coleryan Posts:13653 Followers:19
On 09/02/2013 10:57 AM in NFL

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers: Preview and Pick

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers: Preview and Pick

One of the most anticipated games for the first week of the regular season in the National Football League has to be the game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers. This rematch from the NFC playoffs a year ago features two of the best teams in the league. Both of these teams have the talent to return to the playoffs and have a realistic chance of making it to the Super bowl.

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers Odds

The point spread for this game opened up with the 49ers as a (-5.5) point favorites as they are playing at home and are fresh off a Super Bowl appearance. That line has been slowly bet down as the betting public believes that the Packers can keep this game close. The latest line on this match up can be found as low as (-4) at several top rated online sports books.

The Green Bay Packers are eager to play this rematch as they were unprepared a year ago for a mobile young quarterback named Colin Kaepernick. A year later the Packers are healthier on defense, led by linebacker Clay Matthews. They are also much younger on defense, especially in the secondary.

On offense the Packers will always be led by signal caller Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers got some help in the backfield from the draft and rookie running back Eddie Lacy will start at running back. The young back will get a big test as he runs against one of the best defenses in the league.

The 49ers have a very stout defense that only improved in the offseason by adding pieces in the secondary which will come in handy against Rodgers.

On offense Kapernick will lead the team on to the field, but they also have another gifted piece in running back Frank Gore. Although the 49ers lost a weapon at wide out in Michael Crabtree to injury, they still have targets in Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin.

Both teams have impressive betting trends for this game. The Packers are 23-9 against the spread (ATS) in their last 32 games on grass and 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games overall. The 49ers are 19-7-1 ATS in their last 27 games on grass and 15-6-1 ATS in their last 22 home games.

Something has to give in the opener as these two teams do battle on the field in week one.

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-7-0
coleryan Posts:13653 Followers:19
09/03/2013 02:46 PM

The Green Bay Packers have spent a good chunk of the offseason working on how to defend the read option after ending the 2012 season by watching quarterback Colin Kaepernick run wild in the Packers' playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

The Packers open this season with a rematch of that playoff debacle (in which Kaepernick rushed, mostly untouched, for an NFL-quarterback record 181 yards) and follow it with a matchup against the Washington Redskins and Robert Griffin III.

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews gave insight into what we should expect from the Green Bay defense in those games: lots of quarterback hits. "One of the things that the referees have told us is that when these quarterbacks carry out the fakes, they lose their right as a quarterback, a pocket-passing quarterback, the protection of a quarterback," Matthews said Monday on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike." "So with that, you do have to take your shots on the quarterback, and obviously they're too important to their offense.

"If that means they pull them out of that type of offense and make them run a traditional, drop-back, pocket-style offense, I think that's exactly what we're going for. So you want to put hits as early and often on the quarterback and make them uncomfortable."

Of course, hitting the quarterback requires catching the quarterback. "I can tell you right now, we started from Day 1 in OTAs when we came back in the offseason working on this read-option, pistol, fake offense for lack of a better term," Matthews said. "We've been working on it, especially after what we saw last year in the playoffs specifically and then opening up the season with two of these quarterbacks. We're ready. We feel good about it."

The Packers are an overwhelming favorite to win the NFC North and make a deep run in the playoffs -- of note: None of their division opponents feature quarterbacks who run the read option. To win the conference, the Packers' defense will need to be better.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-7-0
coleryan Posts:13653 Followers:19
09/04/2013 02:59 PM

Today we look at under-the-radar players on each side of the ball.

Packers Offense
One player to watch will be fullback John Kuhn. He's not your prototypical bulldozer when lead blocking in the run game, but he is the Packers' most trusted option as a pass blocker, and he's adequate at worst as a receiving back. As such, Kuhn likely will not have the ball in his hands on short-yardage situations with Eddie Lacy's arrival, but he will likely be flanking Aaron Rodgers when the team is in third and long situations. In a game where the opposing defense is likely to bring a lot of pressure on the Packers' young offensive line, Kuhn's contributions in pass-blocking alone will be worth monitoring and could buy Rodgers just enough time to find a second or third read.

Packers Defense
I would keep an eye on inside linebacker Brad Jones. After transitioning from the outside, Jones has become reliable on the inside, especially in coverage where former Packer Desmond Bishop and fellow starter A.J. Hawk struggle. Jones is also solid in run support, and although he had an ugly game against the 49ers in the playoffs, he was hardly alone in that and he has better support around him to start this year. When the Packers go to a dime package, it's Hawk coming off the field instead of Jones.


49ers Offense
The 49ers offense returns much of the lineup intact, but the wide receiver position has quite a few changes. One new guy who could surprise is wide receiver Marlon Moore. The 49ers signed Moore after the Miami Dolphins chose not to tender him as a restricted free agent. The 49ers signed Moore before Michael Crabtree was lost to a torn Achilles. Moore is entering his fourth year in the league with career totals of 12 receptions, 244 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

And this guy could be starting opposite Anquan Boldin Week 1! Moore saw little preseason playing time, as he got the same reps as the top of the line starters. We don't really know why the 49ers like Moore, but they do, and he is getting a huge opportunity. He looked solid in limited preseason playing time, but I don't think any of us know what to expect from Moore when the season gets going.

49ers Defense
The 49ers return numerous high profile players to their defense. The most high profile additions are rookie free safety Eric Reid and veteran cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

However, the under-the-radar defensive player to keep an eye on will be rookie outside linebacker Corey Lemonier. The 49ers drafted Lemonier in the third round, with hopes he could provide some depth behind Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. Lemonier was a force in the preseason, prompting the 49ers to eventually trade veteran Parys Haralson and second year OLB Cam Johnson.

Smith and Brooks remain the primary starters, but expect Lemonier to make numerous appearances in pass rushing situations as the 49ers look for ways to keep their defense fresh late in games.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-7-0
coleryan Posts:13653 Followers:19
09/05/2013 01:51 PM

The Green Bay Packers insist they're better prepared for Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers' versatile offense for Sunday's rematch at Candlestick Park. That bar got set historically low last January.

Kaepernick ran for 181 yards -- the most ever in an NFL game by a quarterback -- and the 49ers totaled 579 yards of offense in their 45-31 divisional playoff win at Candlestick.

"We've had the entire offseason to focus on last year's loss, as well as the games they played in the playoffs and Super Bowl, and we've had time to figure out a way to defend that," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said Wednesday on a call with Bay Area media.

So what steps have the Packers taken to avenge that loss, which came four months after the 49ers and then-quarterback Alex Smith won 30-22 in the season opener at Lambeau Field? One strategy is to hit Kaepernick when they can. According to a re-emphasized NFL rule, read-option quarterbacks aren't afforded the same protection as pocket passers, because the officials initially will view them as ball carriers. "It looks like as long as the quarterback carries on that play fake, he loses his right as a pocket passer," Matthews said.

Coach Jim Harbaugh calls that a "gray area," debating that all quarterbacks should start out with the normal protection "until he declares that he's a runner."

Kaepernick is not openly concerned, stating: "It's football. You're going to get hit."

Harbaugh, however, called into question the "tough talk" circulating among defenses toward read-option quarterbacks and wondered if bad intentions are being formed.

"We like to think our game plan fits within the scheme of the officials and what we want to do," Matthews added.

No one touched Kaepernick when he raced for a 56-yard, tiebreaking touchdown run on a read-option fake handoff. To prevent that from happening again, Packers coaches have studied up on the read-option attack, and that meant a March field trip to Texas A&M.

"The experience at A&M is a very small part of what we've done as a staff," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We have a system of football defensively where we have base concepts and variations that focus on the athletic quarterback, particularly Kaepernick and others. "We're definitely better prepared for it than we were last year."

Last-minute preparations are coming with inside knowledge from quarterbacks Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace, who were cast aside last week by the 49ers. Tolzien, the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback the past two seasons, surely has more intelligence to offer than Wallace, whose 49ers tenure lasted only a week. "I'm sure Scott and the players are having conversations in the locker room," McCarthy said. "We tend to leave that room to the players. I'm sure there's insight there."

But aren't Packers coaches also interrogating Tolzien in advance of Sunday's season opener? "It's important for any player who comes to the Packers to meet all the coaches," McCarthy said.

Harbaugh sounded unfazed by the Packers' ploy, stating: "Our plan remains the same. There's things (Tolzien) knows. We'll see how that plays out."

There's many other things the Packers know better than they did in January. But they learned a season-ending lesson that day.

"Obviously Colin's going to make his plays," Matthews said. "but we've got to minimize that."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-7-0
coleryan Posts:13653 Followers:19
09/06/2013 01:37 PM

It's Sunday's biggest mismatch: the 49ers defensive front against the Green Bay Packers' makeshift line. Unproven offensive tackles will get tested. Exceptional pass rushers will converge.

Behind that chaotic scene will be quarterback Aaron Rodgers. "Block those guys, please," Rodgers said this week regarding his advice to rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari and second-year right tackle Don Barclay.

Rodgers will have his own say in Sunday's season opener at Candlestick Park, because it's not as if the Packers gave him a $110 million contract extension in April to become a crash-test dummy. Rodgers does, however, seem more endangered and less invincible than a year ago, when he was the reigning league MVP. But last season started the same way it would end: with a loss to his childhood team, the 49ers.

The 49ers aren't taking for granted those defeats of Rodgers & Co.: 30-22 in last year's regular-season opener and 45-31 in the divisional playoff game. "I'm not going to say we solved him, because he put points on the board," 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald said. "He's a good quarterback, and he's going to come out slinging Sunday."

Rodgers passed for 257 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the playoff loss, though 63 yards and a touchdown came on a garbage-time drive. The 49ers answered his challenge by clamping down on defense.

"It became a basketball-on-grass type game where it was just spread out, throw it every down," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "We were able to hold up, which is hard against that team."

Rodgers' history with the 49ers stretches much further back, of course: a Chico native who grew up a 49ers fan, went to Cal, was bypassed by the 49ers in the draft. He said he even "still follows the Niners. They're close to home there."

Rodgers won 2009 and 2010 regular-season games against the 49ers while combining to pass for 642 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. But his 303 yards and two TD passes in last season's opener weren't enough, when a fourth-quarter interception by NaVorro Bowman helped seal the 49ers' win.

Regardless of the Packers' blocking concerns, the 49ers expect Rodgers to lead a pass-oriented offense, albeit with a quicker release of the ball.

"They've got a $100 million quarterback, so we knew they're going to want him to throw the ball," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "They got some good receivers and a good tight end, so we know they're not going to get too far away from what they do, and that's pass."

Smith sacked Rodgers once in last season's opener, the first of Smith's franchise-record 19½ sacks last season. Rodgers went on to get sacked a career-high 51 times, while also passing for 4,295 yards and 39 touchdowns (eight interceptions).

Rodgers said all the right things this week to encourage his offensive tackles, such as: "Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith are two of the best in the league, and as a pair, present a tough challenge. But we expect those guys to get out there and block them up. It's going to be tough for them, but we've got to win a lot of those battles."

Three years ago, Rodgers embarked on his first Super Bowl-winning season. On Sunday, he'll begin his sixth season as the Packers' starter, and he'll do so as the NFL's all-time leader with a 104.9 career passer rating.

"He throws it just as good as anybody, if not better than anybody, and he's got all the elusiveness that goes with it," Fangio said. "And he's got good guys to throw it to, so they're a hard operation to stop."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-7-0
coleryan Posts:13653 Followers:19
09/08/2013 08:47 AM

Pick

Big revenge game for the Packers after losing in the playoffs a year ago. The biggest problem with the Packers is that weak offensive line that gave up over 50 sacks a year ago. Eddie Lacy will help at running back but it won't be enough to beat this Super Bowl contender.

49ers -4.5

  • Last 7 Days Record: 5-7-0