Matchup: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers and Packers will meet in a game that stands to determine one of the two teams to play for the NFC championship.
3 Keys to Victory for the 49ers
—Get a strong contribution from Justin Smith
Justin Smith may be injured, but he’s going to attempt to play through the pain and anchor the 49ers defense. However good Patrick Willis may be, Smith is the real MVP of this defense and when he rolls, so does the rest of the team. If the defensive lineman is wreaking havoc up front, San Francisco will be able to control Aaron Rodgers‘ pocket and force him into bad decisions.
—Force the turnover and be opportunistic
The Packers are too strong offensively to be given extra chances, so the 49ers will need to rip at the football when ballcarriers are running down the field. If San Francisco can get another possession here and there, the team will be able to compete with Green Bay. The defensive backs need to limit long passes to prevent Aaron Rodgers from getting into a rhythm.
—Keep Colin Kaepernick focused and on task
Colin Kaepernick is inexperienced and could be a risk to turn the ball over if he really starts to feel the pressure in this game. The signal-caller can’t try to do too much in this game or the Packers will force him into making mistake. That said, keeping Kaepernick within the offense could help the 49ers to victory.
3 Keys to Victory for the Packers
—Let Aaron Rodgers “do his thing”
Depending who you ask, Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL and he’ll use his bevy of receivers to help the Packers compete in this football game. When Rodgers is on his game, he can torch defenses and light up the scoreboard like no other. Mike McCarthy can’t try to hold Rodgers back in this game and it wouldn’t be the worst thing if Green Bay focused solely on the passing game.
—Get in Colin Kaepernick’s head early
This will be on Clay Matthews‘ head to take down Colin Kaepernick early. If the Packers can successfully rush the passer and land some hard hits on the signal-caller in his first playoff appearance, he’ll get paranoid in the pocket and feel non-existent rushes. Though Green Bay has a solid secondary that could likely contain the 49ers anyway, it’d help if the Packers attacked Kaepernick early.
—Lock Michael Crabtree up with Casey Hayward
This matchup would define this contest, considering Casey Hayward has had an excellent campaign and Michael Crabtree has been a favorite target of Colin Kaepernick’s for the majority of the quarterback’s games. Hayward can cover with some of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and could have success matching up against Crabtree, a gifted receiver looking to legitimize himself as one of the NFL’s best, but Hayward would shut down the latter pass catcher.
Nachmany Football Prediction: Green Bay Packers 35-13
The Packers have too many weapons and we don’t believe Justin Smith is fully healthy, which will hurt the 49ers as a whole. Colin Kaepernick, in his first playoff game, isn’t going to beat Aaron Rodgers and should have hoped for an easier draw than this. Green Bay is too good; look for the 49ers to get their doors blown off at Candlestick Park.
Check out our other game previews here for other Wild Card round game previews and predictions.