San Francisco 49ers: Wild card game @ Green Bay Packers

San FranciscoNow the real season begins.  The San Francisco 49ers will travel to the cold climate in Lambeau Field and try to extend their season in a wild card match-up against the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon at 1:40 PT on FOX.

San Francisco comes to a cold place red hot, winning seven straight games and they face a team in the Packers who they have yet to loose to under Jim Harbaugh (3-0) and it’s really the same old story for the 49ers; controlling the line of scrimmage, imposing their running game on the opposition, playing tough, physical defense, and having Colin Kaepernick make plays with play action.  This consistent play has resulted in a 12-4 record and although it is unlikely that they will get to host a playoff game, they have proven that they have enough talent and cohesiveness to be a legitimate threat to anybody.

For the Packers it’s a tale of two seasons.  They started off playing good football as most thought they would. Green Bay jumped out to a 5-2 record, but then Aaron Rodgers went down with a shoulder injury and they went on 5 game winless streak.  With the absence of Rodgers, the Packers relied heavily on rookie running back Eddie Lacy which has resulted in spectacular season for him: 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns.

More importantly, they managed to stay within striking distance and after a couple of huge victories against the Falcons and Cowboys they went to Chicago in a win-and-you’re-in scenario with their star quarterback under center.  Green Bay won the game in dramatic fashion and now find themselves hosting a playoff game.

Here is a closer look at the advantages of each team

Quarterback: Green Bay

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I’m not trying to sound like Stephen A. Smith but Aaron Rodgers is indeed a very bad man.  It doesn’t matter if he hasn’t played in a month, as long as he is on the field his team has a shot to win the game.  Yes, Colin Kaepernick had his best games in the playoffs last year, but Rodgers already has a ring and trying to stop him in his house will not be an easy thing to do.

Running Game: Push

It may seem surprising that the 49ers don’t have a clear advantage here, given that they are ranked third in this category and have built their identity through the run, but the Packers have been impressive running the football themselves.  Eddie Lacy is a stud and that Packer offensive line has proven that they can be consistent in this area of the offense.

It’s no secret what the 49ers like to do.  They like to go with two tight ends and jumbo packages and run the ball down your throat with good success.  It looks like it’s going to be a cold one in Lambeau, so it will be crucial for both teams to establish the run early.

Playmakers: San Francisco

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Jordy Nelson, James Jones and especially Randall Cobb have proven to be deep threats with Aaron Rodgers under center, but Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin have combined for 20 touchdown receptions.  The return of Michael Crabtree will only enhance these numbers and if he and Kaepernick find the same chemistry that they found last year, then no defense will be able to stop the 49ers’ offense.

Front seven: San Francisco

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The 49ers have one of, if not the best front seven in the NFL headlined by their four outstanding linebackers.  Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith are sack machines, Patrick Willis is the heart and soul of the defense and Navarro Bowman has a legitimate shot to be the defensive player of the year.  The Packers are not only missing their best player on defense in Clay Matthews, but are also the same group that gave up the most rushing yards to a quarterback (Colin Kaepernick) in NFL history.

Secondary: San Francisco

Much has been made of the Niners’ ability to stop the run but what is forgotten is that the 49ers have a much improved secondary that is ranked 7th in the league.  San Francisco’s ability to pressure the quarterback is definitely a reason why teams struggle with the pass against this defense but Carlos Rogers, Terell Brown, and Trumaine Brock have played very well this season.   The Packers have a couple of good corners themselves but they allowed Kaepernick to have the best passing game of his career in week one. Their weakness clearly lies with their safeties and it will be tough for them to keep up with deep threats like Vernon Davis and Micheal Crabtree.

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Coaching:  Jim Harbaugh

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Mike McCarthy has a Super Bowl ring to his credit but he has yet to beat the 49ers.  Not only that, but Harbaugh has built a tough, consistent team that travels well because of their defense and running game.

Bottom Line:  49ers have too much…. maybe

San Francisco is clearly the most complete team of the two but Green Bay has that man number 12, so they have a shot against any team.  Even if Rodgers has a monster game I don’t see the Packers being able to stop the 49ers’ offense.  Look for Vernon Davis to destroy that Packer secondary and for Colin Kaepernick to outplay Rodgers in his own backyard.

49ers 34

Packers 21

Game Ball: Colin Kapernick

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