What a week. It included an impressive road playoff victory for the 49ers, disappointment in their quarterback play and key injuries to look out for against Green Bay.
Although both teams have battled injuries, both the Packers and 49ers appear to be pretty healthy heading into a freezing Saturday Night matchup in prime time. Here’s what to watch for in what should be an interesting matchup.
Best Case Scenario: Same old story for the 49ers, they control the clock with a demoralizing run game and limit the Packers ability to get in rhythm. The defensive line dominates the Packers up front to put Aaron Rodgers under constant duress and he throws in the towel as he’s been known to do.
The 49ers are a much different team offensively than the team that trotted out in Week 3 against the Packers. The 49ers have found a running game that works including a punishing attack led by rookie Elijah Mitchell that grinds yards out at over four yards per carry. The NFL’s biggest difference-maker wide back Deebo Samuel has become the central focus of a powerful 49ers offensive attack. Samuel will be leaned on heavily in this matchup out of the frozen backfield for 10-15 carries in this ballgame. Samuel has scored on average every 5 times he’s rushed the ball this season so look for him to have a huge game given the workload he will carry.
And then there’s Jimmy Garoppolo, who will be a difference-maker in this contest. Expect Garoppolo to hover around 15 pass attempts in this ball game but make no mistake about it, those attempts will be huge in the game’s outcome. Garoppolo will have at least two touchdowns and will be turnover-free for the first time in a month. His performance will put the game out of reach for the Packers.
The 49ers defense is much improved since Week 3 across the board. The emergence of Arik Armstead inside gives the 49ers an added advantage against the quarterback that they didn’t have. Defensive ends Arden Key, Jordan Willis and Samson Ebukam have all improved their pressure rate down the stretch and they will have a huge impact on this game alongside superstar Nick Bosa. Even the 49ers secondary has drastically improved, many remember the offensive success for the Packers in Week 3 was them simply chucking the ball deep getting pass interference penalties any time they needed a play. That is long gone and it will make for a long day for the Green Bay offense.
Worst Case Scenario: The only way the 49ers lose this game is to turn the ball over multiple times. Unfortunately for the 49ers, they have been prone to turnovers at inopportune times this season, particularly Jimmy Garoppolo down the stretch.
The 49ers offense will run the ball effectively. Since the emergence of Samuel at the newly created position of wide back, their run game has been unstoppable. They will need to convert key third downs and that always falls on the shoulders of Jimmy Garoppolo. Although many feel Garoppolo has minimal effect on the 49ers he actually plays a pivotal role. If he turns the ball over multiple times or is unable to convert key third downs to keep the chains moving the 49ers offense will struggle. Garoppolo hasn’t played well the past couple weeks and the injuries keep adding up for him so this will be key in the game for the 49ers.
The 49ers defense has been firing on all cylinders down the stretch, but still is thin at cornerback. The Packers will be returning some key starters along the offensive line this week including left tackle David Bakhtiari so it may be tougher for the 49ers pass rush to get home. If any one of the 49ers starters go down in the secondary it could spell disaster against Rodgers and All Pro DeVante Adams. The 49ers appear healthy heading into the game but they are one injury away in the secondary from trouble and given the expected forecast that is definitely a possibility.
Chuy’s Prediction: The 49ers will completely dominate the trenches on both sides of the ball, Garoppolo will play a mistake-free game and they will be too much for the Packers to overcome.
The only way the 49ers lose this game is if Garoppolo or the 49ers offense turns the ball over multiple times. Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan and the entire 49ers roster understand they are the better team and simply need to not give the game away. I expect the 49ers to run the ball 40 or more times and Samuel will have a huge day. Garoppolo will face some key third downs but I think he will go back to his trusty ‘ole number one, George Kittle. Expect Kittle to get multiple looks on third down today and look for the 49ers to actually put one away in the second half.
Rodgers always has the ability to explode but only in certain conditions. He simply doesn’t respond well to pressure in his face and that is why the 49ers have been his Achilles heel. It is more likely to me that Rodgers will quit as we’ve seen him do before rather than rise and have an explosive performance especially given the weather. The 49ers pass rush is no joke and it will be relentless on Rodgers all day along with an improved secondary that doesn’t commit dumb penalties often anymore.
This game will come down to who’s simply better and more physical due to the weather. Unfortunately for the Packers, the 49ers win in both categories.
Final Score Prediction: 49ers 27 - Packers 16
As always, tune in at Halftime to see Alejandra and me share our first half thoughts on YouTube: Chuy and Alejandra. We’ll be taking calls to hear from you, the Faithful. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter: @chuy_alejandra. Enjoy the game!