll need to be successful at it to make it to their second consecutive NFC Championship game.

For the Packers, their defense has to find a way at slowing down Frank Gore and forcing the young Kaepernick into poor decisions. He can take off with the ball, too, so they can’t just bring the heat every play with Clay Matthews. Their game plan against Peterson last week should be implemented here as well. If they can make Kaepernick be the one that beats them, I’ll have to stick with my original Super Bowl pick, and the quarterback with playoff experience, and roll with the Packers to get the last laugh for their week one loss.

Packers 27 49ers 21

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