As we get closer to the game, fewer people seem to be picking the 49ers to win. However, after beating the Cowboys on the road and knowing the recent success the Niners have had against Green Bay, we all know this game will come down to the final possession.
Here are our predictions for this weekend.
Marc’s prediction: Packers 24, 49ers 23
Except for quarterback, the 49ers are better (and deeper) than the Packers at nearly every position (even special teams). For that reason, the 49ers are one of the toughest possible matchups for the Packers. However, it’s still impossible for me to predict any defense will shut down Aaron Rodgers entirely.
Frankly, I lean towards Green Bay because I don’t trust Kyle Shanahan to maximize his opportunities on offense. The 49ers outplayed the Cowboys by a far larger margin than the score suggested, and that’s been a trend of his wins throughout his tenure. Shanahan consistently settles for field goals and punts, even when his offense is firing on all cylinders and faces a fourth-and-short. Shanahan excels in many ways as a head coach, and I’d be surprised if the Niners are blown out, but I don’t think he’ll cover up his weaknesses enough to come out on top against Green Bay.
Akash: Green Bay 31, San Francisco 27
I think the 49ers are the toughest matchup for anyone in the NFL right now. They play a brand of football that travels anywhere and is uncommon in this day and age. San Francisco’s physical rushing defense and pass rush should wreak more havoc than it did in Week 3. However, their rushing attack should have success against the Packers’ front and be able to control this game.
The biggest questions to me heading into a game are the same as always:
- Can Jimmy Garoppolo protect the ball and not turn it over? The 49ers are 7-0 when he doesn’t throw an interception this season.
- Can the 49ers’ special teams avoid a disaster? They allowed a fake punt, had a costly roughing the punter penalty, and also allowed a long kickoff return that sparked a Cowboys’ touchdown drive.
- Can San Francisco’s secondary limit explosive passing plays?
It’s been the same questions with this team all year long. They’ve generally been able to manage it in wins, and when they have lost, it’s typically been because of one of these three things.
I think they match up very well with the Packers, and I can see them winning this game and advancing to the NFC Championship game. However, at the same time, I don’t trust the 49ers’ offense (especially their quarterback) to put together four quarters of high-level football on the road, and that’s the difference in this game.
Tyler: 49ers 31, Packers 30
The more I compare all the underlying matchup data and positional advantages, like pass rush win rate, the presence of Elijah Mitchell, and Rodgers’ play under pressure, the more I am convinced that the Niners are well-positioned to win this ball game in convincing fashion. But then, I stop and remember that the Green Bay Packers have Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback, and the whole thing feels a lot more like a coin flip.
The blueprint on how to beat the Packers may have very well been laid out by the Browns on Christmas Day, and in a twist of good fate, it is very similar to what the Niners want to do. Cleveland’s Nick Chubb ran roughshod over the Packers’ D to the tune of 126 yards, and the defensive line pressured Rodgers seven times. For the Niners, who put up 168 yards on the Cowboys between Mitchell and the “wide back” Deebo Samuel and notched 22(!) team pressures on Dak Prescott. Anything is possible if they can replicate that kind of performance, and Jimmy G doesn’t throw 4(!) picks like Baker Mayfield.
Kyle: Packers 24, 49ers 20
This will be the best game of the weekend and perhaps the best game of the playoffs. When the 49ers and Packers are rolling, you won’t find two better teams in the NFL.
However, I don’t think we see nearly as many points as others seem to think. That doesn’t mean the quality of the game gets worse. Don’t be surprised if we see two coaches who know each other well come out more conservative than usual.
For as efficient and effective the Packers are on offense, they’re one of the slower starting teams in the league. That’s when they aren’t going against the best defensive line in the league.
The 49ers’ offense has been the same for better or worse going on a month now when Jimmy Garoppolo is under center. There’s a high probability of them establishing their dominance on the first drive. Jimmy is going to lead the offense to points at the end of the half or game. We can also count on the 49ers superstar supporting cast to wow us with highlights.
Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Elijah Mitchell are going to do something spectacular during the game. All of these are foregone conclusions when watching the offense.
We don’t know whether they’ll sustain drives and score points during the second or third quarters. The offense plateaus in the middle of the game. Sometimes, the outcome is worse. Penalties, drops, and interceptions are what’s keeping this offense from turning into a juggernaut.
Add in an inevitable special teams mistake which ultimately puts the defense in bind after bind, and that’s the 49ers season in a nutshell.
Now, they’ve had impressive comebacks or near-perfect games over playoff teams. Fortune has been on this team’s side during the second half of the season. It’s better to be lucky than good. The 49ers have been both, but they also haven’t played Aaron Rodgers during this stretch.
You don’t get “do-overs” against a guy like Rodgers. When you make a mistake, he makes you pay for it. The 49ers aren’t coming back from being down 17 two times in a row against Rodgers in the same season. That’s a fan-fiction book.
The Niners won’t go down three scores again. The offensive line is much improved. Shockingly, the Kyle Shanahan-led team figured out how to run the ball. Garoppolo also threw a first-half interception where Jaire Alexander made an incredible play. Plus, Shanahan isn’t punting the ball from midfield on 4th & 1 in the playoffs against Rodgers.
My read on this game is that the 49ers are even if not better than the Packers. But they’ve consistently made costly mistakes at the most inopportune times. Because they’re insanely talented and well-coached in most areas, the Niners have skated by. Those season-long mistakes catch up to them Saturday night.
I hope I’m wrong.
Jordan: 49ers 26, Packers 17
It’s hard to bet against Green Bay when they are playing at home in the month of January, particularly when Aaron Rodgers is playing arguably the best football of his entire career. But I cannot shake the feeling that there is something special going on with this 49ers team right now, and I just can’t bring myself to go against my gut here, which tells me the 49ers will prevail.
I think the 49ers will rebound with a much better performance on the ground, and the cache of weapons that boast an extraordinary level of physicality that they possess on the offensive side of the ball will ultimately wear down this Packers defense. The last time the 49ers played Green Bay, the defensive line was all but neutralized, and I just don’t see that happening two meetings in a row, especially with how hot they have been as of late.
Lastly, this is the rare game where the 49ers actually hold an advantage on special teams. I think their special teams unit plays a clean game and avoids a costly mistake. Robbie Gould has been stellar in his postseason career, and his familiarity with kicking in less than ideal conditions in an NFC North stadium might prove invaluable in this one
Xavier: 49ers 31, Packers 21
The 49ers have been a different team (kinda) in the second half of the season and into the playoffs. It will take more than 25 points to beat Aaron Rodgers, and to do that; San Francisco has to avoid shooting themselves in the foot on offense. Winning in the trenches is key for any football game, and the 49ers’ offensive line has been dialed in for some time.
Kyle Shanahan does have my back, even though I agree that he has been scared in critical moments and should be more aggressive against Dallas last week. However, his play-calling has given him breathing room, with Jimmy Garoppolo having several dynamic pass-catchers. It would be best for Shanahan to get George Kittle involved in the passing game early to set the tone.
I hate to keep beating the same drum, but it’s up to the secondary (especially the corners) to hold up in the secondary. They’ve done well in the last three games yet struggled when opposing teams quarterback and receiver have a good connection (Week’s 14&16). Rodgers and Davante Adams couldn’t be stopped in Week 3 and should be the main worry for DeMeco Ryans.
We usually don’t see Emmanuel Moseley travel with opposing wide receivers, but that should change against Davante Adams. Moseley proved he was the best corner in AT&T Stadium last week and can up his stock if he can limit the all-pro level receiver. Rodgers is great enough to hit other pass-catchers, but this game can be won with a quiet game from his favorite target.
Rob: Packers 31, 49ers 26
There have been lots of good points made on here already, so I’m going to take Marc’s point about Kyle Shanahan’s cowardice one step further. Not only does Kyle turtle up when he should be aggressive on fourth down, but also his counterpart in this game surely won’t make that mistake.
After what happened in the NFC Championship game last year against the Buccaneers, when Matt LaFleur settled for a field goal late in the game, there is no way Aaron Rodgers is coming off the field in a big spot this time around. So I expect LaFleur to put the ball in 12’s hands and leave it up to him to win the day.
This is not going to be a game where the 49ers can score one touchdown in the first half like they did against Green Bay in Week 3 and like they did last week against the Cowboys. So if the 49ers are going to win, they’re going to need to cash in on almost every red zone opportunity with a touchdown. That’s likely going to mean going for it on fourth down a couple of times, and I just don’t have faith in Kyle Shanahan to do that in a big spot.