NFL Playoff Preview: Packers at 49ers
GREEN BAY PACKERS (12-5)
at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (11-4-1)
NFC Divisional Round Playoff Game
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EDT
Line: San Francisco -3, Total: 44.5
The 49ers try to reach the NFC Championship game for the second year in a row when they host the Packers on Saturday night in the Divisional Playoffs.
The Niners had two dramatic home playoff games a year ago, beating the Saints in a back-and-forth affair and losing to the Giants in overtime in the NFC title game. This year they have a different quarterback under center in Colin Kaepernick. They went 5-2 SU and 4-3 ATS with Kaepernick as their starter, including 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS at home, outscoring opponents 86-33 in those games. These teams met at Green Bay in Week 1, a convincing 30-22 win for the Niners. They beat up Aaron Rodgers all day in that game, sacking him three times. The Packers continue to have protection problems, as Rodgers has absorbed 54 sacks this season.
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Packers QB Aaron Rodgers wasn't outstanding last week (71.7 passer rating), but he still finished 23-of-33 for 274 yards (8.3 YPA), 1 TD and 0 INT. For his postseason career, he is now 5-2 with a 105.4 passer rating, throwing for 2,055 yards (294 YPG), 16 TD and 4 INT. He's also been quite good in three career starts versus the Niners -- all since 2009 -- completing 70% of his passes for 945 yards (315 YPG), 7 TD and 1 INT. The one problem area has been his offensive line, as Rodgers has suffered 54 sacks this season, including three last week. The Niners had just 38 sacks this year (T-11th in NFL), but nearly half of those sacks (19.5) came from second-year DE Aldon Smith. And the team's star DT, Justin Smith, expects to return to the field after missing the past two games with a partially torn triceps tendon. A big reason why Rodgers hits the turf so much is because Green Bay's rushing offense is so weak (106.4 YPG, 20th in NFL). This number doesn't expect to rise against the Niners' 4th-ranked run defense (94.2 YPG) that limited the Packers to 45 yards on 14 carries (3.2 YPC) in Week 1. DuJuan Harris is the main ball carrier now, but he gained just 47 yards on 17 carries (2.8 YPC) last week. Instead, Green Bay will ask Rodgers to air it out against San Francisco's 4th-ranked passing defense (200.2 YPG). He has many choices in the passing game, targeting WRs Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson each six times last week, but he'll also look for the team's two leading receivers this season in Randall Cobb (954 rec. yds, 8 TD) and James Jones (784 rec. yds, NFL-high 14 TD). These four players combined for 23 catches for 256 yards in the Week 1 loss to the Niners, while TE Jermichael Finley contributed seven grabs for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Kaepernick has been excellent at home this season, completing 67% of his passes for 910 yards (9.2 YPA), 4 TD and 0 INT. He also finished the regular season on a high note with 8.3 YPA, 7 TD and 2 INT in his final three games (99.5 passer rating). His favorite target has been Michael Crabtree (85 rec, 1,105 yds, 9 TD), who has 35 catches for 538 yards in his past five games. TE Vernon Davis has just six catches and zero touchdowns in his past six games with Kaepernick under center, but he had a huge playoff performance last year with 292 receiving yards and 4 TD in the two games. But the 49ers are just 23rd in passing offense this season (206 YPG), mostly because they prefer to run the football with 156 rushing YPG (4th in NFL). Frank Gore has rushed for 1,214 yards (4.7 YPC) and 8 TD this season, and ran for 112 (7.0 YPC) of his team's 186 rushing yards in the Week 1 victory at Green Bay. Gore was excellent in his postseason debut last year, rushing for 163 yards (5.6 YPC) and gaining 83 more through the air over his team's two games. Although the Packers rank 17th in rushing defense (118.5 YPG), they place 11th against the pass (218.3 YPG). They also do a great job pressuring the quarterback (47 sacks, 4th in NFL) and have forced 2+ turnovers in five of the past eight games.