In anticipation of this Saturday’s Divisional Round playoff matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, it’s only natural to think back to the most recent high-stakes meeting of the two teams in the 2020 NFC Championship game.
Of course, the Packers and Niners met in week three of this season where Aaron Rodgers engineered another signature last minute (under a minute, actually) scoring drive to put the game away.
But that was a win, and as Packers fans we expect to win but we also love to fixate on prior painful playoff memories.
I wanted to take a closer look at how the Packers and Niners have gone about filling holes and improving (or not improving) their rosters since the Niners bounced the Packers en route to the Super Bowl.
*Emmanuel Sanders, WR >>> Brandon Aiyuk, WR – Upgrade Aiyuk has been a bit up-and-down in his early career, and has spent time in Kyle Shanahan’s dog house but he has shown the upside of why the Niners spent a first round selection on him in 2020.
*Kendrick Bourne, WR >>> Jauan Jennings, WR – Slight Upgrade Jennings has come on late this season as an underrated pass catcher and a favorite target of Jimmy Garoppolo
*Raheem Mostert, RB Injured >>> Elijah Mitchell, RB – Upgrade Mostert famously gashed the Packers in the NFC championship game for 200+ yards and 4 total TDs, but outside of that has not been able to produce or stay healthy in his career. Elijah Mitchell doesn’t have the juice that Mostert has, but he is a confident runner that can gash you with consistency.
*Tevin Coleman, RB >>> Trey Sermon, RB – Wash Sermon, a third round rookie has struggled to stay healthy and also lost his spot in the rotation to Mitchell, a sixth rounder. Jury is still out.
*Matt Breida, RB >>> Jamycal Hasty, RB – Slight Downgrade
*Joe Staley, OT >>> Trent Williams, OT – Slight Upgrade What a great problem to have to move from one future hall of fame left tackle to the next. Staley was great, Williams is an all-time great.
*Weston Richburg, C >>> Alex Mack, C – Upgrade
*DeForest Buckner, DL >>> Javon Kinlaw, DL – BIG Downgrade Buckner was shipped to the Colts after the 2019 season mostly because the Niners couldn’t afford him. The Colts sent back the 13th overall pick which the Niners eventually turned into Kinlaw. Kinlaw has been plagued by injuries and inefficacy and has 1.5 sacks to his name through two regular seasons.
*Solomon Thomas, DL >>> Maurice Hurst, DL – Wash Hurst has actually been pretty solid, it’s more of an indictment of Solomon Thomas having big expectations as a high first round pick and then flaming out.
*Sheldon Day, DL >>> Charles Omenihu – Downgrade
*Dee Ford, DL Injured >>> Arden Key, DL/OLB – Slight Upgrade Ford has been horrible since coming over from the Chiefs in a trade. He’s currently hurt, and when he’s been healthy has been ineffective. Arden Key has played solidly in the second half of the season and is a player to watch for this Saturday.
*Richard Sherman, CB >>> Josh Norman, CB – BIG Downgrade I think the Niners thought they could replace one aging shutdown corner with another. Josh Norman is NOT Richard Sherman and has since lost his starting job.
Summary: There is no doubting the 49ers are a talented unit, if you look at PPG, Offensive and Defensive rankings the two squads are fairly evenly matched. That said, I don’t think this team is as talented overall as the 2019 team.
*Jamaal Williams, RB >>> AJ Dillon, RB – Upgrade Obviously Williams was (and still is) a fan favorite, but Dillon brings a power element that Williams lacked.
*Jimmy Graham, TE >>> Josiah Deguara, TE – Wash, maybe slight upgrade Little early to say on Deguara but if nothing else he’s got more juice in his legs right now than Graham has had in the past six seasons at least.
*Jace Sternburger, TE >>> Dominique Dafney – Wash Sternburger was obviously more of a receiving threat than Dafney, but Dafney is a much better blocker.
*Geronimo Allison, WR >>> Randall Cobb, WR – BIG Upgrade Allison grew into a Rodgers favorite but his lack of athleticism just capped his productivity. Cobb is the ULTIMATE Rodgers favorite and could be key to a deep playoff run.
*Jake Kumerow, WR >>> Amari Rodgers, WR – Downgrade No offense to Amari Rodgers the man, but Amari Rodgers the player should probably be a healthy scratch for this years playoff push.
*Tyler Ervin, RB/ST >>> David Moore, WR – Downgrade Still missing Tyler Ervin if I’m honest.
*Bryan Bulaga, OT >>> Dennis Kelly, OT – Slight Downgrade This one is a little bit challenging because Kelly is the backup to Billy Turner, but I have to give Kelly credit for how he has held down the right side in Turner’s absence.
*Corey Linsley, C >>> Josh Meyers, C – Incomplete Obviously Josh Meyers is not an All-Pro caliber player at this point in his career and he’s been injured. However, the job that Meyers and Lucas Patrick have done anchoring that spot haven’t left us missing Linsley much.
*Lane Taylor, IOL >>> Jon Runyan Jr., OG – Slight Upgrade The O-line has shuffled around A LOT since the 2020 NFC championship game but Jon Runyan is as good now as Taylor was at his best and Runyan hasn’t hit his ceiling.
*Kyler Fackrell, OLB/EDGE >>> Whitney Mercilus/Jonathan Garvin, OLB/EDGE – Upgrade Fackrell was good in 2018 and bad in 2019. Mercilus has a strong track record and hasn’t put much on tape as a Packer due to injury. Hoping he’ll flash in the playoffs.
*Blake Martinez, ILB >>> De’Vondre Campbell, ILB – BIG Upgrade Where would this team be without Campbell? He was an All-Pro for a reason, he lifts this defense up in a big way. He will be critical to a win against the Niners.
*BJ Goodson, ILB >>> Khrys Barnes, ILB – Wash Barnes has flashed moments of brilliance but has not shown the consistency one would like but he’s got more ability than the one dimensional Goodson.
*Will Redmond, DB >>> Henry Black, DB – Wash This is really a rotational spot that’s going to be occupied by Black, Kevin King and maybe Chandon Sullivan. I like those guys more.
*Raven Greene, DB >>> Rasul Douglas, CB – BIG Upgrade RE: De’Vondre Campbell. You can almost envision the Jimmy G pick.
*Tramon Williams, CB >>> Eric Stokes, CB – Slight Upgrade Stokes is the present and the future. Dripping with incredible physical tools but maybe lacking in how to effectively use them. Williams was a wiley pro’s pro into the very end, getting by with hard work and intellect. I’ll take the 4.3 speed right now.
*Kingsley Keke, DL >>> TJ Slaton, DL – Slight Downgrade
*Montravius Adams, DL >>> Tipa Galeai, DL – Slight Downgrade
*JK Scott, P >>> Corey Bojorquez, P – Upgrade Bojo had a great first half of the season but has struggled to adapt to the elements of Lambeau. He is another name to watch assuming we have to punt :).
Summary: I think this is very easily a more talented Packers squad than the one that showed up to the 2020 NFC Championship. Interestingly Rashan Gary only played 3 defensive snaps that game and MVS only played one snap on offense. You can add them to the list of players that will have an impact over whomever played those snaps last time around.
If the Packers protect the football, don’t melt down on special teams and limit the Niners rushing attack, they should win and I don’t think it will be particularly close. Go Pack.
You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.