A complete guide to betting Packers vs. 49ers NFC Championship Game

Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

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Packers at 49ers Picks & NFC Championship Odds

  • Odds: 49ers -7.5
  • Over/Under: 46.5
  • Kickoff: 6:40 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FOX

After opening as 7-point favorites, the 49ers are up to -7.5 heading into Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Packers. Is there any value in backing the favorite at that number? Or should you fade the top seed?

Our experts preview the matchup from every angle, featuring a spread pick and our projected odds.

Packers-49ers Injury Report

Niners bettors and fans will be relieved to know that they don’t have a single player listed on their injury report. TE George Kittle (ankle) and DL Dee Ford (quad/hamstring) both logged full practices, while LB Kwon Alexander (pec) was limited on Friday but was removed anyway.

And it’s the same story for the Packers — the only player they have listed as questionable is FB Danny Vitale (knee). Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: 49ers -7.5
  • Projected Total: 45.5

Biggest Mismatch That Favors the Packers

Turnover Battle

Green Bay must win the turnover battle and steal a score or two in order to win this game on the road against a more talented team.

In the Week 12 meeting between these two teams, Aaron Rodgers uncharacteristically fumbled on the opening possession, leading to an easy 49ers touchdown on a short field. The 49ers never looked back after the Packers obviously failed to get off to their important quick start.

But this is still an aggressive Packers defense that was one of only three NFL teams with an opponent interception percentage higher than 3% over the regular season. And now they get a 49ers offense that ranked 25th with a 2.82% interception rate, which is right in line with Jimmy Garoppolo’s 2.8% interception rate since arriving in San Fran.

Taking care of the ball has been one of Jimmy G’s weaknesses in his early career, and the Packers must take advantage.

On the flip side, Green Bay’s offense led the NFL with a minuscule 0.67% interception rate and will get to face a San Francisco defense that ranked just 17th in that same category. That shouldn’t surprise since Rodgers has the lowest interception rate (1.4%) in NFL history among all qualified quarterbacks, per Pro Football Reference. Stuckey

Biggest Mismatch That Favors the 49ers

49ers Defense vs. Packers Offense

With cerebral safety Jaquiski Tartt, speedy linebacker Kwon Alexander and disruptive pass-rusher Dee Ford all healthy, the 49ers boast the NFL’s most complete defense. Coordinator Robert Saleh’s unit led the NFL in fewest yards per play allowed (4.66) and rated second-best in schedule-adjusted efficiency by Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.

This type of defense will pose problems for a Green Bay offense that ranked just 17th in yards per play (5.42) and no longer benefits from truly elite quarterback play.

The Packers’ offensive line is strong — they earned top-eight marks in both pass- and run-blocking from Pro Football Focus — but they don’t have an edge against a 49ers defensive line comprised of studs Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and DeForrest Buckner, each of whom earned a top-eight grade at their position.

What really hurts the Packers here is that their offense is over-reliant on the contributions of running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Davante Adams, both of whom the 49ers are capable of slowing down.

Let’s start with the Rodgers-Adams connection.

The 49ers rank first in schedule-adjusted yards per game allowed to No. 1 receivers (54.9, per Football Outsiders) and held Adams to seven catches for 43 yards on 12 targets in the first meeting. Head coach Matt LaFleur can’t adjust by simply scheming Adams away from Richard Sherman, as Sherman was on Adams for only two of his 12 targets in the first contest.

I’ve pointed this out over and over with the 49ers, because it’s key to understanding how the matchups will play out: What they do at an elite level — especially with a healthy Ford — is get pressure without blitzing. According to Pro Football Reference, San Francisco generated the second-best pressure rate in the league (28.7%) while blitzing at the fourth-lowest clip (20.9%). This allows the 49ers to dedicate seven defenders to coverage while still getting to the quarterback quickly. It led to an NFL-best 4.8 net yards per pass allowed and NFL-low 6.8-yard average depth of target allowed.

In the first meeting between these two teams, Adams’ average reception came 0.1 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Rodgers passed for just 104 yards on 33 attempts in that game, the fewest passing yards of his career in a game with 23 or more attempts

The 49ers are a solid, but not quite elite, run defense — they ranked 11th in DVOA — but the ability of their secondary to hold up in coverage allows them to key in on running backs when necessary, until they build a big enough lead to unleash their pass rush. They rendered Dalvin Cook (15 touches, 26 yards) a non-factor last week, and were able to do the same in Week 12 to Jones (13 touches, 38 yards). During the regular season, the 49ers limited opposing backfields to the seventh-fewest carries (19.4), eighth-fewest yards (81.8), and tied for the fourth-fewest touchdowns (0.44) per game.

When you have a mediocre offense in terms of yard-per-play efficiency going up against the top defense in that regard, converting on third down becomes paramount. The Packers ranked just 23rd in third-down conversion rate on offense (38.0%), while the 49ers ranked second on defense (33.3%). In the first meeting, the Packers went 1-of-15 on third down (6.7%) in a 37-8 San Francisco rout.

There are a couple of things LaFleur can do to help his offense stay competitive.

The first is something we saw last week: Multiple-tight end sets. The 49ers allowed a league-worst 58% Success Rate on runs out of 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends), according to Sharp Football Stats. Last week, the Vikings played 12 personnel on 24% of their snaps, but oddly, they passed 10 times while running just once out of that formation.

The second is give Rodgers the green light to scramble — decisively. Rodgers’ unwillingness to play within the structure of the offense has previously been a point of frustration among coaches and scouts, and buying time in the pocket is unlikely to move the needle as far as his overmatched receiving corps getting open, but rushing lanes should be there against a defense that allowed the third-most rushing yards per game (23.8) and sixth-most yards per carry (5.21) to opposing quarterbacks during the regular season. Chris Raybon

PRO System Match

It’s been historically profitable to bet underdogs in the playoffs. Since 2003, pooches have gone 99-80-4 (55%) against the spread in the postseason.

Part of the reason is because casual bettors like to wager on the favorite, so oddsmakers will inflate the line to make it easier for the underdog to cover. So the optimal situation is to bet sizable underdogs when they’re getting little public support.

Bettors following our PRO System of backing postseason underdogs (between 5.5 and 14 points) that are receiving fewer than 50% of tickets (in a matchup with a closing total of 50 or lower) would have gone 30-12-1 (71%) since 2003.

As of writing, 55% of spread tickets are backing the 49ers as 7.5-point favorites (see live public betting data here), but history suggests that recreational bettors will be disappointed by Sunday’s outcome. John Ewing

PRO Systems are data-driven betting strategies that turn winning long-term trends into easy-to-follow picks, all handpicked and monitored by our team of analysts. Try Action PRO now and instantly access real-time game matches for every PRO System.

Expert Pick

Raybon: 49ers -7.5

The 49ers closed as 7-point favorites over the Vikings — and the Vikings were a better team than the Packers.

Simple Rating System (schedule-adjusted margin of victory) pegs the Vikings at +5.4 and the Packers at +3.2. Or take DVOA, a schedule-adjusted team efficiency metric by Football Outsiders that ranks the Vikings seventh at +15.4%, twice as efficient as the 10th-ranked Packers (+7.7%). The 49ers, meanwhile, clock in with +11.0 SRS (second in the NFL) and a +27.5% DVOA (fifth).

Despite home-field advantage and extra rest, the Packers barely held on against an injury-ravaged Seahawks team in the Divisional Round, getting out-gained 375-344 in total yardage and 6.3-5.8 in yards per play. And all of the advantages Green Bay enjoyed against Seattle are no longer present.

Adams went 8-160-2, accounting for a ludicrous 66% of the Packers’ passing yardage while Jones was their only other means of offense against Seattle (66 yards, two touchdowns). But as I discussed earlier, Adams and Jones will have a hard time against San Francisco.

This 49ers squad is well battle tested: All six playoff teams they’ve faced have come in Week 10 on, and they’re 5-1 ATS, covering by an average of 5.6 points per game.

The Packers are 4-2 ATS against playoff teams, but look closer and their resume is far less impressive: Two of their wins came against a Minnesota team they match up well with, a third came against a Kansas City team with Matt Moore at quarterback, and the fourth was their half-point cover against Seattle last week.

Despite the winning ATS record, the Packers’ cover margin is in the red, at -2.5.

The market has been underrating the 49ers’ dominance all season. That was the case in Week 12, when they were favored by three against these Packers and won by 29 in a 37-8 rout. And it’s been even more true in the postseason, when they got back a stud at every level of their defense in Tartt, Alexander and Ford. In eight games with all three in the lineup together, the 49ers allowed 11.9 points per game. They went 8-0 straight up and 6-2 ATS in those games, with a staggering +14.9 ATS margin.

When teams are relatively evenly-matched, the added familiarity in rematches can benefit the team that lost the first time, but this isn’t one of those cases: The Packers offense relies too heavily on Adams and Jones to contend with a dominant defense that can take those two away. The blowout in the first matchup was not something a few coaching adjustments can fix.

I bet the 49ers at -7 but like them up to -8.