Here are three bold predictions for the Green Bay Packers upcoming NFC Championship game with the San Francisco 49ers.
For at least one more week, but hopefully not the last, my bold predictions are back. After being on a bit of a hot streak to finish out the regular season, things got a bit chilly last weekend, much like the weather at Lambeau Field during the NFC Divisional Round. But I’m sensing good things this week.
The Green Bay Packers are going to have a difficult matchup against the San Francisco 49ers who whooped them up and down the football field the last time these two teams met in Week 12. And if two or even all three of these bold predictions can come true, the Packers could be much better off on Sunday than most expect. So let’s dive in!
Tyler Ervin Touchdown
Now, whether this comes via a punt return or on offense, I won’t speculate because I could very well see it happening either way. During their first meeting, the Green Bay Packers didn’t have Tyler Ervin and as most will remember, their return game was abysmal up to that point in the season.
However, since then Ervin has turned both the kick and punt return units around and his 9.3 yards per punt return would rank as the fifth best in the NFL, if he had enough attempts as a Packer.
Meanwhile, in recent weeks he has seen more snaps on offense and he is oh so close to breaking off a big play, not to mention that he could already have a touchdown to his name. In Week 17, Aaron Rodgers overthrew him on a sluggo route and in the divisional round, Ervin was tripped up on a run that looked like it had home run potential.
There’s no question that San Francisco has a very good defensive unit and Davante Adams will draw plenty of attention as always. Meaning, Green Bay will need someone else to step up and I also expect to see a new wrinkle in this offense from Matt LaFleur. And Tyler Ervin is a great candidate.
Another big day for Jimmy Graham
Based on what we’ve seen from Jimmy Graham during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers, this could be one of my boldest predictions yet. But to his credit, Graham had a superb performance against Seattle and although he had only three receptions, all three went for first downs, including the game-clincher.
And while the Niners do boast the second best pass-defense by DVOA in the NFL, given that they play quite a bit of cover 3, there will likely be opportunities for Graham in the flats, as well as in the middle of the field on curls and deep-crossers to make some plays.
As I mentioned in the previous prediction, Adams is going to draw a lot of attention and Rodgers’ is going to need somebody else to rely on in the passing game. Now, with all that said, a “big day” for Graham isn’t going to consist of over 100 yards, but I’m thinking similar to last week with 50 to 60 yards, along with some catches in big moments. And hopefully, a touchdown.
The 49ers are held under 100 rushing yards
In order for the Green Bay Packers to win on Sunday, a big key will be slowing the 49ers rushing attack and putting the ball in Jimmy Garoppolo’s hands. This will give Green Bay’s stout defensive front an opportunity to create pressure and with Garoppolo throwing an interception at a rate of 2.7 percent – the 7th highest in the NFL – this opportunistic defense could have a potential turnover as well.
However, this won’t be an easy task by any means. During their Week 12 matchup, San Francisco’s running backs averaged nearly six yards per carry and as a team in 2019, they averaged the second most rushing yards per game with 144.1.
The good news for the Packers, is that despite their run defense being a real problem for the first two-thirds of the season, over the last six games – minus Week 17 in Detroit – it has been much better. Over this span, opposing running backs are averaging under 90 rushing yards per game. This includes allowing just 83 yards to Saquon Barkley, 76 to Adrian Peterson, and 26 to Marshawn Lynch.
Of course, the play from Kenny Clark is always a big factor in the middle, but we’ve also seen much better play from Dean Lowry, Blake Martinez, as well as the return and emergence of Ibraheim Campbell in the middle of the field. It certainly won’t be easy on Sunday, but this group can do it.