Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport
Aldon Smith chases Aaron Rodgers in the 2012 playoffs.
The San Francisco 49ers faced the Green Bay Packers twice last season, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs. The 49ers won both contests, but 2013 is a new year.
One of the biggest keys for the Packers is giving Aaron Rodgers time to throw. If he has time, he will exploit the 49ers' defensive secondary.
The 49ers will attempt to get a strong, consistent pass rush on Rodgers. If they can sack him or even apply good pressure, forcing him to throw before he wants to, it bodes very well for the 49ers defense.
Aldon Smith had 19.5 sacks last year and was a Pro Bowl selection and First-Team All-Pro. He will go up against rookie David Bakhtiari, who replaces the injured Bryan Bulaga. If Smith has a big day, he can create havoc on the Packers' offense.
Bulaga's injury was a major blow to the Packers offensive line. Bakhtiari was a fourth-round draft selection this year and is completely unproved at the NFL level.
The Packers will certainly give him help, sometimes with a tight end and often with a running back. If they cannot keep Smith off of Rodgers, they will be in trouble.
The need for the Packers to double-team Smith will enable Ray McDonald and Justin Smith to work one-on-one against their blockers. It will also give the 49ers some good blitz opportunities, but they must get to Rodgers if they employ this tactic.
The battle between Smith and Bakhtiari will be extremely interesting to watch. Whichever player has the most success will go a long way towards determining the winner in this game.