Saturday’s NFC Divisional Round game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers is far from the week 1 match up that saw the 49ers win 30-22 on the road. Not only will there be a change in venue, there is the substantial change with the 49ers offense. Colin Kaepernick has become the new starter, but will look to repeat the week 1 success of then-starter Alex Smith. While this is an enormous difference from that game, it is one of a few different things to watch for.
1. Randall Cobb vs. Carlos Rogers/Chris Culliver/Special Teams unit
Cobb does it all. He catches, runs, returns punts, returns kicks, and is a playmaker. Cobb burned the 49ers in week 1 with 9 catches for 77 yards, 150 total return yards, and a return touchdown. This guy is hands down a major threat when the ball is in his hand. The 49ers had success containing Wes Welker of the Patriots in week 16, so there is hope that they found a successful formula for handling these slot receivers that seem to cause them so much trouble. Cobb has become one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets, so limiting him will be of the utmost importance for the 49ers defense.
Dynasty. It’s a word every sports fan has heard or used before. And to be honest, it is used recklessly. The sports world is always too quick to anoint a team a “dynasty.” But when a team is a perennial favorite to win it all, it becomes safe to use the D-word. Despite the success, the New England Patriots are not invincible. The Patriots were only 12-4 (great, but not quite on par with what everyone has come to expect), and despite a revamped defense, they have allowed plenty of yards. So what will it take to eliminate the team that has frequented AFC title games and Super Bowls in the last 13 years? Pressure and Points.
The New York Giants have seemingly laid the blueprint for defeating the Patriots, defeating them to win two Super Bowls. What the Giants are capable of doing is get pressure on Brady with just a basic pass rush and score points.
The Denver Broncos are back in the playoffs for the second year in a row, but with one rather sizeable change: Peyton Manning in- Tim Tebow out. Upon second thought, sizeable does not do the change justice. The magnitude of the swap, dare I say it, is Tebow-like. Yes, only Tim Tebow has the ability to generate more time on ESPN as a second (sometimes third) string quarterback than the latest and greatest REAL sports news. With all this said, the Broncos look to be the most complete team this postseason. The offense has vastly improved under the leadership of the unflappable Manning.
The Seattle Seahawks might be the hottest team entering the playoffs. They’ve won their last five games, including a drubbing of the NFC West division champion 49ers in week 16. They have a monstrous running game, a very stout defense, and a rookie quarterback showing poise beyond his years. So how do you stop a team that is nearly firing on all cylinders and has talent across the board?
In a year some have dubbed “The Year of the Rookie Quarterback,” Wild Card Weekend will have its own little “Day of the Rookie Quarterback.” The afternoon matchup will feature two of the more electrifying rookies QB’s this season. First let’s focus on Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. Washington won the NFC East week 17 in a win and you’re in game against the Dallas Cowboys. Griffin has been nothing short of electric, but a knee injury he suffered a few weeks ago has him in a knee brace and his complete mobility is a bit of a question.
They were 20th in passing yards per game, and fifth in rushing yards per game. This is a run first team, so opposing defenses must turn Griffin into a passing quarterback. The knee might limit Griffin’s ability to scramble like he normally does, putting pressure on him to make things happen with his arm. While containing Griffin is part of the game plan to beat Washington, the key to defeat lies with the defense.