Given current momentum and overall records, the Packers can very much be classified as an underdog at home. There are several key factors the Packers must take care of in order to pull off the upset.
Keep Frank Gore in Check
Green Bay cannot allow San Francisco running back Frank Gore to run wild.
Gore has not done much of that lately, having rushed for more than 100 yards in just two of his last 11 games. In Week 17 against Arizona, he rushed 13 times for 14 yards.
But Gore is due for a big game. The much-maligned Packers defense that ranks No. 25 with an average of 125 rushing yards allowed per game can ill-afford to ignore Gore.
The Packers have every reason to do so given Gore's recent performance and the fact it was Colin Kaepernick and the aerial assault that torched them for 412 yards and three touchdowns in the 34-28 loss in Week 1.
Interestingly enough, when the 49ers knocked the Packers out of the postseason a year ago, Kaepernick used the read-option and ripped up the defense on the ground. San Francisco then flipped the script to open the season.
If San Francisco chooses to do so once more, the Green Bay defense has to be ready.
Dominate Third Down
Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy understands that the Packers primarily lost the opening game of the season because of issues on third down. He said to the media, as captured by the team's Twitter account:
MM: Issue in first 49ers game was third downs. Our defense is different now than Week 1.— Green Bay Packers (@packers) December 30, 2013
In that contest, the Packers allowed the 49ers to hit a 9-of-18 mark on third downs, which is a great mark at the professional level given the number of opportunities. Green Bay can do better in this regard by keying on Gore and not giving up major yardage on the first two downs in each series.
While McCarthy focused on the defensive side of the third-down spectrum, the offense needs to learn from its Week 1 performance, too. The unit managed a 4-of-10 line when the chains needed moving.
This time around, the Packers will be without tight end Jermichael Finley, who caught five balls for 56 yards and a score in Week 1. To help make conversions easier, the Packers must rely on rookie back Eddie Lacy, who carried the ball just 14 times for 41 yards and a score.
This will be the fourth meeting between the two teams since the start of the 2012 season.
Green Bay has yet to win in that span.
But this has to feel different for both sides this time around.
Will Green Bay pull off the upset?
Green Bay has survived Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn. No team wants to play the Packers. One high-ranking scout for another NFC playoff team said anonymously to Tom Pelissero of USA Today: "Been hoping they get knocked out for weeks."
In fact, the Packers have been playing playoff football for weeks. Granted, most of those have been without Rodgers under center, but the point stands. McCarthy puts it best, per the team's official site: “Playoff football is different. I’m thankful we’ve had a chance to play in these types of games. We’ve been playing playoff-like football. We’ll be ready to go."
Green Bay has remained resilient and essentially been in playoff games the past few weeks. But now Rodgers is back, and as fans surely know, anything is possible with him under center.