The Green Bay Packers may have questioned why they must travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers tomorrow—after all, were it not for the infamous “Fail Mary” play against the Seattle Seahawks early in the season, the Packers would have been the second seed and had a bye week last week.
However, the Packers were in position for that bye entering the last week of the regular season, but relinquished the second seed in the NFC by virtue of their loss to the Minnesota Vikings and the 49ers’ victory.
Regardless of what road each team traveled to get where we are today, however, the Packers and 49ers will be facing each other in San Francisco tomorrow night, two teams that bring to the table very different strengths and weaknesses.
Comparing quarterbacks between the Packers and the 49ers is really no contest. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, indisputably one of the top five players at his position. He was the MVP last season and the Super Bowl MVP in the Super Bowl two years ago. Meanwhile, he threw for 4300 yards and 39 touchdowns in 2012.
The 49ers, meanwhile, made an unorthodox quarterback change midseason, benching the conservative Alex Smith in favor of the raw but more versatile sophomore Colin Kaepernick.
In seven starts, Kaepernick threw for 10 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, while also rushing for two touchdowns. Before he was given the starting job, however, he ran a bit of the wildcat offense, scoring another three touchdowns.
On the other hand, the 49ers have arguable the best offensive line in football, which powers running back Frank Gore to large run totals. This season, he ran for 1214 yards at 4.7 yards per carry. If the 49ers can get Gore moving early in this game against the Packers’ at mediocre defense, Green Bay may have to play from behind.
Defensively, the 49ers gave up just 17 points per game during the season while allowing just a 33% success rate on third down conversion opportunities. On the other hand, the Packers have been getting healthier on defense, with Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, and a number of players in the secondary returning to health at the right time.
The deciding factor, however, may be how much pressure the 49ers can put on Rodgers. The Packers do not have one of the better offensive lines in football, allowing Rodgers to be sacked 51 times. Second year linebacker Aldon Smith had 19.5 sacks by himself.
If the 49ers can consistently pressure Rodgers, look for San Francisco to advance to the NFC Championship. If not, Rodgers and his impressive receivers will pave the way to victory.
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