49ers vs. Packers: Why Green Bay Will Hit the Ground Running

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2012

McCarthy: Talking tactics
McCarthy: Talking tacticsStephen Dunn/Getty Images

Having both made their own runs into the playoffs last season, the Week 1 fixture between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers promises to be one of the must-watch encounters of the opening fixtures.

Many predict that these two teams will clash in the NFC Championship Game later on in the campaign, so Sunday might give us a glimpse of what we’re in store for come January.

However, while the meeting of two NFL powers holds the potential for a highly entertaining game, it will be the hosts that take home the glory at Lambeau Field.

This matchup could easily set the tone on which both sides go into the rest of their 2012 season, and while a loss isn’t the end of the term for either party, morale and momentum would certainly benefit more from the W.

With that in mind, only one side will come out on top of the clash and here’s why it will be the Packers that get off to a flying start.

Defensive Reinforcements 

Based on 2011 records, this matchup sees one of the NFL’s overall best defences go up against one of the league’s worst.

Teams found it incredibly easy to slice through the Packers’ defensive line at times, so much so that the Cheeseheads finished the year with the most yards allowed per regular-season game at 411.6.

They’ve gone about their business to resolve that tally in the offseason.

The Packers used their first five picks in the 2012 NFL Draft to bring in defensive players, including the considerable frame of Nick Perry, who went in the first round.

It’s too early to say whether or not Green Bay can completely reverse their fortunes of the last season, as it will take time for new acquisitions to settle in.

However, they definitely appear to be in a better position than they were in this time last year and have all the tools needed to improve.

The Irrepressible Aaron Rodgers

Second only to Drew Brees in terms of touchdowns thrown in the 2011 regular season, Aaron Rodgers was a very considerable force to be reckoned with last year.

Throwing just seven interceptions all season long, the 28-year-old went on to post his greatest career numbers and will undoubtedly challenge those records this time around.

The former California collegiate will have been sad to see Scott Wells leave the roster as his regular center, but Jeff Saturday—the man who replaced Wells—is a very solid addition.

A massive contribution to the 49ers immense defence in 2011 was their ability to prevent the opposition’s running game from progressing.

Unfortunately for Jim Harbaugh, the Packers are very capable when it comes to passing the ball, a part of the defence his team were quite average in last year.

Improved Offence

Of course, Rodgers may not have seen as much of that success had it not been for a few key faces running the routes ahead of him.

2011 saw the Green Bay Packers operate on a “We’ll score more than you” basis for large parts of the season.

Mike McCarthy’s side had one of the most threatening offences in the entire league and it’s hard to believe they’ve only improved that area in the offseason.

With the addition of Cedric Benson, the Packers have acquired a reliable RB that Brian Music of Yahoo! Sports believes could be what was a missing piece.

Add to that the usual suspects of Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jermichael Finley, and you have a frightening selection of scoring assets.

Offensive Line

As previously mentioned, the Packers picked up the services of Jeff Saturday in free agency during the offseason, which could prove to be a masterstroke.

The former Indianapolis Colt might only be good for a season or two more at the age of 37, but will certainly play a significant role this campaign.

The team are well equipped at left tackle, following the emergence of Marshall Newhouse as a very strong youngster while 2011 draftee Derek Sherrod plays as a backup.

Plus, the Packers have TJ Lang and John Sitton performing well as a guard pair and would appear to give Aaron Rodgers a solid line for which to play the game at his best.