NFC Championship Betting — Packers Hope Not to Make Same Mistake Twice


Have the Green Bay Packers learned anything from the 37-8 beating they took at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers on November 24? If they’ve absorbed enough, they could earn themselves a ticket to the Super Bowl in Miami.

The problem is that they’ll have to return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, which is Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The Niners will see if they can make home field advantage work for them a second time.

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Their numbers on this NFC Championship game are as follows:

San Francisco 49ers -7.5
Green Bay Packers +7.5

Over 46.5 points -110
Under 46.5 points -110

I confess to making a couple of mistakes last week in handicapping the Divisional Round games. I’m going to try to correct mine. Or will the Packers correct theirs?

I did not place enough weight on the Seattle injuries. You had a pair of running backs – Marshawn Lynch and Travis Homer – who had combined for 19 yards on 17 carries against Philadelphia, and they were in no way, shape or form going to be a dominant factor against Green Bay. With the offensive line shaky, how were they going to come up with a lot of consistent offense? I guess I just placed too much faith in Russell Wilson being able to pull a rabbit out of a hat. But his pass blockers weren’t up to the task. And Seattle shortcomings became exposed.

And I also discounted some of the value of “familiarity” in the San Francisco-Minnesota game. The Vikings had built an offense on play-action, fueled by the running game, particularly Dalvin Cook. And this ground game was revitalized with the hiring of Gary Kubiak as an offensive “consultant” and bringing a specific strength with him.

The concept of “zone blocking,” for the most part, originated with Vince Lombardi, but Kubiak has been a leading proponent of it in this era. Of course, that came as a Denver assistant under Mike Shanahan.

Can you sense what we’re getting at here? Shanahan and his disciples were – and are – practitioners of zone-blocking and play-action passing as a foundation. And yes, that includes his son Kyle. So there weren’t going to be any surprises, and as a result the Vikings had 21 yards on the ground, 126 through the air and only seven first downs.

It is interesting to note that this offensive philosophy is shared by three members of Mike Shanahan’s offensive staff in Washington – not just Kyle, but also Sean McVay and Matt LeFleur, who is in his first year as head honcho in Green Bay.

Do you think Kyle’s staff was ready for the Packers last time they met? Aaron Rodgers averaged 2.2 net yards per pass attempt. Aaron Jones had 38 yards on the ground. The Niners had five sacks. That’s an awful lot to have to reverse.

The San Francisco defense is healthier now. They have a lot of guys who can rush the passer, and don’t really need to blitz to get pressure on. Rodgers throws for almost two yards less per attempt when he’s on the road. And he’s not having a banner season anyway; Green Bay is just 36% on third down, and Rodgers is worst in the league in “bad throw percentage.”

Frankly, I look at the Packers and can’t really figure out they got here. I mean, it’s not like they are getting the same kind of season out of Rodgers that the Seahawks got out of Wilson. There isn’t a dominant run game. The secondary is more than adequate, but also not dominant. And the run defense is substandard. They are 31st in Adjusted Line Yards allowed per attempt, and also 31st in Stuff Rate. The Niners can throw fresh backs at them all the time.

It is true that just as Shanahan is familiar with the way LaFleur operates, it works the other way around. But that constitute something that is a real “equalizer”? Maybe. But I would say that more likely than not, this “familiarity factor” is going to work in favor of the team that has the better horses, and more OF them, at its disposal. In this case, with a team that has kept winning despite a load of injuries, that’s San Francisco. LAY IT.

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