The 49ers and Packers have a long and illustrious history of matchups as the class of the NFC. Just in the past two seasons, they’ve met three times, either in prime time or the playoffs, and tonight will be no different.
As the Niners prepare to square off against a very familiar adversary, we here at Niners Nation thought it’d be interesting to get a peek behind the cheese curtain in Wisconsin. What do our friends at Acme Packing Co. think could ultimately tip the game in favor of the Red and Gold?
Shoutout to Evan “Tex” Western for offering his insight! If you want to read my three reasons why the Niners might come up short tomorrow, you can check those out here.
With no further delay, I’ll let Evan take over.
The Packers’ run defense has been abysmal over the last three years with Mike Pettine as the coordinator, but that was at least partly by design. Pettine was a believer in the philosophy that you can allow teams to run the ball on you early in games as long as you don’t give up big plays, particularly in the passing game. But, of course, that backfired against the 49ers multiple times in 2019, when Kyle Shanahan ran the Packers to death with little to no help needed from the pass.
Enter Joe Barry as DC this year, and while the philosophy is changed somewhat, the results in week one looked much the same. Barry is playing much more base 3-4 personnel than Pettine ever did, but the Packers’ defensive line was on the butt end of a butt-kicking through six quarters of the season. The Week 1 game against the Saints went much the same as those 2019 49ers games: the Packers’ opponents controlled the clock with long, sustained drives on the ground, and Green Bay’s offense was a little slow to start. Before LaFleur even had a chance to start establishing his offensive game plan, the Packers were down 17-0, and he had to resort to a drop-back passing game.
Thus, if the Packers allow the 49ers to move the ball steadily on the ground in this game, particularly in the first half, that sets up San Francisco well to control the clock and tire out Barry’s unit, and if San Francisco gets an early stop or two, that could be all it takes to get a lead and throw Green Bay out of its offensive rhythm.
A Young Offensive Line
David Bakhtiari is on the PUP list, which has resulted in the Packers playing third-year phenom Elgton Jenkins at left tackle in his place. Jenkins is an All-Pro caliber guard and has been playing like an All-Pro tackle as well, but that leaves one of the guard spots to be filled by an unproven rookie. Now Jenkins’ status is in question for Sunday’s game, which could be catastrophic against pass-rushers like Nick Bosa and Dee Ford.
Even if Jenkins does play, the Packers’ interior offensive line featured two rookies (center Josh Myers and right guard Royce Newman) and one second-year player (Jon Runyan, Jr.) on Monday night. Myers has looked solid to downright good so far – an excellent start for a rookie center – but Newman has taken a few lumps here and there through two weeks. Attacking them with creative line play would be a solid strategy regardless of the makeup of the rest of the unit; however, if Jenkins misses the game, look for Billy Turner to move over from right tackle to the left side. That would put a massive question mark on the right side as to his replacement. Newman might move out to tackle with Lucas Patrick sliding back in at guard, or the team could try some other unexpected combination, but a Packers line without both Bakhtiari and Jenkins is ripe for the picking.
For some reason, the Packers insist on letting King on the field despite tremendous evidence that he is not one of the team’s three best cornerbacks. Jaire Alexander is a star, Eric Stokes is a promising young rookie who looked great in week two, and Chandon Sullivan is a solid if unspectacular slot cornerback. But for some reason, the Packers’ plan to get Stokes on the field last week involved putting King in the slot, a strange place to use a tall, stiff-hipped corner who does not tackle well.
According to Pro Football Reference, King has allowed six receptions on seven targets for 153 total yards and a touchdown. (That’s a perfect 158.3 passer rating if you were wondering.) Stokes has allowed one catch, a five-yard touchdown, on five targets, and there are major questions about who is even at fault for that catch, as King appeared to switch off the receiver when he should not have. Furthermore, three of the incompletions into Stokes’ coverage were pass breakups! It’s clear from the early returns that he deserves to play in King’s place.