The Green Bay Packers did not have to wait the entirety of the Wild Card weekend to find out their opponent for the Divisional Round, as the San Francisco 49ers decided to ruin the dreams of the Dallas Cowboys on the road. With the Niners coming to the Frozen Tundra next week, let’s take a look at what SF will be bringing to the table.
Having faced off Week 3, the Packers ultimately got out of Levi Stadium with a win off of the leg of Mason Crosby at the last minute. Both teams know each other fairly well, but plenty of differences will exist from their first matchup to now.
Jimmy Garoppolo is still the starting QB for the Niners, even with rookie Trey Lance having shown flashes during the year. Still limited in his mobility and decision-making, HC Kyle Shanahan has helped tailor the offense to benefit Garoppolo’s skill set, setting up intermediate throws and mixing them in with a run-heavy offensive attack.
Deebo Samuel is this team’s Swiss army knife, having taken on a larger role with backfield touches as well as his regular work in the receiving game. Against the Cowboys, Samuel carried the ball 10 times for 72 yards and 1 TD, while hauling in three receptions for 38 yards.
Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle are the other main targets for Garoppolo – with Aiyuk, he has grown into a larger role as the season progressed, becoming a faux WR1 along the way with Samuel earning more touches in the backfield. Kittle is still one of the best TE options in the league and likely will receive a heavy focus from the Joe Barry-coached defense, potentially sticking Darnell Savage or another DB on him.
The rushing attack is what helps drive this offense, reliant on rookie Elijah Mitchell to lead the group behind a strong offensive line. Running backs alone have rushed for over 1,500 yards this year, with Samuel contributing another 365 yards himself.
The key to stopping the SF offense is going to be focusing on the run and making Garoppolo beat them – as long as Mitchell and Samuel are somewhat slowed down and forces SF into at least a 3rd-and-mid scenario on multiple occasions, then the Green Bay defense can be successful.
Injuries suffered by Nick Bosa (concussion) and Fred Warner (left ankle) could impact SF’s defensive gameplan, which would be important areas for the Packers to target in their attack.
Outside of those two players, the Niners have the likes of Arik Armstead, D.J. Jones, Dre Greenlaw, and others to try and slow down Green Bay’s offensive attack, although losing Bosa and/or Warner would have huge impacts on the Niners’ defensive unit.
A weakness of this unit is their secondary, with aging Josh Norman and Emmanuel Moseley as their top two cornerbacks, something that will be put on full display with Davante Adams running routes.
If Aaron Rodgers is able to have time back in the pocket, he will be able to find holes in the coverage of a defense that boasts one of the league’s best pass-rush win rate, living in the opponent’s backfield.
The biggest element of an efficient GB offensive attack relies on the offensive line winning at the point of attack, setting the tone in the trenches, and helping get into the second level on rushing plays.
For Green Bay, the element that will be on their sides lies in the weather – temperatures starting in the teens across both days work in their favor, with winds taking the temperatures down into the single digits. West-coast teams are not used to playing in a cold-weather atmosphere, especially for San Francisco, who just got to play inside for the Wild Card round.
The Packers have one of their most well-built rosters in recent memory and their journey to getting back to the Super Bowl starts now – using that bye week to get players back from the injury list will be huge, and hopefully impactful enough to help Green Bay move onto the Championship Round.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23