It surely won’t be fun and games when the Packers meet the 49ers Saturday in the NFC Divisional Playoff game in San Francisco.
Raymond T. Rivard
We here at Lombardiave.com had the opportunity to sit down with Eric He, the editor over at Golden Gate Sports, and talk for a bit about Saturday’s matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers.
Eric was kind enough to take our questions and utilize his insight to give us honest answers to some probing questions.
Here’s what he had to say:
Q. What have been the most debilitating and most positive changes the 49ers have experienced this season?
"The Packers will have to slow the 49ers running game to have a chance Saturday.Raymond T. Rivard photographA. The most debilitating change has to be the struggles of David Akers. After setting an NFL record for most field goals in a season last year, Akers has made just 69 percent of his kicks in 2012, missing several chip shots and potential game winners. The 49ers even brought in Billy Cundiff to compete with Akers for the postseason starting job, but Akers surprisingly won the battle and will kick against the Packers on Saturday (And as I understand, Mason Crosby isn’t doing too well in Green Bay)."
"Positively, you can’t overlook the quarterback switch to Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is going to be a superb quarterback in this league, and at the very least he is an upgrade to the passive Alex Smith. Switch to Kaepernick has given the Niners the opportunity to go for the big play, and he is very mobile with the ability to scramble for the first down."
Q. Which 49ers loss and which win have revealed the most (positive and/or negative) about Niners this season?
"Coach Mike McCarthy will have his team ready to play.Raymond T. Rivard photographA. In my mind, the Week 15 win at New England was the most pivotal one for the 49ers this season. They beat the Patriots 41-34 on the road in a wild shootout that saw Tom Brady lead New England on a 28-point comeback, but ultimately it was the 49ers that prevailed. This win showed that the 49ers were serious contenders and could compete with best of them. Plus, given the fact that it was nationally televised, experts everywhere were calling the 49ers “Superbowl favorites.”Of course, that title quickly dropped the following week, when they traveled to Seattle and were devoured 42-13. They had absolutely no answer for Russell Wilson and the dynamic offense of the Seahawks, revealing that their defense is not invincible. That loss put the NFC West up for grabs with the Seahawks, but fortunately the Niners beat the Cardinals in the final game to clinch the division and save some face."
Q. Why did Jim Harbaugh switch QBs midstream and do you feel it was the right move?
"Quarterback Alex Smith has been replaced by Colin Kaepernick.Raymond T. Rivard photographA. Harbaugh switched quarterbacks because he is Jim Harbaugh, and only he would have the guts to make such a decision. After Alex Smith suffered a concussion vs. the Rams in Week 10, Kaepernick spelled him for the second half and led the 49ers to a tie. But he really shined the following week, when Smith was still out with the concussion and the 49ers played the Bears on Monday Night Football. Kaepernick threw for 243 yards in a 32-7 blowout, and everyone began salivating at his potential. He was named the started the next week (when Smith was fully healthy), and proceeded to light up the Saints on the road. Harbaugh then gave him the starting role for the rest of the season.I feel that it is not the right move unless the 49ers win the Superbowl this year. Smith was doing perfectly fine, leading the league in quarterback rating and completing 70 percent of his passes before he got hurt. It looked as if he was ready to take this team to the Superbowl, until Kaepernick swooped in and took the job away from him. So unless Kaepernick leads them to a championship, I think Harbaugh was wrong to replace Smith."
Q. If the 49ers come away with a win Saturday, who do you feel will be the difference-maker and why?
"A. Honestly, it’s going to be the kicking game between Akers and Crosby. Both have struggled mightily this season, and I feel that the game will come down to a few points, and those kicks will really matter.I can’t speak for Crosby, but for Akers, he needs to regain that mojo he had in 2011-2012. He will go down as one of the greatest kickers of all-time (dare I say), and he needs to forget about the past and focus on the present on Saturday."
Q. Is it Super Bowl or bust for the 49ers or do you think this is a team that’s going to be competitive for years to come?
"With or without QB Alex Smith, the 49ers will be a team with which to contend for many years in the NFC.Raymond T. Rivard photographA. There is no doubt that this team will be competitive for years to come. With their defense and superb running game, they will be contenders for at least the next five years. If Kaepernick develops into a franchise quarterback, like Aaron Rodgers has in GB, I would warn the rest of the league to watch out."
Q. Your view of the game? Who wins and why? Also give us a final score.
"A. Packers 21, Niners 17. I think Rodgers and his veteran experience will be the key against an inexperienced Kaepernick, playing in his first playoff game. Yes, the Niners did beat the Packers in Week 1, but that was ages ago and a lot has changed since then."