This is the third meeting of the two franchises since opening day in 2012. So far, the scales are tilted heavily in favor of the Niners, who are currently holding a 3-0 record against the Packers in those match-ups – one being a devastating playoff loss last year when Colin Kaepernick ran wild (literally) and gashed the Packers defense for record numbers in total offense.
As it seems, the 49ers have the Packers’ number – on offense, defense and special teams. But, the Green Bay Packers are the playoff team on destiny right now; so what will it take for the Packers to get even?
What is the Wild Card weekend winning formula?
1. Home Field Advantage: It’s Lambeau Field and it’s January football. There is no cold like a Green Bay cold, especially in the playoffs. No one is immune to it, but the 49ers are coming from the West Coast warmth, to the frozen tundra.
Those who say that the weather is not an advantage to the Packers is kidding themselves. Yes, the 49ers play 8 games a year away from the Bay area; and yes, they are forced to make it work in the elements throughout the season. However, conditions at Lambeau are projected at 7 degrees (and dropping) with a chance of snow. That is a far cry from the 61 degrees and sunny that the San Fran area is experiencing currently. It is going to be a shock and it is going to be one that the Packers will be more equipped to deal with – not to mention, the fans of the Green Bay Packers are going to show up and show out for their boys.
Aaron Rodgers is back, there is a sense of renewed hope and … there will be a ton of green and yellow in the crowd on Sunday. It’s home field – and it’s definitely an advantage.
2. Offensive Fire Power: In order to keep the pace with the high-powered 49ers offense which is steadily getting healthy, the Packers need all their offensive weapons to be performing at their maximum potential.
Randall Cobb and Aaron Rodgers are baaaaaaack, baby! And they made their mark this past Sunday against the Chicago Bears. This offensive attack is finally getting healthy. The only nagging issue is the right ankle of Eddie Lacy, carrying our running game on his resilient shoulders.
When the offense is working on all cylinders, it is potent and it is almost impossible to stop. We need this characteristic on Sunday to be prevalent. Rodgers shook off the rust on Sunday, Cobb got out his first-game-back jitters and Nelson, Jones and Boykin have never stopped doing work. It’s time to expose this vaunted 49ers defense and prove that the Packers deserve this playoff win.
3. Run DMC (Defense Must Contain): In week 1, this Packers defensive line played very well. It contained Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore, exceptionally well. That was the number one question going into the season – how could the Packers run defense hold up against the read-option?
After being gashed repeatedly the year before, critics were skeptical that the Packers could contain the powerful run attack. I was surprised, but excited to see what an improvement this run defense had made. However, at around the week 6 mark when Ray Rice rolled through the defensive line with ease, morale was diminished and the run defense was never the same.
The Packers need to get back to week 1 here in the first round of the playoffs. If Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter have a field day, the Packers will be in trouble. It’s going to be a cold, snowy day in Wisconsin and the Niners will be looking to pound the rock. If the Packers can stop the run, they will force Kaepernick to beat us with his arm and that’s where the secondary comes into play …
4. Secondary Signature: Tramon Williams and Sam Shields have been playing their best football, as of late. Yes, at times it could be better. Both guys can sometimes jump routes and leave another defender wide open, both guys can sometimes be lazy tacklers and both guys can occasionally get beat … badly.
But, they are the most consistent defenders in the secondary and have been making big plays the past few games. The cornerback position is definitely the secondary’s strong suit. Shields and Williams can match up on number one receivers and have great success. However, the safeties have been terrible. Even Morgan Burnett has been struggling this year after dealing with a nagging injury that caused him to miss four games early in the season. On the other side of him? The Packers haven’t been able to find stability or quality. Jerron McMillian was let go, Davon House has been fairly bad. Of all, the starter M.D Jennings has been way below par. He doesn’t offer any real support over the top, is often out of position, is a terrible tackler and plays poor coverage.
To keep Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and now Michael Crabtree at bay – this secondary is going to have to play MUCH better than the season opener, when they gave up more than 400 yards passing to second-year man, Kaepernick.
5. Heavy Dose of Lacy: EDDIE. LACY. I don’t know what else to say but that. This is the kicker, it is the main difference between then and now. Lacy was making his first start in the NFL, he was working with limited snaps and coughed up the football for the very first time.
Since, he has been sure-handed and violent. He had a pretty good second half in that first meeting in September – but he needs a very good GAME in order to bring success home to Lambeau. He’s gimpy right now, for the past three weeks straight. However, he’s been battling through it and taking defenders with him along the way. He’s still running hard and he’s still opening up the passing game for Aaron Rodgers.
I am excited to see what he and James Starks can do as that vaunted 1-2 punch that McCarthy and Co. were raving about this offseason. If we get a nice, heavy dose of Lacy on Sunday, we can expect the passing lanes to be fluid. He is an integral part of this offensive identity now and he is a game changer.
If all of these things happen on Sunday, we can expect to meet the Seahawks in Seattle in the divisional round. And what a vendetta that would be …