Packers v 49ers: Week 12 Matchup

Aaron breaks down both sides of the ball in his preview of Sunday's showdown with the 49ers.

Fresh off their bye week, the Packers head to Santa Clara and Levis Stadium as Matt LaFleur's squad hopes for a better showing this time around after laying a massive egg on their last West Coast trip. 

Here's a look at what to expect from both sides of the ball and my sure-to-be-incorrect call on who wins the game. 

When The 49ers Have The Ball:

49ers head coach and play caller Kyle Shanahan is one of the more innovative offensive minds in the league and does a great job week in and week out attacking what he sees on his opponents defensive film. 

With running back Matt Brieda unlikely to play due to an ankle injury. expect a healthy dose of Tevin Coleman. He hasn't been incredibly productive as of late, but the Packers run defense, at least the pre-bye week version, presents a perfect Get Right opportunity. 

I've been pretty vocal this week about the need for the defense to start dictating things rather than being dictated to on early downs. Going back and watching all this years games again, I was struck by how static and passive the defense was on 1st and 2nd down. 

Last week, the Cardinals had some success with sending heavy pressure to stunt the 49ers run game and Mike Pettine was asked about it. His response doesn't bode well for my wishes, with his acknowledging that while effective, the Cardinals strategy was very risky. (Indeed, a heavy pressure call toward the end of the game came back to bite them badly.)

The big issue for Pettine and the defense, of course, is the expected return of tight end George Kittle. The Packers have been abysmal when trying to defend the position all year, including allowing a turn-back-the-clock performance from Greg Olsen two weeks ago, after the veteran had done little to nothing for over a month before pulling in eight catches for 98 yards. 

Kittle is the complete package and arguably the best tight end in the game. He's going to be a problem in any number of ways, but my biggest worry is after he has the ball in his hands. The 49ers are going to get him the football, no doubt. The key is limiting the impact he has after the catch, because there is a lot of tape out there of Kittle just plowing through dudes on his way past the first down marker and into the endzone. I'd expect bracket coverage with Amos and Martinez from time to time, but you can bet Pettine will rotate coverages a lot in an attempt to keep Shanahan guessing and not giving him easy outlets to get his outstanding offensive weapon the ball. 

In general, the 49ers try to keep the reads defined for Jimmy Garoppolo. Fortunately for the Packers, the young QB has a noticeably bad habit of locking in on initial reads. If they can get some quick pressure, they will undoubtedly force a few errant throws. The key will be capitalizing on the gifts that Garoppolo will surely offer up. 

When The Packers Have The Ball

The Packers have done a great job getting to this point of the season while splitting time between Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. 

Now, it's time to unleash Jones. 

While still a formidable unit, the 49ers defense has been dealing with a steady stream of injuries. From a torn pec for linebacker Kwon Alexander, to an ACL injury for nickel edge rusher Ronald Blair to a hamstring injury for pass rusher Dee Ford, San Francisco has been allowing nearly 5 yards a carry to opposing running backs over the last seven games

Nick Bosa and company can absolutely wreck things in obvious passing downs. The best way to limit the damage a great pass rush can do is to run right at it, which is exactly what I expect from LaFleur. 

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh likes to play things pretty straight up, mostly because he knows he can trust his front four to take care of things without needing to commit extra bodies against the run or the pass. 

The last time around facing this kind of defense, in Los Angeles against the Chargers, the Packers shot themselves in the foot so early and often they never had a chance to utilize the ground game as a way of controlling the tempo of the game. 

I expect things to be different this time around, mostly because I expect a locked-in Packers team to show up at Levis Stadium on Sunday night. 

My one true hope is that the Packers get the running game going to a point where Saleh is forced into a single-high safety look, if even just for one first down. 

If that happens, I fully expect Rodgers to give Davante Adams a look and for Adams to put Richard Sherman in a blender.

Enough Already, Who Wins?

Both of these teams do a good job taking the football away. The Packers do a better job taking care of it. 

My hunch is that's difference in this game, with an oportunistic Packers defense taking its lumps, but creating one big turnover that gets Aaron Rodgers the chance he needs to put up some more points. 

It'll be tough, it'll be close - but give me the Packers. 

Packers: 30

49ers: 27

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Comments (7)

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Bearmeat's picture

November 22, 2019 at 03:58 pm

LOVE IT. This is championship football in a nutshell. Who wins? No one really can predict. This team is better at winning tight contests than any Green Bay team since 2010, and 2007 before that. Kittle scares the hell out of me, and I don't trust our defense to stop a nosebleed regularly. But they do stiffen up in the red zone and take the ball away, and with Grop throwing up an occasional floater, that should be enough.

True Super Bowl Contenders win tough games on the road more often than not. Then again, True Super Bowl Contenders also defend their home field. Which team has the edge to get to February Football right now? Who knows, but my guess:

GB 27
SF 24

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flackcatcher's picture

November 22, 2019 at 07:32 pm

WORKS FOR ME!!

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Lphill's picture

November 22, 2019 at 07:40 pm

If the Packers first possession is successful and Rodgers is Smiling on the field The Packers will win . If they are sloppy they lose.

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splitpea1's picture

November 22, 2019 at 08:14 pm

None of the national pundits seem to like our chances in this game. The brilliant Keith Olbermann noted that Rodgers is 0-6 in his career against teams that were eight games over .500. I guess he forgot to check the playoff history.

No matter what anybody thinks of the job Pettine has done lately, I would be shocked to see him do anything as stupid as the blitz near the end of the game you were referring to.

Naturally I would love to see the Packers win, but the rest of the schedule is more important--especially Minnesota. That's when we need to be in top form.

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Flow49's picture

November 23, 2019 at 10:41 pm

Green and Gold is going to be represented well tomorrow. Lots of Packers gear at fisherman’s Wharf today. Was at the Cowboys game earlier this year hopefully we can have a similar result!

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flackcatcher's picture

November 24, 2019 at 12:16 am

This is a tough game to call. One, both teams are just digging themselves out after some awful years on the football field. Two, it's Shanahan, either his teams are good, or they are bad (Cleveland level bad) no inbetween with this guy. Three, how the 49ers respond to key and core player injury for this game. Last week, they did not do well, so I expect that like every pro team they have made adjustments, that is an unknown. Time for the short FLACKY! (OK it's never short..) Offense: 49ers got Kittle, he's going to get his. Key is yards after catch. The rest of the 49ers passing game depends on the run off play action. No run, no play action, the Smiths feast on breast of Jimmy all night long. (munch munch munch...) In many ways the Packers and 49 offense mirror each other, for both clubs depends on play of the offensive line and run game for the play action to be effective. My gut says the Packers veteran O line wins the battle inside letting Williams and Jones run hard between the tackles. Rodgers must be careful not to freelance much this game. Being on time and schedule will more than likely determine the success of the passing game on Sunday night. Defense: 49ers play cover three and drop their backers into coverage 10-15 yards beyond the LOS. There is very little space for the 30+ deep shots Rodgers likes to take. Their front four is very good at plugin the gaps and limiting yards. As with the 49ers, no run means no pass with the 49ers coming on stunts/dogs/blitzes and a very long day eating grass for Rodgers. Packers have Campbell back, which means the return of the 3-3-5. (Yeah baby) Look for Campbell taking on Kittle in the weakside with some over the top help early on, and the Smiths working the LOS which should free up Clarke and put pressure on the 49ers run game and hurt the 49ers in their play action passing game. Question is will the Packers play man defense, or will they shift to a more 2 high zone coverage to squeeze the 49ers long pass game. Packers DB do overmatch the 49ers WR, but does Pettine want the risk of a long gain in a away game. Unknown at this point. Special teams: Kicking has been fine overall. While there has been a bit of a fall off in JK Scott's punting, the Packers have said it's more of what they were asking Scott to do than any technique issue. Mason Crosby is money. (Which Gute will be paying him next year. heh heh heh...) Return and coverage units: UGH!!!!!!!! (I pray for their success. ) Look,to be serious for a moment. The failure of both units lies in that neither are very good. This is the curse of rebuilding, while the Packers have a good core, there is very little depth behind those units. (ILB is a glaring example) Building depth with talent and not camp bodies takes two to three years, and that's hoping your core units do not suffer major injuries like what happen to the secondary from 2016-2018. Even great coaches like Pettine can do little without the talent to work with. Enough said. Score: Tough game, Packers win 28-17. (STILL TOO LONG CAP LEVEL TOO HIGH...... HEH HEH HEH :-)

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aljohn_w@yahoo.com's picture

November 24, 2019 at 07:45 pm

Having no number 2 receiver is going to cost in this game .

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