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Why the 49ers vs. Packers divisional matchup could get ugly

We might see a number of yellow flags being thrown on Saturday.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers are set to take on the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs after the latter upset the Dallas Cowboys 48-32 in the wildcard round in quarterback Jordan Love’s first playoff start.

The two teams will play on Saturday, with kickoff scheduled for 5:15 P.M. at Levi’s Stadium, where two of the NFL’s young, premier quarterbacks in Jordan Love and Brock Purdy, will face off for the first time.

San Francisco enters the game with a significant advantage in playoff experience, as the Packers hold one of the youngest offenses in the NFL, while also possessing one of the league’s most talented rosters, which is why it makes sense that they’re 9.5-point favorites entering the week.

However, there is an unpredictable factor that could play a role on Saturday: penalties.

Yes, you read that right. Penalties may be a bigger factor in this game than people realize, and the numbers back it up.

During the regular season, the 49ers and Packers were both bottom-20 teams when it came to penalties: San Francisco averaged 5.9 a game, which was 21st in the NFL, while Green Bay averaged 6.2 a game, good for 25th in the game.

The NFL announced officiating crews for this weekend’s matchups, with Alex Kemp’s crew earning the assignment for San Francisco’s game.

Kemp’s crew has thrown 214 penalties in 17 games this season, averaging 12.6 a contest, the most of any crew officiating in the playoffs.

In fact, Kemp has refereed in two of the 49ers’ games this season: Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, where they were flagged 11 times for 85 yards, and Week 13 against the Philadelphia Eagles, where they were flagged five times for 47 yards, with one penalty being declined.

The Packers ended the regular season on a high note, averaging just 3.7 penalties over their last three games, but they were flagged seven times for 66 yards against the Cowboys.

On the other hand, San Francisco averaged six penalties for 66 yards over their last three regular season games.

In a game like Saturday’s, the 49ers cannot afford to beat themselves, which means seeing a correction in the penalty department in comparison to their regular season numbers.