San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers
When: Sunday January 5 at 1:25pm PT/3:25pm CT
Where: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin
TV: FOX (National)
Northern/Central California: KTVU 2 San Francisco; KTXL 40 Sacramento; KMPH 26 Fresno; KCVU 20 Chico-Redding; KBVU 28 Eureka; KBFX 58 Bakersfield
Greater Wisconsin: WLUK 11 Green Bay; WITI 6 Milwaukee; WFXS 55 Wausau; WMSN 47 Madison
Announcers: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
A Tough Rematch- The San Francisco 49ers locked down the 5th seed in the NFC Playoff bracket last Sunday with a nail biting 23-20 win over the Cardinals in Glendale, Arizona. The 49ers will transition to the post season and in doing do will lose about 60 to 70 degrees in temperature as the site of their next game is in the “Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field” in Green Bay. The 49ers in their franchise history have never won a playoff game in Green Bay and will have quite the challenge ahead of them. Aaron Rogers returned to the Packers line up last week just in time to help Green Bay get into the post season with a come from behind win over the rival Chicago Bears. Rogers had missed eight weeks as Green Bay struggled through a 2-5-1 stretch before his return to the team. With Rogers at QB, the 49ers defense will have to be on the ball and have a solid game in order for the 49ers to win and advance to the divisional round. The 49ers offense led by QB Colin Kaepernick has the potential for explosiveness and with Green Bay’s defense rated in the lower third of the NFL in all major categories. Likewise the 49ers defense which rates in the top five in three of four defensive categories (and seventh in pass yards allowed) will have the daunting challenge of trying to keep Aaron Rogers and company at bay. To get to the playoffs certainly isn’t easy, and once you are in the playoffs things only get tougher and only the strongest survive (and advance). Both teams will challenge each other in a game that could be the best of the Wild Card Weekend.
Looking At The Pack- You might be tempted to ask yourself here “Hey, who let these guys into the post season?”. Well, that would be the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions who both staged colossal collapses, the Lions dropping their last four games while the Bears dropped their last two, including the winner take all game in Chicago Sunday. Now that the Packers are in the playoffs they have two things going for them in this game. For starters, they have Aaron Rogers back and most of the band back together. They also have house money, meaning if they lose they may be disappointed but then again they weren’t supposed to be here. They can go out and play ball and see where they chips fall. If they win they may not shock the world necessarily, but they will certainly become a Cinderella story in their own right. As for the Packers themselves they hardly need any introduction. Rogers has a wealth of receivers to throw to in Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarret Boyken, and San Jose State alum James Jones. Tight Ends Andrew Quarless, Jake Stonebruner give Rogers additional targets to get the ball to. Out of the backfield the Packers seem to be loaded with fullback John Kuhn as well as running backs James Starks, Kahlil Bell and if he’s able to go Eddie Lacy. The Packers despite their 8-7-1 regular season mark have an offense that rates in the top 10 for a reason. The 49ers defense will have their challenge before them for certain.
On defense the Packers have had a rough go of it this season as they rank 24th in points and yards allowed, and 25th in passing and rushing yards allowed. The 49ers if they can establish an effective ground game despite the frigid temperatures to complement a solid passing attack it could be a long afternoon for Green Bay. Clay Mathews Jr will be out of this game because of an injury sustained a few weeks ago. Despite missing one of their leaders A.J. Hawk with 118 tackles on the season still can wreak much havoc if able to get loose towards the quarterback. Tramon Williams, Morgan Burnett, Sam Sheilds and M.D. Jennings are amongst the Packers top players on defense and when on their game can be a lot to deal with.
What 49ers Need To Do- The 49ers certainly will have their hands full in this game as they are not only dealing with a Packers team that almost came back from the dead to make the playoffs, but a team that may realize they have little to lose here. They are also dealing with the coldest weather they have played in (for some players) in their entire playing careers. Green Bay in January is not a lot of fun and the 49ers need to be prepared for everything including the elements. The forecasted high for Green Bay Sunday is 7 degrees (fahrenheit). By contrast, the day before the game it will be a nice balmy 34 degrees. Look for the weatherman to play no favorite here. With this in mind, the question becomes can the 49ers adapt to the conditions and still play their game. It all depends on what decisions the team makes on both sides of the ball. On offense Kaepernick should be able to pass the ball providing his receiving corps can effectively run their routs. Anquan Boldin had a huge game versus Arizona last Sunday and will likely be the number one “Go To Guy” here. Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton will all provide Kaepernick with good targets as the weather may not improve the Packers defense chances of stopping the pass. As for the running game blocking up front is going to be key. If Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter are able to get going and more importantly hang on to the ball and keep their footing on the frozen field this could bode very well for the 49ers offense. The 49ers will need to avoid turnovers as you don’t want to give Rogers shorter fields. The 49ers also must change one thing from what happened in their game against the Cardinals last Sunday. The 49ers if they get to the red zone cannot be all about just field goals. As much as we can all appreciate Phil Dawson’s accuracy, the 49ers need to find and create ways to get into the end zone. If a field goal is needed at a key point in the game, Dawson will be there. He is no stranger to cold weather games spending his career in Cleveland before coming to the 49ers this past off season.
On defense the 49ers need to keep the Packers from being able to run the ball with any consistency and clamp down on Rogers from the get-go. This will be only Rogers' second game since coming back from a collar bone injury and though he is very good at what he does, he does not have the momentum built up that he would have had he played the full season. The 49ers can get the right people in the right places on defense. Though they will certainly have their hands full, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith and Justin Smith will have plenty to say about how the Packers do in this game. As for the Packers receiving corps, Donte Whitner, Trummaine Brock and Co. need to make sure that Rogers does not make “the big play’ and is able to contain and limit Rogers options down field.
Kingshark Line- There is a good argument for why each team can win this game. The Packers because they are home enter the game as the favorites. The 49ers to win need to brave the elements and find ways to effective move the ball and take care of it by making wise decisions throughout the contest. If the 49ers can overcome the cold they have a good chance to overcome the Packers as well. Green Bay however is not a team to be taken lightly. You can throw out their regular season record, the only thing that matters to the Packers now is that they are here and have a chance to come out of nowhere to make history. They will be highly motivated to do just that. They are also eyeing some pay back from last season when the 49ers beat them in the divisional round. If the 49ers defense holds strong, that will be the key. The good thing for the 49ers here is that they are playing good football and finding ways to win games no matter how close the outcome. This will be a close one too. 49ers 24 Packers 20.
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