On Sunday afternoon, the San Francisco 49ers will play the Green Bay Packers.
First off, just let this sink in. No more of this preseason garbage - real football is here. And, just like the first game of last year, the 49ers get to play a great team to kick off the 2013 season in the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers' offensive identity begins and stops with the passing game. In researching for this post, I came across a Yahoo! Sports article (actually written by The SportsXchange, but published by Yahoo!) that starts "The Packers averaged nearly 65 plays per game as an up-tempo offense last season." This shouldn't be surprising to anybody. Green Bay's offense is built to move quickly.
Clearly it all starts with Aaron Rodgers and his relationship with some excellent receiving threats. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have established themselves as legitimate threats (though, to be fair, my cat could probably be a legitimate receiving threat with Rodgers under center). Jermichael Finley and James Jones want to be in this conversation, too.
Nelson and Cobb, though, are the main men. They have, however, both sustained injuries recently. Nelson had a knee injury; Cobb hurt his arm. Both players say preseason action, though, in the fourth game. They will likely be healthy for Sunday.
Unfortunately for the Packers, they have sustained a few other key injuries. One of the biggest is likely the injury to left tackle Bryan Bulaga. He was a key player for the Packers on a line that needs a bit of work. Rookie David Bakhtiari will man the left tackle position in Bulaga's absence. Another question mark on that line is Marshall Newhouse. Even though Newhouse is decent at pass blocking, the Packers have to wish that he had better run blocking skills (PFF assigned him a -12.3 rating for his run blocking skills).
Running back DuJuan Harris also caught the injury bug, sustaining a knee injury that has him on the IR list. The Packers are hoping that youngster Eddie Lacy can spearhead a strong rushing attack. More than likely, though, that offense will continue to move forward with a predominantly passing attack.
On the defensive side of the ball, CB Casey Hayward has a hamstring injury. But, if there is any defensive unit that can sustain an injury on the Packers, it is the secondary. They did a great job of defending that pass last year (Football Outsiders gave them a -8.1 against the pass). A lot of this, of course, has to do with an effective pass rush. Clay Matthews is a household name at this point (even if those commercials he is in are horrid).
Really, though, I just want to watch this defense try to stop the read-option. I am licking my lips after last year's playoff game. I bet, however, that the 49ers will likely stay away from the read-option, instead opting to beat this team with a traditional running game and some efficient passing.