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What does Aaron Rodgers have in store for the 49ers in 2012?
New Orleans Saints (13-3, First Place, NFC South), Away
Where do I begin?
Preseason. Greg Williams. Disgust. Powerhouse Offense. Drew Brees. All-time Records.
Playoffs. NFC Divisional. Pierre Thomas. Adios. Alex Smith. Comeback. 49ers Win.
Bountygate. Greg Williams. No Greg Williams. Sean Payton. No Sean Payton.
Suspensions. Greg Williams. Pregame speech. Leaked audio. 49ers targeted.
Let me conclude this truncated timeline by saying that nothing can serve as more of a motivating factor than the Bountygate scandal for the 49ers. Superdome or not, Jim Harbaugh and Vic Fangio will take no prisoners.
New England Patriots (13-3, First Place, AFC East), Away
Many of the 49er faithful and the 49ers themselves sincerely believed that it would have been a Red and Gold vanquishing of the Patriots had they reached the Super Bowl.
It all comes down to matchups. The No. 2 49ers’ scoring defense versus the No. 3 Patriots’ scoring offense. The 49ers’ front seven versus the Patriots offensive line. The 49ers’ linebackers versus the Patriots’ tight ends.
The eagle eyes of Patrick Willis versus those of Tom Brady.
Both fanbases logically can and will argue for their respective strengths.
Playing in Gillette Stadium can be a brutal assignment for any opposing team, especially in the harsh winter months of December and January. For me, though, the 49ers style of play is perfectly conducive for those conditions.
Can’t wait to see how it all goes down.
Green Bay Packers (15-1, First Place, NFC North), Away
And so I conclude with the 49ers most challenging and intriguing matchup.
The prominent storyline here—as it was in both 2009 and 2010—is Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback with the ultimate chip on his shoulder.
For the third time in his career, Rodgers plays host to the team that many argue should have drafted him No.1 overall in the 2005 draft; the team that should have drafted him over incumbent starting quarterback Alex Smith.
Despite my outspoken contrarian feelings towards a certain draft strategy seven years ago, what is pertinent now is that these are two NFC favorites going to war.
I will refrain from introducing Rodgers' absurdly dominant statistics from the two previous 49ers-Packers battles.
Rather, I will focus on a matchup better than the one against the Patriots and Saints, yes even against the Bountygate Saints.
Greg Williams is gone, and Aaron Rodgers is still here.
The Packers and 49ers are the premier teams of the NFC—Giants Super Bowl win or not. One is going to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.
Lambeau Field? I hope it snows sideways.