The Green Bay Packers will face the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night for the chance to play in the NFC Championship Game.
It’s a rematch of the Week 1 contest between the two teams. The 49ers left Lambeau Field with a 30-22 victory. The game wasn’t even as close as the score might indicate, with San Francisco leading the entire way.
The 49ers should enter the game with a lot of confidence, having won the last matchup and playing the divisional round at home. They are three-point favorites at most Las Vegas casinos.
Despite the betting line and the result of the last time these two teams met, Green Bay has a good chance to advance and win the 2013 Super Bowl. Here are three ways the Packers can beat the 49ers.
Aaron Rodgers Plays Like Aaron Rodgers
Peyton Manning has been touted as an MVP favorite and Tom Brady had another great year, but Rodgers, once again, proved that he is the best quarterback in football. He followed up his MVP year with a 39-touchdown performance in 2012.
For the fourth straight year, Rodgers registered a passer rating over 100. His 108.0 rating in 2012 led the NFL for a second straight season.
San Francisco was second to only the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, allowing 17.1 points per game. In Week 1, they picked off Rodgers once and blanketed his receivers.
However, if Rodgers plays his best, it will be very difficult for the Packers not to win. Colin Kaepernick has shown flashes of brilliance, but he won’t be able to match Rodgers if he is at the top of his game.
Justin Smith Not 100 Percent
Rodgers may be the best signal caller in the league, but his offensive line hasn’t given him much support this season. He was sacked more times than any other quarterback, and faced constant pressure.
Smith has been a top defensive tackle in recent years, but missed the 49ers final two games. He has said that he will play on Saturday, but it’s unknown how well he’ll play after suffering a tear to his left triceps.
The absence of Smith in San Francisco’s lineup showed in their final two games. The 49ers yielded a season-high 42 points in Week 16, and registered just three sacks without Smith. Linebacker Aldon Smith seemed to be affected by the injury. With 19.5 sacks entering Week 15, he was on pace to break Michael Strahan’s sack record, but didn’t record another one for the rest of the year.
If Smith isn’t able to be very effective, it will hurt the entire 49ers defense, and Green Bay might find some success on offense.
Slow Down San Francisco’s Rushing Attack
Whether Alex Smith was the starter, or when Kaepernick took over as the team’s top quarterback, San Francisco has relied on its rushing attack to score points. The 49ers finished the season fourth in total yards on the ground.
Frank Gore amassed 1,214 rushing yards this season, and Kaepernick ran for another 415. Smith’s lack of playmaking ability forced San Francisco to establish a rushing attack, and Kaepernick’s mobility is one of the biggest parts of his game.
If Green Bay can stop the 49ers on the ground, it will be tough for San Francisco to establish much on offense. Kaepernick has shown the ability to make big throws, but he’s yet to prove that he can do it in the postseason.
Putting the pressure on Kaepernick could force him into some bad throws. With Charles Woodson returning from an injury and Casey Hayward intercepting six passes this season, the Packers could turn some of those bad throws into big plays.