11-5 Green Bay Packers at 11-4-1 San Francisco 49ers
Saturday, January 12 at 8:00 p.m. ET on FOX
Announcers: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
Sideline eye-candy: Erin Andrews and Pam Oliver
Radio: Kevin Harlan, Dan Fouts and Hub Arkush
Weather: 40 degrees with a 5 mph wind; 10% chance of rain
Vegas: 49ers favored by 3; over/under 45 to 44Â½
This playoff game is really a classic in the salary cap era of the NFL: a great offense backed by an average defense faces a team with a great defense and average offense.
For the sixth time in their history the Packers and 49ers meet in the playoffs, with Green Bay holding a 4-1 lead in post-season play. The Pack won on the road in the 1995 division round before losing to Dallas; they won at home in the same round the next year, when they went on to beat the Pats in the Super Bowl; in the â€™97 playoffs Green Bay beat the Niners on the road in the NFCCG before losing to Denver; they lost to San Francisco in the wild card round the following year; and they beat the 49ers at Lambeau in the first round of the 2001 playoffs before losing to the Rams.
I keep hearing and reading about how defense always wins in the playoffs and similar lines, but that’s really just a tired old clichÃ© in today’s Bill Polian-influenced game; the Saints in Super Bowl 44 and Packers in SB46 should have put that line to rest, yet fans and mediots keep repeating it as if it is an non-debatable fact.
49ers pass rush versus Packers pass protection
Aaron Rodgers was sacked 51 times in the regular season this year, the second most in the NFL; the Vikings got to him eight times in the last two games. Green Bayâ€™s weakness on the offensive line is with their tackles, and the 49ers have two quality outside linebackers: Aldon Smith (19Â½ sacks) and Ahmad Brooks (6Â½ sacks). If San Francisco can get pressure often enough to force an errant throw, a fumble, a tipped pass, that at least forces a punt, if not creating a turnover or two, then the Niners should win this game.
Much of this may be determined by the health of All-Pro DE Justin Smith. The 49ers allowed 66 points, 753 yards and 48 first downs in just six quarters after Smith was sidelined with a partially torn triceps against the Pats. Smith is scheduled to play, but how effective will he be? Aldon Smith has zero sacks since Justin Smith was hurt, and San Francisco needs to be able to get pressure without bringing an additional pass rusher.
49ers secondary versus Packers receivers
This really goes hand in hand with the comment above. The 49er corners like to press and knock receivers off their routes, but that could lead to a receiver slipping by and being wide open. The Packers are healthier than they have been all year at wide receiver. Jordy Nelson (questionable, ankle) and Randall Cobb (probable, flu) have been limited in practice, but Aaron Rodgers will have his full compliment of options for this game: Cobb, James Jones, Nelson, Greg Jennings, and TE Jermichael Finley. Aaron Rodgers has 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions over the last five games; it’s no coincidence that corresponds to Jennings finally being healthy once again.
49ers running game and offensive line versus Packers front seven
San Francisco has one of the best offensive lines in the league, a physical group that simply imposes their will on you. Back in week one San Francisco rushed for 186 yards, but the Green Bayâ€™s hopes were bolstered when they pretty much kept Adrian Peterson in check last week. The Packers need to find a way to duplicate that success, and force the 49ers into passing situations â€“ where their OL is not nearly as effective.
While many are referring to Colin Kaepernick as an x-factor, can you really call the starting quarterback an x-factor? Obviously Green Bay will have to commit to their assignments, but defensively that goes a bit against their pedigree. Kaepernick will get some open lanes run through busted coverage for a couple of first downs; Packer fans will have to hope that when he does that it is when he fails to see a wide open receiver downfield, as was the case last week.
For a genuine x-factor, keep your eyes on LaMichael James. The 49ers have got him more touches and involved him much more on offense, in both the passing and running game. He is a perfect compliment to Frank Gore, and offers a much different look – which makes sense to give him some touches, rather than Kendall Hunter. Once he gets out in the open field LMJ can really make things happen.
If you enjoy watching battles in the trenches, keep your eye on 49ers LT Joe Staley versus ROLB Clay Matthews; two great players going after one another all game long.
While the Packers offense is formidable, the Green Bay defense makes it difficult to pick them. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kaepernick make a critical pass to Michael Crabtree when we all expect rank Gore to run the ball. This should be an entertaining game regardless of which team wins… On the other hand it is really tough to go with first-year starter Colin Kaepernick over Aaron Rodgers in a playoff game.
Prediction: 49ers 23, Packers 21
This Day In Patriots History
January 11, 1950:
John Sanders was born in Chicago
Sanders was a world history teacher in Kansas City when the Pats signed him as free agent in 1974; he had played three years at South Dakota as a corner, safety and wide receiver in addition to serving as punt returner. In ’74 he began as the backup safety but became the starting LCB for the final ten games; in ’75 he started all 14 games at free safety. Sanders led the Pats in fumble recoveries (4), blocked extra points (2) and blocked punts (1), and was third in tackles (94). He had an achilles injury in the second game of the 1976 season that put him on IR; that ended his career with the Pats though he did play in the NFL with the Eagles for three more years.
Steve Nelson gave Sanders the nickname “Colonel”; allegedly it was not in regards to Colonel Sanders of KFC, but was a slam at his being ‘chicken’ and not wanting to make contact.
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January 11, 1895:
Laurens Hammond, engineer and inventor of the Hammond organ, was born in Evanston
January 11, 1942:
Clarence Clemons was born in Chesapeake, Virginia
January 11, 1964:
Billboard debuted their Country Album Chart to compliment their pop music chart; their first country number one album was Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
January 11, 1964:
Top single was Louie Louie by the Kingsmen; despite (or perhaps because) its being banned by several radio stations because of lyrics were alleged to contain some explicit language. The FBI investigated and found nothing wrong with the lyrics – though Iggy Pop’s version several years later would certainly cause several bleeps.
January 11, 1971:
Mary J. Blige was born in the Bronx
January 11, 2005:
Jimmy Griffin, guitarist and songwriter for Bread, died at age 61 of cancer.
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