Green Bay Packers v. San Francisco 49ers: Behind Enemy Lines

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 3: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers passes during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 3, 2020 in Santa Clara, California. The Packers defeated the 49ers 34-17. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 3: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers passes during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 3, 2020 in Santa Clara, California. The Packers defeated the 49ers 34-17. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

After a bounce-back win against the Detroit Lions, the Green Bay Packers will be faced with a very difficult test in Week 3 as they head out west to take on the 2-0 San Francisco 49ers.

This will be the Packers’ first true road test in front of a packed stadium since the 2019 NFC Championship against the Niners, and they’ll once again be up against a stout 49ers’ pass rush and an offense led by head coach Kyle Shanahan that can put up points quickly.

In order for Packers fans to get to know the upcoming opponent a bit, I’ve called in help from Peter Panacy, who covers the 49ers for Niners Noise. Peter was kind enough to answer five of my questions to provide us with some insight into this Niners team.

Can you catch us up quickly on the 49ers’ first two games and if there were any major additions or losses this offseason?

Center Alex Mack has been cool. Probably the Niners’ biggest offseason loss would have been cornerback Richard Sherman, but that seemed to be known in the cards anyway. What was probably more impressive was how San Francisco kept the bulk of its free-agent class. Continuity is good.

Neither game was perfect. But a West Coast team traveling east for a two-game road trip to open up the season, winning both games, that’s impressive enough. True, both the Lions and Eagles are in reconstruct mode. Yet those are games the 49ers had to win, and they did.

Takeaway: Through two games, Alex Mack has been very good for San Francisco, allowing no sacks or pressures, according to PFF ($$). In Kenny Clark’s press conference on Thursday, he was asked about Mack and called him a “great player,” adding that he’s “quick off the ball” and “really smart.”

As Peter mentioned, the Niners were able to get many of their own unrestricted free agents back for the 2021 season, including Trent Williams, Jordan Willis, Jason Verrett, Kyle Juszczyk, and others.

What is the strength of this 2021 Niners team?

Through two weeks, it’s probably the trenches on both sides of the ball. Now, we can worry a little bit about the offensive line depth. But that depth hasn’t been tested yet, and the starting five has been fantastic. Reverting back to Mack, he’s made a world of difference. Centers are awfully important in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, and last year had a revolving door with all the injuries.

Meanwhile, the defensive line is looking like its 2019 self with edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford fully healthy and flashing their prowess. Unlike the O-line, the D-line depth is solid and strong, which will be great for those rotations.

Takeaway: In my recent article where I detailed ‘6 Stats to Know’ about this 49ers team, I discussed both their pass-rush and the play of their offensive line. The Niners’ 52 pressures from their defensive front are the third most in football this season, while their offensive line is yet to allow a sack and has given up only seven total pressures.

What is San Francisco’s biggest weakness?

It’s the cornerback crop, plain and simple. San Francisco losing Jason Verrett to an ACL tear was a big blow. And while the 49ers have received excellent play from fifth-round rookie Deommodore Lenoir through two weeks, he’s still a rookie. That’s always a question mark. And it’s unclear whether or not the Niners grabbing Josh Norman and Dre Kirkpatrick off the free-agent scrap heap will be adequate enough.

Perhaps the pass rush covers up this weakness a bit, but it’s still worrisome.

Takeaway: Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and the rest of these Green Bay Packers’ receivers could certainly find some success against the 49ers cornerbacks, but it’s going to be up to the offensive line to create time for Rodgers and Co. to do so.

To help open things up in the passing game and to mitigate the San Francisco pass rush, Green Bay will have to stick to and find some success running the ball. If they become one-dimensional as they did against New Orleans, that will spell big trouble for the Packers–even if the 49ers’ cornerback room isn’t exactly a strength of this team.

Who is a player that Green Bay Packers fans may not know as well but could make an impact?

I could say Lenoir, who has allowed only five catches on 11 targets with three pass breakups over two weeks. But keep an eye out on wide receiver Trent Sherfield. He had a fantastic training camp and preseason, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him come up with one or two big catches Sunday night.

Takeaway: Lenoir leads the cornerback room in total defensive snaps this season as primarily a boundary corner. Meanwhile, Sherfield has three receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown. With George Kittle and Deebo Samuel commanding much of the attention, that could open things up for Sherfield.

What is your prediction for Sunday’s game?

If this was a road game for San Francisco, I’d go the other way. But given the Packers are playing on a short week and have some exploitable holes on defense, namely no Za’Darius Smith and a vulnerable Kevin King, I’d expect the 49ers to engineer an effective offense.

A simple prediction? Let’s go with 24-21 in favor of the Niners, which would mean Green Bay covers in a close one.

Takeaway: Unfortunately, I have to agree with Peter; I think the 49ers win this one as well. Ultimately, I think the Niner pass rush will be too much to handle — especially if Green Bay is without Elgton Jenkins — and this Joe Barry defense won’t be able to contain Kyle Shanahan’s offense.