Final Thoughts on Green Bay Packers v. 49ers Playoff Matchup

Sep 26, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) calls a play against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) calls a play against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

Green Bay Packers playoff football is here. We’ve spent the week previewing their matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, so now, with kickoff just hours away, as always, I’ll share my final thoughts on the upcoming NFC Divisional round game.

Final thoughts on Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers

– Running the ball may not be easy against the Niners’ defensive front, but I’m not sure who in the secondary is going to slow Davante Adams. In Adams’ last two games against San Francisco, he has been targeted 30 times, catching 22 of those passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns–although I will add that the 49er secondary has improved since these two teams last met.

– With that said, even though running the ball may not be easy at times, Green Bay cannot get one-dimensional either. We’ve seen how quickly things can go wrong when that happens.

– If I had to guess, I would say that I do think David Bakhtiari plays–however, I’m not terribly confident in that prediction. Ian Rapoport said on the Pat McAfee Show that Bakhtiari will go through warm-ups before deciding if he will play or not. Jaire Alexander is also questionable, but I do expect him to play–the reason being, Green Bay cut Isaac Yiadom to make room for Za’Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus. The Packers won’t play with just five cornerbacks available.

– I expect to see Alexander playing both in the slot and out wide, just depending on what look the 49ers are giving.

– Regardless of what the offensive line configuration looks like, just as it has been all season, getting the ball out of Rodgers’ hands quickly should still be the priority.

– My guess is that the OL configuration is Bakhtiari, Runyan, Myers, Patrick, and Turner. It’s also important to remember, as good as Myers has looked, he does have less than 300 career NFL snaps, according to PFF ($$).

– This is a very stout 49er defensive front, but regardless of what the Packers’ OL configuration has been, they’ve held up well this season and done so against some very good pass rushers. Of course, it won’t be easy, but as they have, I expect them to hold their own.

Tackling and gap integrity is going to be crucial to slowing Elijah Mitchell and Deeob Samuel in the run game. Mitchell didn’t play against the Packers in Week 3, and Samuel wasn’t used as a ball carrier–so this will be something new for the Green Bay Packers defense to contend with.

– Despite Jimmy Garoppolo not passing the ball a ton or pushing the ball downfield, this is an explosive 49ers offense because of the YAC so many of their players can create. Again, tackling will be crucial, as well as having all 11 players swarming to the football and making sure everything stays in front of the defender.

– Garoppolo also loves to attack the middle of the field. Green Bay needs to force him to throw to the boundaries, and there may be some turnover opportunities that follow. Also, can Green Bay capitalize on those turnover opportunities? For the most part, they have been able to.

– Knock on wood, but the Green Bay Packers special teams unit has been better as of late. As I’ve said before, there isn’t going to be a magical turnaround, they are who they are at this point, and truthfully, they shouldn’t have to be great for Green Bay to win. However, they need to avoid the game-changing negative plays.

The biggest boost that the Packers defense can receive is from the Green Bay offense getting off to a fast start. This will keep the Niners’ offense on the sidelines, and especially as the game goes on, limit their ability to run the ball. If the Packers win the toss, I would like to see them receive, but I also know that won’t happen either.

– The Green Bay Packers’ edge rusher depth just got a massive boost. Although Preston Smith and Rashan Gary were two of the more productive edge rushers in football, the overall depth of the position was a concern. But now, with Z. Smith and Mercilus available, it is a strength. Look for those two to play between 20 and 30 snaps each today.

– The play of De’Vondre Campbell is going to be so important in this game and he is perhaps the biggest difference between this Packers team and the 2019 team that lost to the 49ers in the playoffs. He will be important against the run, protecting the middle of the field, and his reliable tackling will be crucial as well.

– Randall Cobb wasn’t targeted heavily prior to his injury, but he was a very trusted target of Rodgers’ on third downs and in the red zone–those high leverage situations that can determine a game.

– Assuming he is out, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is going to be missed. He brings a downfield element that no other Packers receiver can match, and this is a 49ers’ secondary that has struggled against defending the deep ball.

– It will be interesting to see how Joe Barry attacks San Francisco. Does he do what he’s done all season and play with lightboxes? Or does he have more defenders near the line of scrimmage to help with the run? My guess is the Packers stick with what they’ve done, but we will see.

– The right side of the 49ers, particularly the interior, is where the Green Bay Packers defense could find some success generating pressure and creating push against the run. All season long, the Packers have been one of the best when it comes to pressuring the quarterback.

Prediction: Packers 30 – 49ers 24