On Sept. 9, the two teams squared off in Week 1's most anticipated matchup. After ending the 2011 season as the top two seeds in the NFC, they figured to play prominently into the playoff picture again.
San Francisco started 2012 with bold statement, putting the league on notice with a 30-22 win over Green Bay.
Despite the fairly close score, Green Bay didn't lead once during the full 60 minutes. San Francisco abused their opposition on the ground, tallying 186 net rushing yards to Green Bay's 45.
The 49ers manhandled the Packers and made believers out of doubters, but the tide could change four months later in a rematch bearing much larger ramifications.
Lessening the rushing disparity is the key for Green Bay to prevent another defeat. They tried assembling a ground game with Cedric Benson, which yielded disastrous results. Clearly no match for San Francisco's stout defense, Benson netted 18 rushing yards on nine carries.
Now they will rely on DuJuan Harris to keep the defenders honest. The second-year back finally heard his name called after several other rushers failed to stick in the starting lineup, and he ran with the opportunity.
Harris obtained 4.6 yards per carry in four regular season games. While he did not excel last week with 47 yards on 17 carries, he caught five passes for 53 yards.
Green Bay doesn't need Harris to slice open one of the NFL's stingiest rushing defenses. Just keep it on its toes enough that it can't ignore the potential for a running play.
They then need to stop San Francisco from controlling the game with Frank Gore and its running backs. Green Bay couldn't get San Fran off the field last time since Gore and Kendall Hunter amassed 153 rushing yards in 25 attempts.
Gore started the season on fire, but he has yet to exceed 100 rushing yards in a single game since Week 7. Since Colin Kaepernick was inserted into the starting quarterback role, Gore has averaged 3.9 yards per carry.
Luckily for Green Bay, Charles Woodson returned last week to solidify its rushing defense. If the Packers can hold Adrian Peterson to 99 rushing yards, Gore should not be able to carve them up.
This would put the game in the hands of the quarterbacks, which obviously bodes well for the Packers.
Aaron Rodgers fared well in their past matchup, completing 30-of-44 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. His shaky offensive line, however, did not offer him much time in the pocket.
Aldon Smith and Justin Smith didn't go anywhere, so that problem could persist into this weekend. Pressuring Rodgers presents San Francisco with its best chance of emerging victorious.
As bizarre as this sounds, the Packers fortunately don't have to deal with Alex Smith this time. In Week 1, he converted 20-of-26 passing attempts for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
Kaepernick's performance is the wild card in this bout. Unless he shows no signs of this being his first taste of playoff action, the Packers could exploit his inexperience en route to a playoff victory.
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