After Adrian Peterson nearly broke the rushing record against them in Week 17, the Packers stuffed AD and the Christian Ponder-less Vikings in the Wild Card Round. While they got some help from backup QB Joe Webb, the Packers defense carried them into the divisional round of the playoffs.
On offense, the hero was not former MVP Aaron Rodgers; it was fullback John Kuhn, who banged in one touchdown on the ground and caught Rodgers' only touchdown pass of the day. Rodgers still looked sharp, sporting a 104.9 QB rating, even though the Vikings put pressure on him for most of the game. The Packers defense also forced three turnovers, which kept the game under control when the offense was sluggish.
This brings us to the most contentious game of the divisional round, in which the Green Bay Packers travel to Candlestick to take on the San Francisco 49ers.
Although the 49ers defense is among the best in the league, the Packers offense is getting healthy at the right time. Although they did not click last week, the Packers averaged 34 PPG in the last four weeks of the season. Therefore, it appears unlikely Aaron Rodgers will have just one touchdown, even if he turns the ball over once or twice.
The 49ers and Packers did play earlier this season in Week 2, a contest which the 49ers won 30-22, but both these teams have changed since that contest. As stated before, the Packers are healthy; however, the same cannot be said of the 49ers.
Defensive anchor Justin Smith hurt his triceps and missed the last few weeks of action. During that stretch, the 49ers lost badly to the Seahawks, and Aldon Smith, who was threatening the sacks record with 19.5, has not had a sack since Justin Smith went down.
Although Rodgers' offensive line is still shaky, the 49ers may not be able to exploit it if their defensive line is not at full strength. Justin Smith has said he will play this week, but his injury may limit him and, by extension, Aldon Smith. If the 49ers cannot get pressure on Rodgers, it may be a long day for the 49ers.
On the offensive side of the ball, the 49ers are dangerous with Colin Kaepernick at QB, but Frank Gore, the focal point of their offense, has been sub-par in recent weeks. The last time Gore topped 100 yards was in Week 8, and the 49ers need Gore to have a big game to take the pressure off Kaepernick in his first playoff game.
This will be an all-out brawl, with both defenses getting physical and both offenses getting frustrated. Rodgers and the Packers, however, will squeak out a hard-fought win against the 49ers.
Prediction: Packers 24, 49ers 20