The Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) are set to play host to the San Francisco 49ers (12-4) at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Jan. 5, at 4:40 p.m. ET in a frigid NFC Wild Card affair between bitter rivals.
While the NFC North champs are at home, neither team has an advantage with eye-popping inclement weather poised to make an appearance, as ESPN and Kevin Seifert illustrate:
The weather forecast for the Packers/49ers game in Green Bay on Sunday is for a high of ZERO and a low of -18. #FROZENTUNDRA— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 2, 2014
San Francisco guard Alex Boone is not concerned, as Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News captures:
#49ers Alex Boone: no sleeves at GB. Said on KNBR his mom /g'ma call him crazy: "Leave me alone. ... I don't tell you what to wear to work"— Cam Inman (@CamInman) January 3, 2014
Boone's team will be looking to defeat the Packers for the second time this season, with the first victory coming in the form of a Week 1, 34-28 victory in San Francisco.
Despite a 6-2 mark on the road this season, the 49ers will have to weather rare elements against a Packers team propelled by the recent return of former MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who made his comeback in Week 17 and tossed an epic touchdown with 38 seconds left to upset the Chicago Bears and claim the NFC North crown.
Suffice to say, this matchup between titans will be one for the ages.
When: Sunday, Jan. 5, at 4:40 p.m. ET
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Lines (via Vegas Insider)
- Over/Under: 46.5 points
- Spread: San Francisco (-2.5)
Team Injury Reports
|Goodwin, Jonathan||C||Not Injury Related||DNP||FP||-||-|
Can the Packers Beat the 49ers at Their Own Game?
Based on what the forecast projects, both offenses will be grounded into a more traditional attack on Sunday.
While this does not eliminate the passing game entirely, Green Bay cannot expect a mega performance from Rodgers, and San Francisco cannot expect another 412 passing yards and three scores from Colin Kaepernick, as he did in the Week 1 victory.
San Francisco is well-versed in winning games on the ground. Behind the ever-churning pistons that are Frank Gore's legs, the 49ers rank No. 3 in the league on the ground with an average of 137.6 rushing yards per game.
The Packers will have to leave their comfort zone to notch a win. Outside linebacker Mike Neal understands that his unit must stuff the run again to have a chance, as he told Mike Spofford of the Packers' website:
If we can do what we did the first game and eliminate the run game, and force him to pass, I think we have a better deal going on this time to be able to stop it.
Perhaps more importantly, Green Bay will have to produce consistently in the running game through running back Eddie Lacy. As receiver James Jones told the team's website, Lacy is far from the inexperienced rookie that rushed 14 times for 41 yards and a score in the season opener:
Totally different back. Night and day. He’s way more comfortable, way more confident.
They’ll have to account for him, and I know by them watching film and seeing what he’s done during the season, they know he’s not the same player he was in Week 1. It’s good for us to have him in the position he’s in now.
But as ESPN illustrates, Lacy had quite the dominant season—just not against San Francisco:
Eddie Lacy: 531 rush yards after contact this season, 4th in the NFL; was held to 11 yards after contact on 14 rushes in Week 1 vs 49ers— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 2, 2014
It is easy to attribute that stat to it simply being Lacy's first-career start, but the 49ers have done that to all backs this season and rank No. 4 overall with an average of 95.9 rushing yards allowed per game.
In a heavyweight bout, it may be a rookie who ultimately decides the outcome.
Observers should not be fooled by statistics that seemingly weigh in the 49ers' favor, such as the fact the Packers defense gives up 4.6 yards per carry. San Francisco guard Mike Iupati understands this best, per via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle:
It doesn't matter about the stats. It just matters about that day, that game. You can have the worst stats and it comes game day and you can ball out. They have a great defense.
Which team wins?
Add in the fact Gore went to the sunny desert in Arizona in Week 17 and posted 14 yards on 13 carries, and suddenly the notion that the Miami (Fla.) product will find easy sledding against Green Bay in the snow holds little weight.
Bottom line—San Francisco will post a hearty amount of points if it creatively involves Kaepernick on the ground, as will Green Bay with Lacy pounding the rock and Rodgers getting receiver Randall Cobb involved consistently.
At Lambeau Field in the playoffs, it is silly to bet against Rodgers.
Final Score: Packers 28, 49ers 24