The San Francisco 49ers begin their 2013 campaign in a tough spot. With a trip to Seattle looming in week 2, the team must secure a home victory against the Green Bay Packers in week 1 or risk the possibility of falling into an 0-2 hole.
The 49ers and Packers met twice in 2012, with the 49ers winning both contests comfortably 30-22 in week 1 and 45-31 in the divisional round of the playoffs. It may seem like a tall task to beat a team with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers three times in a row, but if you look deeper at last season’s games, the 49ers appear to be a very difficult matchup for the Packers.
The main reason for the discrepancy is the fact that the Packers simply couldn’t stop the 49ers’ offense. In the two games, the Niners rushed for 509 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Even if you take away Colin Kaepernick‘s 181 yards in the playoff game, the 49ers still rushed for 328 yards at a 5.6 clip. They were also efficient through the air, as week one starter Alex Smith went 20-26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Kaepernick followed by going 17-31 for 263 yards and also threw two touchdowns.
The Packers defense will be tested again and if they can’t hold the 49ers to under 30 points this time around, it could be a long day.
If things go well for the Packers, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley may be the difference in the game. The 49ers will be in their nickel and dime packages for most of the day to counter the Packers’ three and four wide receiver sets. That means Nnamdi Asomugha will move outside opposite Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers will move inside to cover the slot receiver. Rogers struggled last season and, at 32 years old, is not getting any younger. If the Packers can exploit that matchup with Cobb and/or Finley, they may be able to hit some big plays on the 49er defense.
Obviously, the Packers must also figure out a way to stop Kaepernick after he went up and down the field on them for 444 total yards the last time they met. Even more important for the 49ers though, is they must get consistent pressure on Rodgers to keep the Pack from putting up big numbers on the score board.
For the 49ers, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith are back to being healthy and the team will need big games from them. When both players were at full strength last season, the 49ers’ defense gave up 14.1 points per game. When they were injured or playing hurt, they gave up 29.6. The Niner secondary has some question marks with Asomugha coming off two poor seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and rookie Eric Reid still being untested. A strong pass rush can cover a lot of blemishes that may occur on the back end.
Game changing factor
Green Bay’s starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga is out for the season with an ACL injury. That means rookie David Bakhtiari and ex-undrafted free agent Don Barclay will get the start. That tandem looks to be a little suspect and if the Packers can’t protect Rodgers, they have no chance to beat the 49ers.
Stat to know
The 49ers have only given up 100 yards rushing to a single running back three times over the last two seasons. Marshawn Lynch did it once in 2011 and once in 2012, while Steven Jackson was the other culprit last year. What does this mean for the Packers’ game? Well, Green Bay added running back Eddy Lacy in the 2013 draft in order to give them some balance on offense. Like Lynch and Jackson, Lacy is a big, strong back that runs hard. At 5’11 and 231 pounds, he may be able to make a dent in San Francisco’s vaunted defense IF the Packers offensive line can open some holes for him.
There is no doubt the Packers have a bad taste in their mouth and would like nothing more than to come into San Francisco and get a win. They have a tough schedule of their own as they play the Washington Redskins in week 2 and then travel to Cincinnati to play to upstart Bengals in week 3. They will have to bounce back from an 0-1 start however. With problems on the offensive line and a suspect defense, the 49ers will be too much at home.
Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
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