Earlier in the week I started off a “good news/bad news” segment with the bad news: five matchups that should concern the 49ers. Based on that post and the way the 49ers have played since the first half in New England, one might wonder if the 49ers even have a chance. However, they’re actually favored by 2.5 points by most betting sites — that’s down from being 3-point favorites across the board when the lines opened, but San Francisco is still favored.
Obviously the 49ers have a few advantages in this game, and that’s where the “good news” portion comes in. Here are five matchups the 49ers can possibly exploit, at least based on the statistics and what we’ve seen so far throughout this 2012/13 season.
And at the end of this post, you’ll find the last contest question of the week.
1. 49ers offensive line vs. Packers defensive line
Thanks to Bay Area Stats Guy’s statistical breakdown from earlier today, finding concrete evidence for this one was pretty easy.
- According to Pro Football Focus, the 49ers’ offensive line is the 10th best pass blocking unit in the NFL, while the Packers’ pass rush ranked 30th.
- PFF says the 49ers are the No. 1 run blocking team in the league, while the Packers’ rush defense ranks 14th.
- In Week 1, everyone on the 49ers’ o-line besides Joe Staley (who had his hands full with Clay Matthews) scored at least a 2.1, which is an outstanding score for one game. In his first NFL start, Alex Boone registered a ridiculous 4.3.
- Based on that last note, it makes sense that each member of the Packers’ d-line registered a negative score in Week 1. B.J. Raji graded out the worst at -2.1.
I’m not convinced that Frank Gore has to run for 100 yards in this game for the 49ers to win, but Colin Kaepernick must have time to throw and running lanes for both Gore and LaMichael James need to be open during early downs. San Francisco’s offensive line should be up to this challenge.
2. 49ers rush defense vs. Packers rush offense
The Packers haven’t averaged 4.0 yards per carry for three consecutive seasons, while the 49ers boast one of the best run defenses in the league (the best, according to PFF). San Francisco will mostly look to stop DuJuan Harris after completely negating the presence of Cedric Benson (9 carries, 18 yards) in Week 1, but Harris shouldn’t fare much better. Harris rushed for a touchdown against the Vikings and gained 100 all-purpose yards in the Wild Card round, but he only averaged 2.8 yards per carry. The Packers may try to establish the run early, but look for them to abandon it early as well … just like they did in Week 1.
3. Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner vs. the survival instincts possessed by Packers WRs
I’ve brought this up too many times to count, but it’s one of the many reasons why Goldson was named an NFL.com All-Pro safety today – he changed the course of Greg Jennings’ season in Week 1 with a frightening hit. Here’s what I wrote in the afternoon after the 49ers’ 30-22 victory in Green Bay:
– Fantasy tip: Greg Jennings might not be the same guy for the rest of this year. Dashon Goldson might kill someone this year. Seriously.
Jennings would go on to have his worst season as a pro (366 yards, 4 TD). He missed Week 2 against Chicago, played the next two weeks, then missed the Packers’ next seven games. Jennings has come back to life recently, with a 120-yard performance in Week 17 and 4 catches for 61 yards in the Wild Card game. Still, look out for alligator arms from Jennings, and for the Packers’ passing game to focus almost exclusively on the sidelines.
The intimidation tactics of Goldson and Whitner have officially become a thing. Just ask Aaron Hernandez, Pierre Thomas and several others. The only way this could backfire is if Goldson unleashes fury at the wrong place and/or wrong time and gets called for a personal foul.
4. 49ers tight ends vs. A.J. Hawk
Michael Crabtree is going to attract more attention than the last time these teams met, and Randy Moss had a great first half in Week 1 at Lambeau. As a result, there will be occasions when either Vernon Davis or Delanie Walker will be left one-on-one against A.J. Hawk. Hawk has a noteworthy name, but his season has been anything but — he racks up tackles but isn’t very good in coverage, and his overall score from PFF this season (-1.6) would be even worse if he wasn’t so good at avoiding penalties. I’m predicting a big game for the 49ers’ tight ends, although I have no idea which tight end will benefit most from the Packers’ coverage weaknesses in the middle of the field. So far, Kaepernick has targeted both almost equally.
5. Candlestick Park vs. the Packers
The 49ers’ Week 1 win took place at Lambeau. After that game Green Bay won their next eight home games, which is how the Packers made it this far. Meanwhile, Green Bay finished 4-4 on the road in 2012. I attended both of the 49ers’ playoff games last season (I won’t be there for Saturday’s game, because we’re hosting a meetup at Northstar Cafe that you all are invited to), and there can be no doubt — like AT&T Park has become the loudest playoff venue in MLB, Candlestick Park has morphed into a place that gets obscenely loud when the games truly matter. I’m not as worried as some about Packers fans buying up all the tickets and taking over The Stick; there were plenty of Giants fans in the house for the NFC Championship a year ago and my ears still rung for at least five days following that game. Candlestick Park may not have the funky architecture of Seattle’s home stadium, but the place still shakes when the 49ers are on defense.
Here’s today’s contest question:
Prediction time: when the clock hits 0:00, what will the score be in this game?
The comments in this post will be rounded up along with the other four contest posts this week, and I’ll randomly choose two winners who’ll each receive a 10-person pizza party from Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria and a 25th Anniversary t-shirt from Amici’s. As an added bonus for this post and this one alone, I’ll give out two BASG koozies to whoever comes closes to predicting the final score.
Here are the other posts you can still comment on for a better chance to win the Amici’s prizes: