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Packers vs. 49ers: Things You Could Watch and a Prediction

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Packers vs. 49ers: Things You Could Watch and a Prediction

Back-to-back playoff rematches for the Green Bay Packers (12-5) couldn't measure any further apart in familiarity.

In earning a spot in the NFC Divisional Round, the Packers had to beat the Minnesota Vikings just six days after losing to Minnesota in Week 17.

To earn a trip to the NFC Championship Game, Green Bay will have to beat the San Francisco 49ers—a team the Packers lost to 125 days earlier in the season opener, 30-22.

Football teams rarely change much in six days, although the Vikings did lose their starting quarterback between Week 17 and the Wild Card Round. With four months and three days in between, however, both Green Bay and San Francisco couldn't be any more different than the versions that faced off in Week 1.

Can the Packers avenge another regular-season loss despite the time gap? Or will the same script play out Saturday?

Below, we run down some things you could watch in the Divisional Round and a prediction.

Kaepernick vs. extra pressure

The Packers increased their sack total to a very respectable 47 this season, up 18 from 2011's disappointing 29. At least part of that bump can be attributed to Dom Capers' use of the blitz, which the Packers defensive coordinator called at a higher rate than just three teams this season. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Green Bay brought five or more rushers on 40 percent of the defensive snaps this season, good for fourth-most in the NFL.

Facing Colin Kaepernick instead of Alex Smith at quarterback likely means more blitzing from Capers. Whereas Smith completed almost 73 percent of his passes against the blitz this season (best in the NFL), Kaepernick finished under 57 percent and saw his total QBR drop by over 17 points when facing five or more rushers. With a young quarterback making his first playoff start, expect Capers to send even more blitzes than usual Saturday.

Old or new approach?

In the first meeting, Green Bay ended with just nine called running plays—a trend that almost certainly won't be replicated Saturday. But the idea of spreading out the 49ers and winning the game through the air—which Adam Czech at also wrote about this week—has a statistical foundation. Over the 31 plays in the opener in which the Packers had no running backs on the field, quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 21-of-28 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown. With one or two backs in the formation, Rodgers was just nine-of-16 for 74 yards and an interception.

Green Bay has become a much more physical offense since Week 1, and Mike McCarthy isn't likely to abandon the running game like he did in the first meeting. But getting Patrick Willis off the field (he played just 68 percent of the snaps in Week 1) by using the spread offense produced much better results in the opener that most realized.

Crabtree's emergence

Few teams are more physical in the run game as the 49ers, but don't count out San Francisco's ability to get the football into the hands of its top receiver, Michael Crabtree. Selected one pick after the Packers took B.J. Raji in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, Crabtree recorded his first 1,000-yard receiving season in 2012 and finally looked like the No. 1 option he was drafted to be.

Kaepernick has leaned heavily on the fourth-year receiver since taking over, and especially so over the last five games. Since the start of December, Crabtree averaged seven receptions on 11.2 targets and added 538 of his 1,105 total yards. With an emphasis on stopping the run, Packers cornerback Tramon Williams is likely going to draw a lot of man-to-man coverage on Crabtree Saturday. Green Bay needs their top cornerback to win a majority of those single coverages.

Matchup to Watch: Packers LT Marshall Newhouse vs. 49ers OLB Aldon Smith

With an undrafted rookie likely to have his hands full with Ahmad Brooks on the right side, Packers left tackle Marshall Newhouse will be expected to take on the NFC's sack leader one-on-one for a high number of snaps Saturday. Smith, who finished with 19.5 sacks, beat Newhouse for one in the season opener.

However, it's the 49ers' stunt pressures that both Newhouse and left guard T.J. Lang must be aware of Saturday. 49ers defensive end Justin Smith, who is expected to play despite a partially torn triceps, is one of the best in the business at pushing the left guard into the left tackle and creating an open lane for the outside linebacker. It's no coincidence that Aldon Smith didn't record a sack without Justin Smith in the lineup late this season. Facing two All-Pro-caliber players, Newhouse and Lang have to play a near perfect game on the left side to keep Rodgers upright Saturday.


The Packers have the highest-rated passer in NFL playoff history, while the 49ers are starting a second-year quarterback with zero playoff experience. That reality alone is enough to justify picking Green Bay on the road, where the Packers have blazed Super Bowl trips before. However, the 49ers are as physical as they come on both the offensive and defensive lines, and there's no substitute for being able to control a football game in the trenches. Rodgers should be terrific, but the Packers probably can't beat the 49ers in San Francisco without Kaepernick giving the ball away two or three times.

49ers 33, Packers 27 (Season record: 11-6)

Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (72) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Hofschneider's picture

My prediction is this: Who wins this, will win it all.

cow42's picture


SF 24
NE 17

Lou's picture

I also agree, the winner takes all. NE should never have been in the Super Bowl last year, with pressure Brady threw 2 interceptions (and 2 more that were wiped away with penalties). Lee Evans had the TD in his hands to put the Ravens in the big game (no word on him since ?). I believe Spy Gate goes a lot further than what was released, the Patriots are the Buckeyes of the NFL (most corrupt football programs in their leagues).

Evan's picture

Lot of weird, non-sequitur conspiracy theories going on here.

cow42's picture

the fact that the Packers will trot out a league MVP at qb while the 49'ers will be rolling with a qb who has started only 8 games in his career yet most people still believe the game could go either way illustrates just how vastly superior SF's overall roster is.

this game will be over early.

34-17 SF.

ohenry78's picture

Nope. Better run game + better pass defense = Packers victory. 28-20.

IowaPackFan's picture

Are you seriously saying the Packers running game is better than San Francisco? Are you for real?

CSS's picture

He's saying the Packers running game now is clicking better than the Packers running game then. He's comparing the Packers against the Packers. If not, he's clearly mad....

IowaPackFan's picture

Well that I can agree on. The problem is that the 49ers are a team built to beat the Packers. They're like the antidote for our poison. They can exploit all of our weaknesses, and can stifle or play around our strengths.

ohenry78's picture

Yup, what CSS said. The 49ers run game is clearly better than the Packers', but the Divisional Playoff Packers' run game is also way better than the Week 1 Packers' run game.

We shall see. I'm fairly confident in this game. It seems like MM and Capers have done a good job adjusting to failures this year. Given that the 49ers are mostly unchanged from week 1 except for Kaepernick, I think we're in for a Packers win.

PackersRS's picture

I'm sure by "roster" you mean "starters".

1 player goes down and they go from a 12,46 ppg defense to a 28,6 ppg.

The same player that will be limited tomorrow night...

And I'm pretty sure the QB is part of the roster. An important part.

Hofschneider's picture

Cow, why are you up so early. I'm from Germany and I'm bored at work, but what is your excuse?
(And no, this game will be decided in the 4th quarter, probably the in last possession.)

THEMichaelRose's picture

Im getting more confident about this game as the week goes on. The Packers are much better than they were in Week 1. That Week 1 version of the team started 2-3 remember? Some people didn't think they'd make the playoffs. I'm not confident the Niners have improved that much. The QB change was huge, but for better or worse? This team went to OT with St Louis twice. I'd rather it be Kaepernick trying to make plays against a defense which no longer features Jarrett Bush than ultra safe Alex Smith who won't turn it over.
I truly think it all comes down to Justin Smith. Because if he's not healthy, Aldon Smith won't produce. Hasn't had a sack in more than a month.

Last thought: Aaron Rodgers is really really good. Go Pack Go

THEMichaelRose's picture

I'm getting a little overconfident now. If you feel like getting overconfident too, check out today's ESPN Football Today Podcast with Ross Tucker and Matt Williamson. They really like Green Bay.

packsmack25's picture

The line has moved down to -2.5. Lines that small don' usually move this far from the kickoff. Seems a lot of people are taking the Packers.

CSS's picture

Almost 75% of the public bets are leaning towards the Packers. People apparently like Rodgers in a 'pick-em' game. The public are basically taking the Packers straight-up on that small of a spread. I wouldn't put a nickle on this game. I have an obvious cheering interest, but wouldn't place a bet.

THEMichaelRose's picture

Yeah 3 is a sticky number. Green Bay's always a public team, but it appears that bettors as a whole must be liking them.
Gotta think the longer there's uncertainty about Justin Smith, there's increasing uncertainty about the Niners.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

The Moneyline (straight up) cash is still pretty heavy on SF.

California Cheesehead's picture

I bet on the Pack to win. I wonder if that's the straight up you're talking about. They're +12 to win outright, so a hundo means $120 back. Sorry for my novice, I'm just now paying attention to betting having just moved to Cali where it seems to be commonplace.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Yeah, Moneyline is with no points... Just who's going to win. Looks like you're gonna have a little extra cash in your pocket this time tomorrow. Early congrats!

Beep's picture

Very disappointed "Crabtree's Emergence" was about Michael and not Tom...what a tease.

Franklin Hillside's picture

I know it was you, Zach. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!

CSS's picture

I would avoid fishing for a while, Zach. Should you have no choice, avoid the bow position yourself in the stern.

Denver's picture

And if the inevitable should come, Zach, a Hail Mary might help.

Evan's picture

My prediction?


Packers 24-20

jeremy's picture

YES! Clubber Lang would be right at home in this game. It's going to be a battle.

Evan's picture
A-rodg's Mustache's picture

I apoligize, This is going to be long but I love this game so let me take a crack at this prediction thingy...
First, the game in week 1 was so long ago, but after rewatching it that game was not nearly the domination revisionist history remembers it as. That game was 23-15 early in the fourth and the packers had A TON of momentum after a 9ers 3 and out. That game was lost for us by our messiah, AR. He threw his first pick and possibly his worst pick of the season at the worst possible time and it cost this team the win in week 1. I think we can all remember this team started 2-3 and AR was not nearly as sharp as he has been this last quarter of the season. That guy was breaking in a new offense and seemed a little cocky. This guy has mastered a new offense and seems a bit confident.
Second, Our o-line was pretty good in that game with the exception of Bulaga. He looked like CRAP! Big penalties at bad times, giving up pressures, and missing blocks on DB's that could have given Ced Benson much more room to work. On the other hand Marshal Newhouse and TJ Lang played VERY well against a full speed Smith brothers and if not for an unblocked rollout both Smiths would have been shut out in the sack department. That’s a GREAT sign with an injured Smith Bros on the horizon.
Third, JerMike was horrible and great in that game all in the same breath. He dropped THREE would be 3rd down conversions in that game at crucial spots. He did have a decent game with a TD catch, but those drops were huge. JM is playing a lot better now.
Fourth, Jarret Freaking Bush! He didn’t have a horrible game, but he had a JB game. Need I say more?
Lastly, the replacement refs STUNK, for both sides, and it’s not even a question. The pack could not run a true no huddle. The receivers were getting mugged, and there was total confusion by the replacement refs on ALL down field calls. Even the block in the back should have been called. Though I maintain even if T. Manning doesn’t make the block in the back Cobb still scores on the return. The block was totally unnecessary.
The packers didn’t loose this game as much as they figured out too late what was working and ran out of time. The pack moved the ball very well considering the circumstances.
Now, as for this week. The pack have a solid chance, not a great chance, but a solid chance.
First they need to go back to the quick passing game. Remember the first bears game in 2k10? AR moved the ball with precision but it didn’t amount to many points for whatever reason but in the end it took a JJ fumble in the closing minutes to lose the game. Circle back to 9ers week 1. Same story, precision passing moves the ball well for the pack with a full strength 9er D. Let’s mix it up and go power then go spread within a few plays. Let’s use screens, power runs, and short precision passing to soften them up and slow down the rush then we can use the slow developing passing game to get points. MM is at his best when he is mixing personnel groupings and keeping the D off balance. The 5 wide stuff WILL WORK. The niners just don’t have great depth in the secondary.
Next, the defense, Nick Perry especially, set a horrible edge in that game and really let Gore exploit us. We need to stay disciplined in our run fits like last week in order to have a chance. And we cannot stay in a soft zone all game. This is the Game Capers was hired for. There needs to be lots of disguising blitzes and moving CM3 around.
I think AR takes this game on his back, unless he’s on his back. But for some reason I don’t see the pass rush being a huge factor. Sure the 9ers will get 3-5 sacks because AR is after all AR and we are the packers. There will be plenty of times AR hold too long or MM calls a slow developing “shot” play too early. But the short passing game should work.
The biggest factors in this game are contrary to popular belief KAEPERNICK and what the packers do when they have the ball. If he runs wild we are DONE. If we don’t maintin possession by moving the sticks we are DONE. If the D plays even pretty good, I think we win it. Double cover Crabtree, tightly single cover moss, stay disciplined in our run fits and use C-wood to spy Kaep because he cant cover in space anymore. Let AR work the option routes to GJ, RC, AND JF. Use Dujuan as your check down option and to run hard between the tackles. Then take a shot to jordy or JJ when the situation presents itself, AND IT WILL.
This game is there for the Packers to take and the approach they are taking this week is perfect. It’s not about what the 9ers do… it’s what the Packers do.
35-24 PACK!!!!

Denver's picture

What he said.

cow42's picture

is it really quicker to type "2k10" than "2010"?

A-rodg's Mustache's picture

not really.
But isn’t it quicker to write "packers suck" then to regurgitate the same non-sense over and over again. I’m as pessimistic as it gets but even I root for my team instead of dismissing their chances before the first second is played. And BTW... you have been wrong A LOT this year. Maybe its time to change your tune?

jeremy's picture

Cow42 isn't a Packer fan. He loves to point out how people can not dispute his "facts". But then he repeatedly shows up with hi own non sequiturs.

Ken's picture


Agreed with all of this. Well put

A-rodg's Mustache's picture

I really truly think the biggest factor in this game will not be how SF plays but how the pack play. Will they take the first down on 3rd and 3 or go for the kill shot? I have to believe this week MM is preaching to AR to take whats there and live to move the chains. (but is MM preaching matchups over ball control. ie, take the shot if you have the one on one you like) If they do that they will be playing next week. If they dont Cow42 will be correct.

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

A-rodg....I applaud you for taking a common sense look and review of the week 1 match-up. I wrote an article on this very thing and sent it to Aaron. The Packer offense moved the ball with effectiveness out of the shotgun. Rodgers threw for over 300 yards and 2 touchdown. Twice the game was within 1 score. The Packers had the ball in 49er territory with 1 minute to go in the game. It wasn't until a 4th and 12 failed conversion was the game over. There were a couple of things that doomed the Packers in that game.

First, McCarthy only had RB runs 9 times. That won't cut it. Second, there was a particular 3rd and 1 in which McCarthy/Rodgers called for a boot pass and threw the ball 45 yards on a rope to Nelson who was double covered by the corner and safety. Poor play call for the situation. Third, the Packer defense had many blown coverages (high amount of soft zone called by Capers) and the defense indeed did not set the edge and have proper run fits. Lastly, Alex Smith was patient. He had many completions of the 4-8 yd. variety.

Much has changed in philosophy and personnel for Green Bay. Brad Jones in for Smith. Walden in for Perry. Shields for Bush. There are others. Secondly, Green Bay has shown more patience on offense taking the checkdown instead of forcing the homerun. Lastly, I believe you will see Capers play more cover 1 in an effort to load the box and jam the depleted 49er receiving corp.

The 49ers got exactly 4 sacks in week 1. Justin Smith had zero. Aldon Smith had 1 and that was on a naked boot by Rodgers in which he athletically tripped him up. Smith and Smith are fantastic players but even when healthy they had very little impact on the passing game in week 1.

Kuddos to you for analyzing the week 1 match-up without emotion. Nice work.

PackersRS's picture


The impression I came away with from that game was that the cushion that was given to Moss was unnecessarily big. A lot of 1st downs where gained by simple hitches. Put Shields in him and we're set. At this time the kid is much faster than Moss.

Ardoge's Mustace's picture

Thanks POC! I think I would make a really good football blogger and now that I have the "all 22 view" football is like whole different world to me.

I cant wait to get this game going! I have been confident all week and I feel like MM and DC are ready to make this happen!

Jim's picture

That was an awesome break down man, so good you made the anonymous-knowledgeable-coach-dude blow his load in the comment section.
Here's to Cobb getting over the flu and not spreading it!

Rich Beckman's picture

My memory of the first game is that the Niners completely dominated, but still only won by 8 points, 7 of which they were gifted by a most uncharacteristic Rogers interception in the fourth quarter.

I am sure the Niners have improved, but I am certain that the Packers have improved considerably.

I think the Packers win tomorrow.

Point Packer's picture

If we pick off Kapernick twice, we win 24-20.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

I watched the week 1 meeting again last night. I wanted to see just how thoroughly the 9ers beat us. It was a pretty thorough beating, I can admit it. But, I came away feeling VERY positive about the rematch. Why? Because the Packer team I saw isn't this Packer team, it was obvious.

The secondary was atrocious. From tackling (see Burnett's "tackle" of Gore) to missed assignments (see Moss TD), just terrible (Bush being BY FAR the worst). The secondary that will play Saturday is a different unit. More sound. Better cohesion. And overall, just playing better football.

The offense didn't know what the hell they wanted to do. From banging their heads against the wall running Benson out of Shotgun to Rodgers uncharacteristic INT to Bowman, they just looked like it was week 1 and they weren't clicking. The offense that will be out there Saturday has evolved over the season, and the week 1 loss will greatly benefit them this weekend... From a 'what went wrong/what can we do different' standpoint.

The biggest factor on Saturday will be #12. Playing the team he rooted for as a kid. The team that passed him by and left him in the green-room. The dozens of family and friends that will be in the seats cheering him on. I look for #12 to be dialed in (flu or not) and make an emphatic statement to the 9ers and their fans... "You could've had this. Now... You must die".

san francisco forty niners - 27

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Oh, Kaepernick will give us two balls. Guaranteed.

MarkinMadison's picture

Caught the end of it; wish I had caught the whole thing. But the offense moved easily down the field in the last scoring drive. They looked good. And this version of the D-secondary is far, far, better than what we saw in week 1. This D secondary has developed to the point where they look decent without Woodson, and that is something that I would not have said before this year. Hayward developed. Shields figured some things out. Woodson is back now, and we saw what that did for the defense last week.

The other thing the Packers have going for them is how thin the 49ers defense is. As Seifert detailed, their guys have played a lot of downs. They probably needed the bye week far more than the Packers did.

It's a pick 'em game, but I'm feeling good about the Packers.

CSS's picture

I watched it as well and my biggest takeaway: McCarthy and Rodgers experienced their single largest coaching/game-planning/adjustment beatdown of the year from Harbaugh and co.

cow42's picture

i did not watch it again.

why would i want to watch the Packers lose to the 49'ers twice in one week?

CSS's picture

Because reasonable people first seek to understand, then they criticize.

A-rodg's Mustache's picture

remember who your dealing with. AN obvious troll who may/may not like the packers but just wants to bother packer fans.

jeremy's picture

I don't understand why you would watch at all, cow.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Definitely out coached. I sincerely hope that doesn't happen tomorrow. I genuinely loathe Harbaugh. Heckuva coach... Sucks at life. I don't want to see McCarthy have to shake that waste of jizz's hand in defeat again.

KurtMc's picture

BTW, replacement ref's and no running game. Different teams.

GB 31, SF 27

hayward4president's picture

AR hates the 9ers. AR is really gonna be pissed tomorrow when its a playoff game to possibly go home and get revenge on the Seahawks.If we can hold the 9ers to even...4 sacks or less and take the ball away just one time from that slippery Mexican qb.....we WIN! Packers 21 Other team 17! Go pack go!

CSS's picture

"...Mexican qb..."

A.) pretty dumb if not unnecessary addition;

B.) he's bi-racial and has no 'Mexican' heritage.

cow42's picture

that was a stupid comment.

and, trust me - i know stupid.

A-rodg's Mustache's picture

+1 for humor cow.

For some reason I dont think your a bad guy. Actually I think you would be fun to have a beer with. But your attitude towards the team you suposedly root for is horrible.

+1 ... at least your consistent.

PackersRS's picture

"THIS GUY, I call him SPEEDY GONZALES because he's mexican or some other kind of beaner and he runs like he's getting away from the cops!"

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Tell em John.

Tarynfor12's picture

This offense has been excused,and legitamitly all season run game,injuries etc.
This week is being heralded as the first week that the team is whole as to the offensive weapons and the return of who many call on a chess level,GrandMaster Woodson refortifying an already much improved defense.
There is ,IMO,absolutely no reason or excuse for this game to come close to being a FG decided outcome and if it is..shame on us.
GB 30-13

Tundraboy's picture

I like were we are and our team and our chances. Bring it on. Assuming Seahawks win, I want Carrol at Lambeau

PackerBacker's picture

Ahhhhh, for the love of god!!!! Is it Saturday yet? I'm pumped for this game. Hope it's as good as advertised.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

K.C. Joyner just did a radio spot. He broke down the matchup, and really, really liked the Packers. Made some great points. Depending on what you think of Joyner, you may want to find the interview and give it a listen.

CSS's picture

Nagler positively adores Joyner (punches sarcasm button.....)

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture


Live4GB's picture

Last week's experience setting the edge against AP will serve them well this week. Casey gets a pick or 2,Harris makes them respect the run, AR throws to move the chains on 3rd down and we win. The pressure is on SF, not GB.

Mani's picture

So cow, if packers win u will doubt them in the championship game and super bowl and if they win it all. Then what?

cow42's picture

not going to have to worry about that.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

I wanna crack you in the face right now.

You had me fooled for a awhile, and that pisses me off. Here we are on the eve of this HUGE game for the GREEN BAY PACKERS, and you're still spewing your rhetoric.

Whether you tell yourself you are or not, I've got news for you... YOU ARE NOT A PACKER FAN.

I guess I wanted to believe you were, and that you were just a quirky little pessimist... But YOU'RE NOT. Whether you wear Packers gear every day around people that don't know you're nimrod, and can't call you out on it, it doesn't matter.


PackSmack, Ruppert, Evan, everyone else... Sorry... I see it now.

nimrod - you are dead to me, I will never acknowledge you again, that's a promise. I wish you no ill will, BUT just know... It doesn't matter if you have Packer trinkets hanging all around your house, and your dogs name is Vince, or if you have season tickets. If any of those apply, you are just a poser... YOU. ARE. NOT. A PACKER. FAN.

This is the last second I will ever give you... Now go F_CK YOURSELF AND YOUR NINERS.

Sorry CHTV

cow42's picture


PackersRS's picture

I like to think he does it because of superstition.

Some poeple use the same underwear. Some people get all negative and bash their team every chance their get...

spud's picture

What official crew do we have?

VApackerfan's picture

Jerome Boger will be officiating. He refereed the Packers - Texans game if I'm not mistaken.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Thanks. I was wondering that too... Just too lazy to research it meself. I don't have any beef with Jerome... YET.

hayward4president's picture

Judist Priest I make one comment about their qb n its the end of the world. Lighten up it was a joke.

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"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."
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