Taking A Look At The Big Game
This Sunday night will be a regular season rematch in the NFC championship as the 14-3 Green Bay Packers will once again travel to the west coast to take on the 14-3 San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara California. The Packers are on a six-game winning streak, with their last victory coming against the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers, meanwhile, are also on a winning streak of their own, having won three in a row with their last victory coming against the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams will be looking to advance to the Super Bowl with the 49ers last appearance coming in 2012. The Packers, meanwhile, are looking to get back to the big dance for the first time since 2010.
History Between The Teams
The rivalry between these two teams has seen some memorable moments and games over the years. The Packers hold a 36-31-1 edge in the overall series. The 49ers currently have a 2-game win streak over Green Bay in the postseason, with their last victory coming in the 2013 NFC wildcard game at Lambeau Field. The Packers haven’t beat the 49ers in the postseason since the 1997 NFC championship game in Candlestick Park. Coincidentally, the Packers were the 2-seed heading into that game, they came out of it on top, beating the home favored and 1st seed 49ers by a score of 23-10. Could we see another upset on Sunday? Time will tell.
Right now, the mantra in Green Bay has been “Win Ugly”, and boy, have they been. Green Bay’s last two games have been won by 7 points or less. Week 17 against Detroit (23-20), and last Sunday against Seattle (28-23). They may not be winning flashy, but they’re still winning; and that’s all that matters. I believe the biggest key for Green Bay to win will be scoring first, be it a field-goal or touchdown. They have posted an 8-1 record in games where they scored the first points (incl. playoffs), and 6-2 when they don’t. It would behoove them immensely to capitalize on scoring opportunities early and often.
On offense, both Davante Adams and Aaron Jones need to be used within the offense. Green Bay is 10-0 when Adams has at least 60 scrimmage yards. Also, Green Bay is 5-0 when Jones has 100 yards rushing or more. One other thing I think Green Bay will end up using on offense is no huddle. It will not only keep San Francisco’s defense on its toes during the game, but it will also let the offense run more efficiently due to them already having a few plays schemed up. Also, Aaron Rodgers in his career thrives when using the no huddle offense: 567/860 (65.9%), for 6,704 yards, 53 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, and a 107.1 passer rating. Using aggressive offensive tactics on first and second down early (throwing it instead of running it, mixing up the calls on offense, etc), will benefit Green Bay immensely as well. LaFleur knows what to do in this second matchup and he will capitalize on this opportunity.
Defensively, it’s simple: Slow down tight end George Kittle. I know, easier said than done; especially with the way Green Bay’s secondary has defended against the big play during the season. One great thing that should give fans hope is that since allowing 2 touchdowns of 40+ yards in week 12, they’ve only allowed one 20+ yard touchdown, this was per Peter Bukowski of PackerReport.com:
The Smith brothers, Za’Darius and Preston, should do enough up front to rattle Garoppolo. Your secondary is only as good as your pass rush allows, so if Green Bay can get to and/or disrupt him while in the pocket, they stand a very good shot at winning. Forcing turnovers will be a big key on defense too if Green Bay expects to stay in the game against San Francisco; especially with how potent their offense is once it gets going.
All in all, this is a great matchup pitting the two best teams in the conference against one another for the right to go to the Super Bowl. It doesn’t get any bigger than that. I feel like this will be a back and forth game up until the near end of the fourth quarter. In the end, though, I see Green Bay pulling off the upset to advance to its sixth super bowl in franchise history. Green Bay wins 28-24. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers finally quiet the doubters, at least for one more week.
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