The best weekend in sports is finally upon us. There are a lot of great events that dot the sporting calendar, but none greater than the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The matchups this year are juicy, though the AFC's relative weakness has taken a bit of shine off of their side of the draw, after the Ravens and Texans both slinked into the playoffs. The real drama in the AFC will be next weekend, if the Patriots and Broncos both take care of business at home, when Peyton Manning and Tom Brady get to square off for the umpteenth time in their careers. I have a feeling one of those teams will lose, ruining that ideal encounter.
The same cannot be said about the NFC. Seahawks at Falcons promises to be a smash mouth affair. Russell Wilson was pressured frequently last week and had one of his poorer outings according to ESPN's Total QBR, mainly due to the number of sacks he took. If John Abraham is unready to go for Atlanta, their hopes of getting the pressure necessary to harass the young quarterback will be harder to come by and the Falcons could be in trouble.
Divisional Round: Packers at 49ers
And, for the most important game of the weekend....Packers at 49ers is a dream come true for the league. Two of the most storied franchises look to kickstart their quest to add more trophies to the trophy room. The Packers had a near bye-week in the Wild Card round against the Minnesota Vikings led by Joe Webb, filling in poorly for the injured Christian Ponder. He gave the Packers some practice in dealing with a running quarterback. Much is being made about the Packers holding Adrian Peterson under 100 yards, after being mauled by him in the regular season. But, considering Webb's struggles, it was relatively easy to key on the running game and the Packers walked away untested.
This weekend will be a different story. Colin Kaepernick can run, but he can also throw the ball deep. He is the highest rated passer on balls travelling over 20 yards in the air. Add in his ability to avoid sacks, one of the main criticisms of his predecessor Alex Smith, and the Packers defense will be tested. On the other side of the ball is Aaron Rodgers, the best quarterback in the league over the last two years. He's been playing some of the best football of his career, but the 49ers have had no problems handling top-ranked passing attacks. They beat the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 8th ranked passing attacks this season in the Saints, Lions, Patriots and Packers. All those teams have one thing in common and that is a lack of a running attack. If you want to beat the 49ers, you have to run the ball well. They were 1-3-1 when opponents gained 100+ yards on the ground. The 49ers secondary is so good at tackling and preventing yards after the catch and not letting receivers get behind them that one-dimensional, pass-heavy offenses struggle. Enter the Packers.
Fooch leads things off with a history of the Packers vs 49ers. It dates back to 1950 and includes 62 games! There was a tie in 1965 and Donovan McNabb's grandfather was shocked to find out that could even take place. | 49ers vs Packers history: San Francisco looks for second playoff victory over Green Bay (Fooch)
Dylan DeSimone wonders aloud if Green Bay's relative cake walk in the Wild Card round will haunt them when the real playoff action begins this weekend. They were never threatened against the Vikings. They'll be threatened from the start on Saturday. | Packers dealt softball by Vikings, advantage 49ers (DeSimone)
Joe Webb did help the Packers prepare for a running quarterback last weekend, but the read-option is new to them. The 49ers offensive line, with all five starters receiving Pro Bowl recognition, had their way with the Packers in Week 1. Here's to a repeat performance. | The read-option is new to Green Bay (DeSimone)
Joe Staley ended Week 1 bruised, battered and bloody at the hands of Clay Matthews III. He was beat for 2.5 sacks in one of his worst performances of the year. Kaepernick is much better at avoiding sacks and avoiding the negative yardage will help the 49ers manage their third downs, a problem all season long, regardless of who is behind center. | Breaking down Joe Staley vs Clay Matthews from Week 1 (Tre9er)
The 49ers secondary will be under attack from the opening kickoff. That is to say, even as the kickoff squads take the field, the pressure will be on. One thing I'm worried about is dime packages, where we trade Patrick Willis for Perrish Cox. Yikes. Wouldn't be so bad if Green Bay didn't have four capable receivers. The Packers' No. 4 receiver is a No. 2 on many squads, Niners included. | A game where San Francisco's secondary can shine (DeSimone)
Anthony Ly, with no game to review, was forced to preview. Much like Anthony Dixon, aka Boobie, taking on fullback and special teams duties to keep a place on the team, Ly has taken on whatever Coach Fooch asks. "A true team player", writes Tre9er. Take a look at Aaron Rodgers' stats from the first four games vs the stats from the last four! | The booth (pre)view - 49ers vs Packers: "18 weeks later.... What's changed?" (Ly)
Wes Hanson takes a look at how the two offenses compare. Spoiler alert!!!...Their passing game is better than ours. | How the 49ers and Packers matchup, part one (Hanson)
Now Wes takes a look at the defenses. Oddly enough, and I'm not criticizing here, but, just saying....why isn't this part two? Why, Wes, why? | 49ers vs Packers: Comparing the defenses (Hanson)
Do you want a video preview? What? I can't hear you! I said, do you want a video preview? That's better. Here it is! | 49ers vs Packers preview: Matchup breakdown and game prediction (Fooch)
LaMichael James has done well at running the ball and returning kicks. Now it's time to produce in the postseason. I'm a bit worried by some of his rushing habits, though. He gets one big gain for 20 yards, followed by 4 rushes for 5 yards. We need 5-yard runs to avoid long third downs. North-South, LaMichael! | Is LaMichael James the primary X-factor? (Fooch)
Dylan examines story lines that don't begin with the name Justin Smith. He asks, "Can Colin Kaepernick win it with his arm?" The photo for the post shows Michael Crabtree throwing the ball. I ask, " Can Michael Crabtree win it with his arm?" Answer: Yes. His hands are attached! | Non-Justin Smith headlines going into divisional round (DeSimone)
One of our biggest question marks going into the postseason is who will compliment Michael Crabtree in the passing game. Liberty_JAC examines Delanie Walker as that option. | What can Delanie Walker provide the 49ers? (liberty_JAC)
Do you like espionage? Me too. That's one of the beauties of SB Nation. We get to spy on the other teams' sites and find out their deepest fears and darkest worries. Click now, thousands of eager Packers' fans are waiting. | A look at the Green Bay offense with Acme Packing Company (Fooch)
The key to our success in Week 1 against Green Bay was running the football. Avoiding B.J. Raji will be key, and Jonathan Goodwin will have his hands full, figuratively and literally. People say Green Bay has been bad against the run. Against teams that don't feature AP or Frank Gore, they gave up 96.3 yards per game. Not bad. It would be good for 6th in the league. | Will Green Bay stop the run? (Tre9er)
Liberty_JAC takes a look at Frank Gore's non-performance against Arizona in Week 17. We'll need Gore at his best in the playoffs if we plan to make a deep run. The Cardinals did everything in their power to limit the 49ers running game and the result was Colin Kaepernick feeding Michael Crabtree for one of the best games by a 49ers' receiver in a decade. | Frank Gore and the San Francisco rushing attack via All-22 (liberty_JAC)
Getting your name in parenthesis in a TWiNN article is the Niners Nation equivalent of getting your name on a Broadway marquee. My post deals with Michael Crabtree and the massive share of the 49ers' passing game that he accounted for this year. There are two receivers who did more for their team (percentage-wise). Can you name them? | Michael Crabtree: A statistical analysis of his importance to the 49ers passing game (Malone)
Who's thinking about GM jobs at a time like this. Shahid Khan, the man with the swag-stache. He looks like a fun dude. I won't think so highly of his moustache if he steals Greg Roman from us! | Jaguars GM, coach search takes a turn with David Caldwell (Fooch)
Dylan takes a look at who on the 49ers is feeling that sense of urgency to win a title this season. That's a nice way to say who is really old on the team. | Urgency for 49ers, a must-win year for some in 2012-13 (DeSimone)
Liberty_JAC does what many of us never wanted to see, and that is to use All-22 technology to break down A.J. Jenkins' play against the Arizona Cardinals. Do you want to see his third down drop from every angle. He was wide-open and possibly on his way to a big gain. Sigh. | A.J. Jenkins All-22 review: 49ers vs Cardinals (Fooch)
Pro Football Writers of America, a Justice League-style collection of crime fighters, if you're not familiar with them, have released their All-NFL team. Four 49ers make the grade. Find out who. | PFW All-NFL team: 49ers picking up postseason recognition (Fooch)
If you read my Nuggets, then you know I'm not a fan of long titles. So, against my better judgement, I'm giving the FanPosts awards to some longwinded ones. I tried my hardest to not hold it against them. Here's GhostsofKesar and their post on 'hope'. Has realism given way to idealism? | How a poster's comment about "HOPE" convinced me I'm wrong about this 49er team (GhostsofKesar)
Want to vent about the teams you hate? Then this is the FanPost for you. Not only does writer Delmuir hate the Packers, you can see who hates other teams in the comments. And there's the ever-threatening Emperor Palpatine in there, extolling you to 'let the anger flow through you.' | Respectful? Nice? Just having fun? Those are terms that no longer apply to me when it's San Francisco versus Green Bay in the playoffs (Delmuir)
And last, but not least, is NickBradley, doing their best Hardy Boys mystery impersonation while solving the case of the missing Vernon Davis. | 'The search for Vernon Davis' is no mystery (NickBradley)
Being a Sheep
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