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Three Reasons Packers Will Beat 49ers in NFL Playoffs

Aaron Rodgers has seen three playoff runs derailed by the San Francisco 49ers. Here's why it could be a different outcome this time.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers is 12-9 as a playoff starter. He’s 0-3 against the San Francisco 49ers, who the Green Bay Packers will host in an NFC divisional playoff game on Saturday night.

Here are three reasons why the Packers will earn their first playoff victory over the 49ers in 20 years and continue their quest for their first Super Bowl championship since 2010.

One: Aaron Rodgers vs. Jimmy Garoppolo

This might be the simpleton way at looking at football but it’s also true. Quarterbacks win games – especially big games – and they win championships.

Rodgers is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and remains one of the great players in the NFL today. He’s expected to win his fourth MVP following a superb season in which he carried an injury-ravaged team to the best record in the NFL.

To be sure, San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is no slouch. Since being acquired in 2017, the 49ers are 34-15 with Garoppolo and 8-28 without him. There could hardly be a starker illustration of what he means. While he really struggled during the second half against Dallas on Sunday, he finished ninth in the NFL with a 98.8 passer rating and second with 8.64 yards per attempt.

“Jimmy’s been unbelievable this year,” Niners coach Kyle Shanahan told Albert Breer of The MMQB after the game. "And I really think when Jimmy's been healthy and he's played, he's playing how he always has, which is more like a top quarterback. I think people are a little unfair with him. … When he throws a pick, it doesn't change him. He’s going to still be the same, and that's why I always have the confidence to keep going back with him and just try to call what's right.”

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Still, Rodgers is Rodgers. He’s on an unbelievable roll with seven consecutive games of two-plus touchdowns and zero interceptions – the second-longest streak in NFL history. He posted just the fifth season in the Super Bowl era of No. 1 rankings in passer rating, touchdown percentage and interception rating.

Yes, Garoppolo and the 49ers beat the Packers in the 2019 NFC Championship Game, but Garoppolo was the statistically superior quarterback that season as Rodgers struggled a bit in Year 1 under coach Matt LaFleur. That season, Rodgers was 12th in rating (95.4), 17th in yards per attempt (7.03) and 21st in completion percentage (62.0). This year, Rodgers was first in rating (111.9), sixth in yards per attempt (7.75) and third in completion percentage (68.9). Rodgers is on top of his game and is going to really tough to beat.

Two: Turnovers

Teams that win the turnover battle win about 80 percent of the time. Green Bay, which finished third in the league at plus-13, went 10-0 when it won the turnover battle and 0-3 when it lost. San Francisco tied for 22nd in the league at minus-4, the worst number in the NFC playoff field. Along with a dozen interceptions, Garoppolo tied for 15th overall with eight fumbles and stud playmaker Deebo Samuel tied for second among receivers with four.

While San Francisco was plus-5 in winning eight of its last 10 games, Green Bay had only seven giveaways from Game 2 through Game 16 and just four in eight home games. The Packers, who are used to the cold, should be in much better hands than the West Coast-based 49ers in that regard.

Three: Lambeau Field

Stadiums don’t win games. Lambeau Field used to be a fortress, especially in the playoffs. The Packers were 11-0 in Lambeau home games until Michael Vick beat Brett Favre in the 2002 playoffs. Starting with that game, the Packers are just 7-6 at home in the playoffs. They had won four straight until losing in last year’s NFC Championship Game.

Still, in a packed Lambeau, Green Bay is 8-0 this season. While the weather isn’t going to be deep-freeze-level cold, it’s still going to be cold. As noted by ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky, Garoppolo hasn’t thrown a pass in a cold-weather game in his career. When the 49ers ran over the Packers in the 2019 NFL title game, it was 58 degrees at kickoff. It will be about 40 degrees colder on Saturday night.

“I think it makes a huge difference,” Rodgers said of playing at home. “We’ve played in some tough environments on the road in the playoffs over the years. When the crowd is rocking and yelling and standing up, it’s tough. It makes it really hard on the opposing team’s offense – verbal communication, cadence and different things. I’m really looking forward to having a full crowd, that good old Green Bay weather. It’s been an advantage for us for a long time, and I feel like it will be an advantage having 78,000 instead of 7,800 like we did last year.”