Packers vs. 49ers: 7 Reasons San Francisco Will Get by Green Bay
These two teams met to start the season at Lambeau Field, where the 49ers outclassed the Packers in every phase of the game and won 30-22. Now, the 49ers host Green Bay at Candlestick Park, and the result will be the same, though both teams have evolved since that time.
Let's take a look at some key reasons why the 49ers head into this NFC divisional matchup with a clear-cut edge over their long-time conference rival.
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The 49ers have some of the most passionate fans in the NFL.
Many of these fans still remember the glory days of the 1980s and 90s, and they're hungry for another championship team.
Niners Nation will be out in force representing their beloved team, and the 49ers players will feed off that energy. Home-field advantage is a real phenomenon, and the Packers will have a tough task ahead of them attempting to overcome the energy the home crowd will provide the 49ers on Saturday.
If the 49ers can jump out to an early score and feed the crowd's desire to go crazy, the Packers don't stand a chance.
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The 49ers finished the season with a banged up roster. And while some teams have benefited from playing straight through in the past, like the New York Giants last season and the Packers a few seasons ago, the 49ers clearly needed this extra week to rest up and get healthy.
Jim Harbaugh seems to think the bye will particularly benefit the younger Smith (h/t SFGate.com's Eric Branch), who has played more this season than ever before in his brief career. Watching him play the past few games, it was clear he had lost some of the explosiveness we saw for most of the season.
Speaking of J. Smith...
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Sure, Justin Smith will be playing this game with one hand tied behind his back, but if you've watched him over the course of the last couple of seasons, you know he's capable of pulling this off.
Smith is suffering from a partially-torn triceps on his left arm. And while his injury will certainly limit his ability to push and pull with that arm, Smith's lower-body strength and powerful right arm will give him enough leverage to manhandle T.J. Lang and Marshall Newhouse on the left side of the Packers line.
With Smith acting as a wrecking ball on the inside of Aldon Smith, expect the newly energized young pass-rusher to come into this game with renewed purpose. He'll get to Aaron Rodgers early and often, and the two Smiths will surely wreak havoc and disrupt the timing of the Packers aerial assault.
Packers Will Be One-Dimensional on Offense
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One of the biggest reasons the Packers have been surging of late is that they've found balance on offense. DuJuan Harris and John Kuhn have become big parts of what the Packers are doing on offense, but that won't be the case this Saturday.
A rested 49ers defense will surely shut down any semblance of a Packers running game, forcing Aaron Rodgers to take to the air more often than he'd like.
Given the sad state of affairs on the Packer offensive line in pass protection this year (54 sacks this year, including last week's playoff game), and given a fresh 49ers defense, Rodgers will be uncomfortable all game long.
Personnel on Defense to Slow Down Packers WRs
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The 49ers have the personnel to match up with the full contingency of Packers wide receivers and tight ends.
Chris Culliver, Tarrel Brown, Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner make up one of the NFL's top-ranked secondaries—a unit that allowed just 200 yards per game in 2012.
These men match up well on the outside with Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and James Jones, while NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis match up well with tight end Jermichael Finley and utility player Randall Cobb.
Without a running game, Aaron Rodgers and his receivers will certainly make some big plays. But over the course of a long game, the 49ers have the players to keep them from having a huge impact on the scoreboard.
Packers Can't Stop the 49ers Rushing Attack
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Even with Joe Webb throwing up unanswered prayers in the Wild-Card round, the Packers let Adrian Peterson rush for 99 yards at a 4.5-yards-per-carry clip.
That's the seasonal average for the Packers, and you can be sure the 49ers are going to give Frank Gore, LaMichael James and even Anthony Dixon a heavy workload against Green Bay.
The 49ers rushed for almost 2,500 yards in 2012 and averaged 5.1 yards per carry—the No. 4-ranked rushing attack in the NFL.
Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman know the Packers can't stop the run, and they'll pound the rock all game long at home to control the clock and keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense off the field.
X-Factor: Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree
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The 49ers have long been without a 1,000-yard receiver, and Michael Crabtree has failed to live up to his status as a Round 1 draft pick...until now.
Colin Kaepernick and Crabtree have developed some incredible chemistry over the course of the last five games. In the month of December, Crabtree caught 35 passes for 538 yards and four touchdowns. That's an average of seven catches for 107.6 yards and just under one touchdown per game.
Combined with a lethal and punishing rushing attack, the 49ers offense finally has the firepower it needs to keep up with the elite offenses of the NFL—a fact 49ers fans were happy to see for themselves in Week 15 against the New England Patriots.
The 49ers have the players on offense and defense to defeat the Packers at Candlestick on Saturday. Bring your "A" game, fans. Make it loud, because you can confidently cheer for your team to move on to the next round to face either the hated Seattle Seahawks or Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.
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