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Looking Ahead to San Francisco

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Looking Ahead to San Francisco

Like all NFL clubs, the Packers have strengths, flaws and question marks. A closer look at those advantages, imperfections and uncertainties provides a glimpse into the chances of the Packers winning their second Super Bowl in the past three seasons.

Positives

Sam Shields and Charles Woodson are both healthy and playing dominant football. Bouncing back after a lackluster 2011 season, Shields’ star has risen dramatically. During Saturday’s playoff victory over the Vikings, he pulled in an interception and posted a team-high seven tackles.

Charles Woodson returned from a collarbone injury that kept him out for most of the season. Despite the absence, it didn’t take long for Woodson to make his presence known. Seemingly in or around every play, the leader of the Packers’ locker room lifted the defense – both physically and metaphorically – and gave the unit the spark they needed to be dominant.

The culmination of individual players peaking and the defense steadily improving led Aaron Rodgers to claim his defense is playing at a “championship level” in a post-game interview. Whether or not Rodgers’ proclamation proves true or not remains to be seen, but if Rodgers continues his superb play, he may not need a championship defense.

The Packers quarterback is in the prime of his career and has some of the best pass catchers in the game at his disposal. Add in the emergence of running back DuJuan Harris and Rodgers’ return path to the Super Bowl is beginning to take shape.

Negatives

The 49ers destroyed the Packers in Week One of the regular season. The final score was much closer than the actual game, and the Packers were outplayed and out coached.

Two completely different teams will take the field on Saturday at Candlestick Park, but Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff will need to perform at a much higher-level to escape San Francisco with a victory.

In addition to being well coached, the 49ers execute their game plan very well. Frank Gore is a talented back who will test the Packers’ linebackers and the 49ers' defense plays fast and delivers unforgiving hits.

If the Packers are able to get off to a fast start on Saturday evening – something that has eluded the offense on many occasions this year – the team should be able to equalize San Francisco’s rushing attack. Green Bay is capable of coming back from behind but a slow start makes matters much more difficult for both the offense and the defense.

The Packers will need to be at the top of their game in every aspect – coaching and execution – if they expect to move on to the NFC Championship Game.

Question Marks

A season long question mark, Mason Crosby seems to have regained his form as of late. The sixth-year kicker has converted his last five field-goal attempts and appears to have recaptured the swagger that led the Packers to spend a sixth-round draft choice on the kicker back in 2007.

Crosby’s missteps this season have not derailed the Packers, but the stakes are elevated in postseason football. Mike McCarthy’s decision to stay with Crosby all year could pay dividends or it could spell defeat.

Aside from the final regular-season game in Minnesota, the Packers defense has played extremely well in final month of the season.

The question remains, however, which defense will show up in San Francisco? The unit that allowed Adrian Peterson to run for almost 200 yards and Christian Ponder to throw for three touchdowns or the group that stymied Jay Cutler and Matt Forte?

Perhaps more important than kickers and defensive play is the turnover battle. The second most important statistic in almost every game, the team that creates more turnovers usually wins.

Fortunately for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers and the offense rarely turn the ball over. Unfortunately for the Packers, neither do the 49ers. Both teams gave away the ball 16 times this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers created 23 turnovers and the 49ers fashioned 25. Relatively mistake-free football has been an asset to both teams this season.

Playing clean, efficient football helped both the Packers and 49ers claim 11 wins during the regular season. The team that continues that trend will likely come out victorious on Saturday.

 

Max Ginsberg is a regular contributor at CheeseheadTV and aside from his love for the Green Bay Packers, enjoys long walks on the beach, sunsets and candlelight dinners. When he is not endlessly chasing around his extremely active toddler, he can found relaxing on his couch watching football, reading tweets @MaxGinsberg or checking his email at maxginsberg[at]yahoo.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (85) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Joe packer's picture

I'm cautiously nervous about this game.

Evan's picture

It's going to be a tough game, no doubt, but the Packers are absolutely capable of beating this team.

The Packers are playing their best football of the season right now. The same cant be said of the 49ers.

Also, the absence of Justin Smith on the 49ers D and the absence of Jarret Bush on the Packers D is a huge advantage: Packers.

jack in jersey city's picture

is justin smith out for sure?

Derek's picture

I read Justin Smith returned to practice and is limited. We should expect him, just not 100%

packsmack25's picture

This sounds terrible, but whichever interior lineman draws Justin Smith should absolutely test the stability of his elbow on every play.

Drealyn's picture

It doesn't sound horrible. That's football. Playoff football at that.

PackersRS's picture

Yeah, if only the Packers were clearly superior than the 49ers and wouldn't benefit immensely by his absence.

Justin Smith being limited is a blessing that I will take any day of the week. No ill will towards him, after this game.

PackerBacker's picture

I think playing the Vikings will help some also. They will have to maintain the gap discipline they learned against AP and Webb if they are going to beat Gore and Kaepernick.

bryce's picture

Agree.

Devil Doc's picture

SF defense was exploited big time when they almost gave away the game this year in NE, and I think the Packers have significantly better offense than NE. The Pack was able to keep Peterson under 100, the same needs to happen with Gore, who to me is clearly not as talented. I think they have to get to Kaepernick early, get him out of any type of rethym, exploiting his inexperience in his first playoff game (as a starter).

I was nervous on opening day when they played, but I'm much more confident this time around.

Packers 34
49ers 30

GO PACK GO!!

bryce's picture

It'll be a one or two point game, in my opinion.

MarkinMadison's picture

Interesting read from the other side's point of view. Synopsis: Gore having a harder time running now that the 49ers have gone with Kaepernick, and away from his preferred power running sets. Puts more of the game on Kaepernick. Kaepernick v. Rodgers is not where the 49ers want this game to be.

http://blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami/2013/01/06/kaepernick-vs-rodgers-4...

Evan's picture

It's funny when you put in terms like that. We, as Packer fans, always stress ourselves out over facing AP or Frank Gore or Megatron or whoever. But we never really stop to think about what it must be like to have Aaron Rodgers coming to town.

Pack Fan in ATL's picture

Yea... I just read the article and all the comments there. Very interesting reads. That fan base is still divided on the Smith v Kaepernick move and if... when they lose this game, Harbaugh will have a rough offseason defending the choice.

brando's picture

Haha, true!

Kparis99's picture

I remember crapping myself with worry over the giants coming to town last year. I was right to worry. Lets hope they were right to worry this year.

Derek's picture

It will be a very close game. One thing that stands out to me is Crosby. I think he's fixed some mechanical flaw. The ball is now flying pretty straight, before it was wiggling and wobbling and going all over. I feel a bit better now if the game comes down to a FG.

I don't think it will be high scoring, with lots of punting. Packers win 21-17.

Ruppert's picture

Isn't Justin Smith going to play this weekend? If so, let's hope his hurt arm affects his performance.

Either team can win this game. It's a great matchup. I really think that we win if we can keep Rodgers relatively clean.

hayward4president's picture

Lots of punting. Two great defenses. I feel bad for D Harris because I see him getting maybe 30 or 40 yrds on the ground against this crazy D. Pack wins a close one 21 20. Go pack go!

Derek's picture

At least now MM has shown that he will run screens. Both Grant and Harris run them well, which is great asset with you have a up the field pass rusher like Aldon Smith. They'll screen to his side at least twice this game. Aldon Smith's pass rush is what I'm worried about the most in this game. Must chip to his side this game.

lebowski's picture

Too bad these teams play eachother a week early, they're the two best in the NFC

cow42's picture

which team has the better offensive line?
which team has the better defensive line?

SF OL > GB DL/LB

SF DL/LB > GB OL

i understand you are all Packer fans (contrary to popular belief - so am I) but it really is this simple.

I will be surprised if the Packers are within 2 scores at the end.

razzicc's picture

A smiley for you, my friend. Cheer up!

:)

Mani's picture

Vikings OL > pack DL
PACKS OL < Vikes DL
Vikings win? Simple as that

PackersRS's picture

If only the game was played solely by offensive and defensive linemen...

There's this one position that kind of matters called quarter back...

cow42's picture

....who is powerless when on his back....

PackersRS's picture

http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/id/87762/where-playoff-teams-rank...

http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/id/87755/where-playoff-teams-rank...

What's that? The 49ers get sacked more per attempt than the Packers? And the Packers D sacks more per attempt than the 49ers???

Kevin VG's picture

Burn!!!!!

Mani's picture

Rodgers moves around as good as any qb in nfl. He is the best qb under pressure and doesnt make mistakes. We will screen and dump passes to our backs to get them out of two safety look/ cover 2. Then burn them over the top in single coverage. If Pats and Seahawks can put points on them. So can we!

Drealyn's picture

After I seen the 49ers give up 24 points in a **4th** quarter I no longer feared them as much as I once did.

Burt Fervor's picture

I'm beginning to think that nimrod is not a troll or non-Packer backer, but rather a firm believer in the Anti-Jinx. He believes that expressing pessimism will result in GB wins, and I am now interpreting his posts in such a manner.

Therefore, cow, thank you for your misguided efforts in ensuring our continued success.

ted, of bill and ted's picture

it really isn't that simple...this isn't madden man any given sunday guys can show up or disappear. i'm not saying the whole sf o line shows up and is terrible, i'm just suggesting that maybe their left guard (insert name here, i don't know sf's o line well enough to name drop) fucks up twice, and cj wilson just happens to be right place right time and gets 2 important sacks out of it. football is such a complex game, there is no way you can boil it down to just "these guy's lines look better on paper, game over". personally, i agree that overall sf probably has better lines. however, i think the packer's lines are good enough that if sf slips (which they have before and most certainly could again) we will be there to capitalize.

go pack!

Drealyn's picture

Exactly. They're very beatable.

cow42's picture

not by this Packer team.

they just are not REALLY good at anything.
and they're REALLY bad at a couple of things.

SF is REALLY good at a couple of things and PRETTY good at everything else.

PackersRS's picture

If moderators would be so kind to approve my pending post, I'd show you that the Packers are actually BETTER than the 49ers both at getting sacks and at protecting their QB, in a matter of sacks per attempt...

zeke's picture

I smell troll.

murphy's picture

"i understand you are all Packer fans (contrary to popular belief – so am I)"

Please define what being a "fan" means. I'm actually curious.

cow42's picture

someone who follows a team and hopes they win is a fan.

Kparis99's picture

You don't hope the Packers win. You only hope the outcome of the game proves your point. Prove that you feel different and someone may believe you are a Packers fan.

jeremy's picture

cow42, do you EVER feel the Packers will win?

cow42's picture

i was pretty sure they would beat the Titans.

jeremy's picture

The Packers were favored by almost 2 TD's in that game, and still beat the spread by a factor of four.

Are you even a Packer Fan? What benefit do get out of being so negative?

jay's picture

a buddy of mine said does, cow42 mean "coward"? Idk, he brought it up hahah...

murphy's picture

December 21, 2012 at 5:50 am
cow42 says:

"It will be a one score game.
Packers are not good enough to blow anyone out."

December 21, 2012 at 5:57 am
cow42 says:

"Oh – and the 49?ers will NOT lose to Seattle.
They are far and away the better team."

:)

To be fair, I can't actually find any evidence that you picked for or against the Packers vs. the Titans. I didn't look very hard.

SHODAN's picture

A valiant effort, but I don't think you should expect a (reasoned, non-rationalizing) response.

David's picture

Let's enjoy this game because it will be a battle. Hopefully we can come out with the win and ?cheer? for seattle to beat the falcons so we can have one last showdown on our turf. #inacuraterepetion.

KC Big DOG's picture

J. Smith will be back for the game - no one knows how effective he will be with the tricep injury. A. Smith and the whole SF Def is more effective with him out there. SF is the physical type of team that gives the Packers fits! I do think the Packers are a totally different team from week 1 - especially since Bush has not seen the field other than for SP in a long time - that is always a good thing. I think the game comes down to whether or not A-Rod remains patient and takes the check-downs to the RB, run some screens and gets the ball out quickly! Plus SF won't have the replacement Refs letting their O-line move three seconds before the ball is snapped or mugging our WRs down field. I think it is a close game.....not ready to make a prediction just yet.

PackersRS's picture

Don't count on the refs protecting the receivers... They almost never call PI in the playoffs, unless it's blalant.

What does give the Packers an advantage over week 1 is the tempo of the game. Teams could not run no huddle with the replacement, they took too long to position the ball. It won't be the case next saturday. And the Packers excel when running it.

packsmack25's picture

Two things people will forget about the first game:

1. The Packers decided to run a lot of no-huddle, and this was the first real game action in which they used it. They had several offensive line penalties as a result.

2. Greg Jennings was injured early on, making him a non-factor. He has always been a cover 2 killer for the Packers, and when he's not right, it's much tougher for us to get chunks of yards against teams throwing 2-man at us.

Throw in the fact that defensively there will no longer be Bush starting and rookies starting their first games, and you are looking at a VERY different contest this time around.

Evan's picture

And even though Cobb did have a good game, his role in the offense hadn't been fully realized yet.

Drealyn's picture

Throw in the fact that the Packers only rushed 1 RB. Who isn't quick/shifty.

packsmack25's picture

Also, I disagree with the statement that the Niners "destroyed" the Packers. It was mostly a one score game throughout, and the stats show that the only real difference was the one turnover for the Packers. The Giants destroyed the Packers. The Niners just outlasted them.

cow42's picture

go back and watch the game.
Packers got pushed around.
a punt return kept the score respectable.

A-rodg's Mustache's picture

..totally agree cow. The packers did get pushed around and mostly dominated by a more physical 9er team. and the punt return that kept them in it was aided by a blatant illigal block in the back.
..but this is a different Packer team. Comming into the season we(the fans) figured it would be the "AR to the AIR" show. But now this team is way more dynamic on offense with a much improved (if only still repectable) running game. We have 2 maulers on the OL that were not there in week 1. And a defence that can make a few more plays as long as they continue this newfound tackling form. Add in the fact that this is Kaep's first playoff start and the question marks reguarding justin smith and we have a MUCH MORE interesting matchup.

I truly belive that the 9ers came to lambeau in week 1 to prove a point and they proved it. But that gave the packers a chance to know what they are up against and get a better understanding of their opponents will. I also truly belive that MM is the type of guy (like AR) that does his best work when slighted. MM needs to take the "nobodys underdog" approach and take the game plan from wild card weekend in philly in 2010. I would not all be surprised to see the inverted wishbone, the tight end screen, and a few other power wrinkles to make the 9er defence have to think for a second or 2. Cuple that with the fact that AR gets to go back home and stick it to the team that passed him up. The michael jordan in AR comes bubbling to the surface. I also see a 9er defence that got totally shredded (albeit in a win) by Drew Breese in last years playoffs. and is a different team with an ailing justin smith. All this makes for a very interesting week leading up to saturday night. Honestly with this group I either see a blowout in favor of the packers or an instant NFL classic. and we all know that the packers always get the short end of most instant NFL classics. I LOVE THIS GAME!

Kparis99's picture

I like this take.

Evan's picture

Great point I wanted to highlight:

@jaymelee1 In Week 1 vs. 9ers, Bush played 64% of the snaps on defense, since he's played an average of 4% of snaps/game. The Packers are a dif team.

THEMichaelRose's picture

That is so revealing. Having Hayward or Shields or whomever in there instead is a big change. Not to mention, the guys they'll be covering are not as good, with Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams out.
Dom needs to focus on covering Vernon Davis. Keep AJ Hawk off of him.

Derek's picture

And we are healthier than they are, which is a huge plus

cow42's picture

huh?

bishop
bulaga
smith
perry
etc...

Kparis99's picture

This is not a good argument.

Drealyn's picture

Being the crazy fan that I am. I was looking up the games where MM used 3-true RB's in games and I must say that the stats are good. I would just flip the leading carrier with Harris this go around. I would LOOOOOOOOVE to see 12-18 carries for Harris and 7-9 carries from both Alex Green and James Starks. Week 1,there was only 1 carrier. Who isn't a shifty runner. RB's who are quick/shifty can have success against the 49ers. Danny Woodhead,12 for 61 yds,Adrian Peterson,25 for 86 yds,Ahmad Bradshaw,27 for 116 yds,Marshawn Lynch,26 for 111 yds,Reggie Bush,14 for 65 yds,Daryl Richardson (Rams),7 for 58 yds. I'm just saying - there are plays to be made.

cow42's picture

if you're intimating that harris is "shifty", i have do disagree.
he runs hard.
he makes quick decisions.
he doesn't exactly make people miss... just kinda puts his head down and powers ahead.

do i like him? - yes.

i just don't think he's "shifty".

Drealyn's picture

Of course YOU would have to disagree. You're a funny person.

Kparis99's picture

Say something good about a Packers player. Just once. Do you like anyone on the team? What do you think about that Rodgers guy?

Mani's picture

The 49ers d is very similar to vikes. Their secondary benefits from LBs and DLine. Rarely do we ever hear about their dominant corners or safeties. Every time someone talks about niners. Its always Aldon smith and Patrick Willis. Pack now have balance. If we kept it close playing as bad as we did first game. We can blow this out of the water and make them one dimensional. Go Pack Go!

packsmack25's picture

They have both starting Pro Bowl safeties. And Carlos Rodgers is pretty good too. It is a good defense at every level. But this offense can score on anyone.

THEMichaelRose's picture

Agree. Never concerned that the Pack won't score. We can easily win games if Rodgers gets sacked 5,6,7 times. Just as long as we avoid the turnovers. That's one reason I don't get as mad at Rodgers for taking sacks as I used to. A lot of guys would rush throws into coverage, maybe resulting in an INT.
If we protect the ball, we'll score enough. The outcome will be decided by what happens when SF has the ball.

Drealyn's picture

Well put,Rose.

cow42's picture

i AM concerned about them scoring.
this offense is less healthy than it was in week 1... a game where they only scored 15 offensive points.

they will not be able to run vs the 49'ers... that's pretty much a fact.

Rodgers is gonna have to make a lot of plays "off script" because he will have absolutely zero pocket and zero running game to protect him.

is he capable? yes. but he's going to have to have quite possibly his best game ever.

Ruppert's picture

You honestly think that Rodgers will really have "ZERO" pocket time and "ZERO" running game? You honestly think that Rodgers is merely "capable?" And you honestly think he HAS to have "quite possibly his best game ever" to come out of this with a win?

Holy hyperbole, Batman. You do realize that this "invincible" Niners team was 0-1-1 against the useless Rams, right?

There is much to be concerned about in this game. No doubt about it. IMO, this is the toughtest matchup for the Pack amongst the other remaining 7 playoff teams. This is the really the NFC Championship game IMO. But this is not David Packer against San Fran Goliath.

Justin Smith's injury is huge. At even 85% he is much more manageable. Colin Kaepernick's lack of experience in general, and playoff experience especially could very well doom the Niners even if the defense plays well (anybody remember Favre in Dallas '93, '94???). This fact should not be minimized.

The Niners kicking situation is a disaster worse than ours.

And this is the last intelligent response I intend to give to any of your asinine, purely negative, contribute-nothing-to-this-awesome-PACKERS-FAN-blog this week.

nimrod.

Kparis99's picture

Don't bother responding with intelligence.

PackersRS's picture

As long as they don't have their heads up their asses calling for run-run-7step drop and completely abandoning the screen and slants...

Lucas's picture

Hello, I'm Brazilian! Supporter of the Packers, and we go over the 49ers and will destroy them on Saturday!! GO PACK GO!

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

PackersRS is our token Brazilian... You gotsta go.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

JK, of course.

PackersRS's picture

Infelizmente, somente 1 brasileiro é permitido por site... ;)

Bem-vindo! Este (junto com JerseyAl.com) é o melhor site sobre os Packers que existe. O pessoal sabe muito e é geralmente amigável.

For the non-portuguese speaking, we're discussing cake recipes ;)

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

8-)

KurtMc's picture

Week 1 and week 18 are two vastly differently teams. This will be a different game.
Score early, limit Gore and make Kaepernick beat ya with throwing, not running.

It's gonna be a close game. lets enjoy the packer win and Seattle coming to Lambeau.

MichaelRose's picture

I'm not a fan of saying "hey this seemingly bad thing is actually a good thing", but I'm in the mindset that playing indoors, on turf, in Atlanta would be much preferable over playing host to Seattle in 10 degree weather. And it's not close. Seattle might be best team in the NFC.
But let's save that talk for next week. SF is going to be tough to beat. But Rodgers>>>Kaepernick. Let's get it.

Bugeater's picture

This game is why you root for your team all year - playoff football against a tough opponent for all the marbles! It's gonna be lots of fun folks!

Brian's picture

Question for everyone. If you're MM and you win the coin toss against SF, do you take the rock or defer? Is a "fast" start important or since our offense has struggled at the beginning of the game is deferring the smart thing to do? Also, do you go man on the receivers and blitz like crazy on passing downs since Kaep is essentially a rookie?

2 share owner's picture

I like getting the ball in the second and I love when Capers lets the dogs loose on third and long.

Go Pack!

Evan's picture

Always defer - gotta go for the double dip.

denniseckersley's picture

This Defense sucks playing from behind. MM needs to stop deferring

marcopo's picture

Football is such an easy game. Why make it so complicated. Unfortunately, we get most of our analysis from media experts who don't have the time or inclination to really go in depth. Stats are fine only if you go beneath the first couple of layers to discover trends and changes. Blah, Blah. Here's the real deal. If Tramon Williams, Brad Jones, and Erik Walden have a good game, the Packers win. Everything else will take care of it's self.

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