- Aaron Rodgers and the Packers haven't looked sharp lately—can the team get back on track against the 49ers on Monday Night Football?
Three things to know before the 49ers face the Packers on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).
1. Aaron Rodgers has not been his sharpest lately. His injured knee has looked less problematic each week (we’ll see what a recently reported minor setback means for his mobility Monday night), but with receivers Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb out in recent weeks, fewer of the sandlot plays that Rodgers relies on have been available. In turn, the Packers QB hasn’t seen the field with the clarity that his high standards demand, and he’s uncharacteristically misfired on a few underneath throws. Historically, Rodgers has gotten back on track once he flips the switch and starts playing more on schedule, but history also says there’s no telling whether or not he’ll flip that switch.
2. Quietly, the 49ers are averaging 136.2 yards per game on the ground, fourth best in the NFL. Matt Breida (who might miss this game with an ankle injury) and Alfred Morris have been strong fits in Kyle Shanahan’s outside zone rushing attack, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, besides being a great receiver, is one of the game’s best lead-blockers. This rushing attack will be crucial for keeping Rodgers (and San Francisco’s spotty defense) off the field Monday night. Green Bay’s run defense goes hot and cold, which is a little surprising given that Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Dean Lowry play with as much power as any defensive line in football.
3. C.J. Beathard must be on high alert for blitzes from defensive backs. Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine believes in rushing slot corners and safeties from depth, where they’re often unaccounted for in the offense’s protection. The idea is that a defensive back can blitz from further away because, being faster than a linebacker, he can quickly make up that extra ground. Behind these blitzes, Pettine will employ zone coverage that plays out like man-to-man. Expect Shanahan to design third-down plays that get receivers inside where they’re more likely to face a linebacker or safety.
Bold Prediction: Rodgers will have at least two 30-plus-yard completions on plays extended outside the pocket, taking advantage of a 49ers nickel defense that lacks edge rushers.