The Green Bay Packers pay their second trip to San Francisco this season, hoping change their fortune from their last meeting. The 49ers defense is 2nd in points allowed and 3rd in yardage, and is highlighted here against the Packers 5th ranked scoring offense in the critical match for this game. Depending on the winner of the Seahawks versus Falcons game, both teams have the same circumstance, face the Seahawks at home or travel to take on the Falcons in the Georgia Dome.
Aaron Rodgers vs. San Francisco Secondary
Aaron Rodgers is looking for an NFL record 4th straight win in the playoffs. The Packers most valuable player and company have a different look from the last game against the 49ers. With a revamped running game and new weapons having evolved, the Packers are a significantly more dangerous team. Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are still good, and are now healthy again. James Jones is the Packers 4th receiver, but lead the NFL with 14 touchdowns. Jermichael Finley had a bad start, but is showing up when it matters most, and then there is Randall Cobb. Cobb’s evolution into the Packers offense speaks to both Aaron Rodgers versatility, and adaptability the of the Green Bay offensive scheme. Cobb has launched into one of the more versatile weapons in the NFL, running from the backfield, and on end arounds, while leading the team in catches (80) and yards (954), and returning punts and kicks. San Francisco and their frustrating 4th ranked passing defense will be stretched to it’s limit facing a lightning hot Rodgers, with all of his weapons healthy and leading a different, and more dangerous, passing scheme than the 49ers saw last time. The 49ers have a proven and consistent passing defensive scheme, and the players to back it up. San Francisco keeps both of it’s safeties deep to prevent the big play at all times, relying on the front seven to shore up the rush defense. Safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner are both starting in the Pro-Bowl for their amazing awareness and playmaking ability working in this scheme. The Packers will try to get the 49ers out of their standard set and spread four wide to exploit the matches against the 49ers cornerbacks. The success of the 49ers secondary will be measured on whether their corners win the individual matches against the Green bay receivers.
DuJuan Harris vs. 49ers Rushing Defense
Aaron Rodgers has had good run support to end the season strong, but did not see a 100-yard rusher all season. After seeing Cedric Benson go down, the Packers went through a string of backs. Ryan Grant and James Starks have seen carries, and Alex Green was given a good look. Then Green Bay finally settled on DuJuan Harris, and has happily watched him develop. Last week against the Vikings, Harris carried the ball 17 times for 47 yards, and caught the ball 5 times for 53 yards, while showing skill in pass protection. Harris is the three-headed monster the Packers have been looking for all season. While the match against the 49ers 4th ranked rushing defense is bad, and looking at linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman all day is a terrible prospective, the Packers do not shy from the run. Harris and Green Bay’s rushing success may be the push that turns the tide against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
Offensive vs. Defensive Lines
This may be the most apparent mismatch of this critical playoff match. The Green Bay Packers offensive line has been a weakness all season. Green Bay gave up the 2nd most sacks in NFL (51), and struggled to run the ball at times. The Packers are facing one of the leagues best pass rush combinations in Aldon Smith and Justin Smith. Justin Smith is going to try to play through a torn triceps because of the decreased effectiveness the 49ers defense has showed in his absence. Justin Smith requires a constant double team, and has showed chemistry with Aldon Smith, selflessly tying up blocks at key attack points to let Aldon Smith come through untouched at times. The 19.5 sacks Aldon Smith accrued this year speak to the abilities of both men. Ahmad Brooks and Ray MacDonald balance the attack of the 49ers front seven, with 9 sacks between them, the pressure they bring keeps defenses from concentrating on the two Smiths. Green Bay has seen increased production from their offensive line lately, but if they can run the ball well, and get Rodgers through this game with a clean jersey, the offensive line should be applauded for it’s increased performance.