Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
Raise your hand if you thought the 49ers would be playing in the NFC championship game.
Yeah, me neither, and yet here we are.
This game will not be a walk like the 49ers had against the Vikings. The Packers are led by Aaron Rodgers and not Kirk Cousins. And as much as I have love shoving the score from the Week 12 game in my wife’s face (she’s a Packers fan) I doubt it will be that easy in Round 2.
There are a few things working in the 49ers’ favor though. This game is in Santa Clara and not at Lambeau. The 49ers were able to run the ball 47 times, say that one more time, 47 times against the Vikings. They ran the ball down Minnesota’s throat and didn’t add a lot on film for the Packers to view prior to their matchup. And the 49ers have Joe Staley, Kwon Alexander, and Dee Ford in the lineup. Those three were injured in Week 12.
Looking on the offense side of the ball: one of the biggest matchups will be the 49ers’ offensive line vs the Smith brothers. Even though the 49ers were pretty dominant in the first go-around, both Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith still managed to sack Jimmy Garoppolo twice and hit him four times. They will get to the quarterback; the question is how many times? If the 49ers are going to make travel plans for Miami on Monday, they will have to limit the hits on the handsome one.
Which running back will head coach Kyle Shanahan lean on this Sunday? To be frank, it doesn’t matter, Shanahan will ride the hot hand and any one of the three-headed monster can be that guy.
It’s not just the Smith brothers the 49ers will have to worry about, as the Packers have a couple cornerbacks who are okay at the football. If Garoppolo is going to lead the offense down the field, Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders, and Kendrick Bourne are going to have to shake off Kevin King and Jaire Alexander. But one thing Shanahan is good at is getting his wide receivers open because – you know – scheme and all. Such a naughty word.
Last week, I said that the 49ers had to get George Kittle involved if they were going to beat the Vikings. Kittle had three catches for 16 yards. But I also didn’t expect them to run the ball 47 (my God) times. All week we heard how the Vikings were going to beat the 49ers, but the offense didn’t have to do much because of Kirk Cousins. I doubt the 49ers will be in a position to rush the ball 47 times against the Packers so this time, they will need to get Kittle involved, at least more than 16 yards. And just as a reminder, let’s fire up the flux capacitor and take a look at a play from Week 12.
I’m sorry Babe, go Niners.
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