Packers Seek Retribution At Home Against 49ers - Wild Card 2013

Published: Jan 04, 2014 19:42pm EST
By epolnoff, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Jan 04, 2014 @ 07:42pm EST

 

Sunday evening marks the fourth meeting in two years for the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers and, to some, it’s starting to feel like a divisional rivalry. This weekend’s matchup will be the pair’s first game at Lambeau since September 9th, 2012. That was a beautiful day in Green Bay: 72 degrees with little wind and low humidity; A far cry from the expectations of the upcoming game where we’ll be looking at a partly cloudy sky, a day-long high of three degrees with a low of -20 and the sun goes down at 4:27 pm. Expect -5 degree temperatures before kickoff.

With the weather playing 12th-Man for the Packers, the 49ers will have their hands full on Sunday. Though they’ve bested the Pack three games in a row with two different men under center, there are a number of factors at play here that need to be taken into consideration:

 

Quarterback play: Edge Packers.

This will be Aaron Rodgers second game back on the field after missing nearly half the season, suffering a broken collar bone against Chicago in week 9. Despite missing seven games, Rodgers put up a respectable 2,536 yard, 17 touchdown, six interception season, averaging 281.8 yards per game, good for 5th in the league. Coming off of his 318 yard, two touchdown performance in division-clinching retribution over the Bears, Rodgers seems to have shaken off what little rust he had. Throw in Randall Cobb making his triumphant return and Jordy Nelson playing like Jordy Nelson, Rodgers is poised to go big in the playoffs.

Colin Kaepernick finished out his full 2013 season with 3,197 yards; 20th in the league and barely beating out Rodgers by 661 yards. He tacked on 21 passing touchdowns and turned the ball over 12 times, finding himself ranked 9th in yards per attempt at 7.7. His Green Bay counterpart sits at 8.7 YPA, good for 2nd best behind Philadelphia phenom, Nick Foles. While Kaepernick’s escapability and pocket presence have always been a point of pride for 49er fans and sports pundits, his 39 sacks this year tie him with Eli Manning and former 49er front man, Alex Smith, for 11th most sacked quarterback this season. His run game has also seen a drop in production from last year, with a measly 109-yard gain over last year’s total, while starting nine additional games.

 

Running Back play: Edge 49ers.

The running tandem of Eddie Lacy and James Starks has been a blessing to this beat up Packers offense. Lacy has just completed an incredible rookie year running for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns and tacking on an additional 257 yards through the air. Did I mention he missed two games due to a concussion? In 14 full games, Eddie Lacy has been the backfield powerhouse that the Packers need to compliment their deadly passing attack. When No. 27 went down in the 2nd game of the season, it was Starks who stepped in and made his mark on the Redskins. Rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown. Settling into his change-of-pace role, he ran for 493 yards and three touchdowns with a 5.5 yard-per-carry average. This is a very different running game than San Francisco saw in week 1. Look for the Lacy/Starks duo looks to kick the 49ers in the teeth early.

Frank Gore is a perennial stat machine and this season has been no different. With 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns this season, Gore is the central cog of this 49ers offense. Kendall Hunter, with 358 yards and three touchdowns of his own, comes in as an adequate change-of-pace back and to spell Frank Gore after long runs. The 49ers will rely heavily on their backs in the frigid cold and the Packers 3-4 front will need some help from backups with Clay Matthews out after reinjuring his thumb and Johnny Jolly, the Packers best run stopper, out after injuring his neck in week 15.

 

Receiver/Tight End play: Edge Packers.

The Packers could arguably have the most depth at wide receiver out of any team in the league. Jordy Nelson put up a career high 1,314 yards this season along with eight touchdowns. James Jones has been a stalwart fixture on this Green Bay offense, adding 817 yards and three touchdowns of his own this season and Randall Cobb, though he went down in week six with a broken leg, managed to bring 433 yards and four touchdowns to the table. The surprise this season is the man who stepped up when the Packers lost Cobb, undrafted free agent, Jarrett Boykin. Boykin caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns from four different quarterbacks this season (Rodgers, Wallace, Tolzien, and Flynn). Look for the Packers to utilize this depth at receiver on quick slants and short sideline routes to spread out the 49ers defense and open up the middle for Eddie Lacy.

With Michael Crabtree back in the fold for San Francisco, they finally have a quality receiver to compliment Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin. Crabtree, who had an 1,105 yard, nine touchdown season in 2012, played in only five games this season, putting together 284 yards and one touchdown. He’ll be the variable that matters the most in the 49ers passing game, whether it be in his personal stats or simply taking attention off of Anquan Boldin. Luckily for the Packers, in sub-zero temperatures, short and intermediate routes will be the norm.

 

Defensive play: Edge 49ers.

Defense. This is what it comes down to. On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers are decimated. With players like OLB Clay Matthews and DE Johnny Jolly out for this game, three more LB’s on injured reserve, and their brothers in the trenches, LB’s Nick Perry, Mike Neal and Brad Jones, and DT Ryan Pickett nursing some serious injuries, the Packers will adopt and own a very familiar “next man up” mentality. Along with injuries to their starting front seven, the Pack lost last years Rookie of the Year Candidate, Casey Hayward, and big bodied undrafted free agent, James Nixon, to hamstring and knee injuries, respectively. The Green and Gold will need rookie CB Micah Hyde to continue his ascent to the top of the depth chart and look for S Sean Richardson to get the start over his 3rd year counterpart, S M.D. Jennings.

There’s no denying San Francisco has an incredible defense. Anchored by LB’s Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the 49ers defense ranks 5th in average yards allowed (316.9 YPG), tied for 7th in yards per carry (3.9 average), and allowed the 7th fewest passing yards in the league (3,536 yards). They will be missing Carlos Rogers, who accounts for two Interceptions and 39 tackles this year. The 49ers will look to Tramaine Brock and Tarell Brown to hold down the secondary in Rogers absence. Brock, who allowed 46 receptions for 668 yards this season, averages an allowed 55.67 yards and 0.4 touchdowns per game. Brown, on the other side, allowed 42 receptions and 522 yards of his own, averaging 40.1 yards and 0.23 touchdowns of his own. Look for the Packers to target this pair to move the chains and set up the Lacy/Starks duo for big gains on the ground.

There are an incredible number of 49er homers and “professional” pundits talking about how this game should be a lock for the 49ers and how the 8-7-1 Packers don’t even belong in the playoffs. This Packers team was 5-2 before Aaron Rodgers went down and if San Francisco doesn’t respect this newly balanced offense, they’re going to get burned. Look for Aaron Rodgers and the underrated Green Bay Packers to pull out the upset at home.


Packers:  27      49ers:  23


 

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