It’s finally that time of the year, the playoffs. For the Green Bay Packers, reaching the playoffs was a hard fought battle. They started off 5-2, lost Aaron Rodgers for seven weeks, but rallied against the Chicago Bears to win the NFC North. For the second straight year, the Packers will play the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs, which will be the fourth meeting between the two historic franchises. Even though the 49ers have won the last three games, the teams look a lot different than the first time they met. Here is a matchup breakdown for this Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game.
This quarterback matchup between the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers might be the best in all four Wild Card games. In two career starts against the Packers, Kaepernick has had success on the ground as well as through the air. In the Divisional playoff game last year, Kaepernick was running circles around the Packers defense, rushing for 181 yards. In the season opener this year, Kaepernick beat the Packers with his arm, passing for over 400 yards. Rodgers has not won a game against his home town team since Jim Harbaugh became their head coach, but he did match Kaepernick pass for pass in the first game of the season and looked sharp in his first game back against the Bears last Sunday. Right now, I would give the advantage to Rodgers.
Packers running back Eddie Lacy has shown why he might be the steal on the entire 2013 NFL Draft. Lacy has added a reliable running game to a Packers offense that is best at moving the ball through the air. In his rookie season, Lacy rushed for over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns, and did not fumble after the opening game. On the other side, 49ers running back Frank Gore is still among one of the best in the league. Gore is just short of the 10,000 yards for his career, and has shown no signs of slowing down. I give the advantage to Gore on this one.
Wide receiver/Tight end
The battle of the wide receivers has drifted slightly in the Packers favor after last week. With the return of Randall Cobb and emergence of tight end Andrew Quarless, the Packers have five quality targets for Aaron Rodgers. While the 49ers do not the number of targets the Packers have, they do still have some matchup problems. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin tore the Packers secondary apart in the first game, and Michael Crabtree just returned from his Achilles injury. Add those two to explosive tight end Vernon Davis and Colin Kaepernick has his choice of who to throw the ball to. But, because of number of weapons the Packers have, the advantage goes to Green Bay.
The offensive line battle shifts in the 49ers favor. Their offensive line might just be the best in the NFL. The Packers had trouble getting to Colin Kaepernick in the two meetings he has started, and both of those were with Clay Matthews on defense. The 49ers have been able to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers, mostly in part to their amazing front seven.
The position breakdown on the offensive side of the ball looks like a draw on paper. For the defensive breakdown, read my next article.