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Revenge Week special: 49ers 2019 opponent preview: Green Bay Packers

It’s time to start scouting the 49ers opponents for 2019. Today it’s the Green Bay Packers.

A bit of a homer story first before we get going: Long before Seattle became a thorn in my side, I had a very specific and aimed hatred towards a certain team in Wisconsin. As a San Francisco 49ers fan, my No. 1 hated team should be the Dallas Cowboys, but a quarterback named Brett Favre gave me a bad childhood.

And they always talked about him. Oh did they talk about him. His greatness, his throws, his poise. Ugh. It wasn’t until I moved to Seattle and heard about the Seahawks going to the Super Bowl (even though they were like, 3-10 at the time), that I re-shifted my priorities.

But the Packers. Oh man the Packers. The skewed officiating (which is why I don’t care if you think Rice fumbled en route to The Catch II), the gloss, the love. Just when the wounds were healed once the 49ers began beating the Packers with consistency thanks to Colin Kaepernick’s antics, they had to come back. And nothing was more infuriating than 2018’s Monday Night Football matchup.

The end of that game highlighted a lot of my anger and frustration towards the Packers with one play:

that was wiped out with this:

Had the refs not thrown the flag there, I probably wouldn’t have been so salty. But in 2018 illegal contact was a “point of emphasis.” Except the officiating waited until the final minutes of the fourth quarter to actually make a call.

Aaron Rodgers gets a first down and the 49ers defense collapses. Game over.

You may be wondering why I’m going into detail about that moment, it’s because this is Revenge Week here at SB Nation and I want the 49ers to get revenge for that awful, awful Monday Night Football loss. Make no mistake: that was illegal contact, it was the right call, but it was a rather questionable time to call it.

And beyond a moment like that, the Packers didn’t have much to celebrate for their season. They had an awful 2018 going 6-9-1 and looked like a clunky mess. Yes, even against the 49ers they didn’t look too great, especially when C.J. Beathard was dropping bombs like this on them.

So call me bitter. The Packers have a bad season, but somehow the 49ers break down and manage to give them a win. Can they get their win back?

Then again, if the 49ers were to win this, they’d be out of the Nick Bosa hunt and further back in the draft. Perhaps it was for the best?

After a December loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the worst team in 2018 (that the 49ers couldn’t manage to beat either—the NFL is weird), the Packers fired head coach Mike McCarthy, a coach that managed to win a Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers. The problem? He won won a Super Bowl (singular) with Rodgers and the Packers grew progressively worse as the years rolled on. This was an inevitable move. The Packers already were restructuring the coaching staff and front office long before giving McCarthy his pink slip and firing him was the next logical decision. Making matters worse, was one of the arguments for keeping him around, his relationship with Rodgers and offensive system Rodgers played in, turned out to be in pieces long before the Packers cut ties.

In is Matt LaFleur. An offensive coordinator for both the Tennessee Titans and the Los Angeles Rams, LaFleur brings that Shanahan-esque offense that somehow has been tied to Sean McVay lately and brings Rodgers’ first big offensive system change since his rookie days. The Packers have had several offensive coordinators before, but they were all under McCarthy’s system.

And LaFleur is off to a great start. While those playing for the 49ers are getting injured during OTAs, the coaching staff at Green Bay is dropping like flies. LaFleur tore his achilles playing basketball.

Draft picks

Round 1: Rashan Gary (DE)
Round 1: Darnell Savage (S)
Round 2: Elgton Jenkins (C)
Round 3: Jace Sternberger (TE)
Round 5: Kingsley Keke (DT)
Round 6: Ka’Dar Hollman (CB)
Round 6: Dexter Williams (RB)
Round 7: Ty Summers (ILB)

Notable free agent acquisitions

Adrian Amos (S)
Preston Smith (LB)
Za’Darius Smith (LB)
Billy Turner (Swing tackle)

In true Green Bay fashion, the Packers choose to build through the draft but had quite a few more big free agent signings than usual. I do like the Adrian Amos signing to replace original first round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. If he stays healthy, Turner should be a great bit of protection for Rodgers. Smith offers some great pass-rushing threats that will be needed with the departure of Clay Matthews.

I’m going to admit, the Packers had the consistency to pick players I never heard of. Rashan Gary was seen on many 49ers draft boards, but as reports came out about his character and how dedicated he was, his draft position slipped. As a defensive end, he went when projected, but I, along with several other analysts were not too high on the player himself. Savage is a great safety prospect and should help a position the Packers were struggling with, Amos isn’t a sure thing, for sure. SternBerger is a great tight end addition that probably could have gone earlier in a different draft.

Notice in these acquisitions, they have not brought in another wide receiver to compliment Davante Adams. This was a largely defensive draft, and rightly so; the Packers let nine teams score 27 or more points in 2018. You can’t have that and win football games. There’s not much Aaron Rodgers can do when he’s on the bench and the opposing team is running things out.

The matchup

On paper, the 49ers are a better team than the Packers right now. But that’s paper before injuries, Aaron Rodgers and last-minute automatic first downs come into play.

Rodgers doesn’t care if the team is rebuilding or what that piece of paper says. Rodgers, like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, or yes, Jimmy Garoppolo, can elevate any team and can make a postseason run any year. Or at least, that’s what I would say if the Packers roster wasn’t so decimated.

I would say the 49ers have this, but I know how Packers games go, and it comes down to Aaron Rodgers and how good this revamped defense is.

This game is a coinflip and if Rogers is on his game could win the award for game of the week. Unless the 49ers have addressed all their defensive problems (hopefully the communication errors are fixed), it could become another shootout. It’s all going to come down to both team’s defenses. If the 49ers defense is as upgraded as it seems to be, I think they can slow down Aaron Rodgers.

But this game is probably going to come down to who has the ball with 1:00 to go. Just like last time.