So far, the answer to that question is a resounding “No”. San Francisco might be the most complete team in the NFL right now, and Sunday they play host to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship.
At first glance, these teams don’t match up that evenly, with San Francisco having more talent and depth at almost every position except one. The most important one. Aaron Rodgers is living proof that having an elite quarterback gives you a chance to win any game, regardless of how lopsided the talent or depth discrepancy may be.
Weather shouldn’t be too much of a factor in this game, with the temperature being in the mid 50s for that Sunday evening. Both teams are relatively healthy heading into Sunday with Bryan Bulaga, one of the Packer’s best pass blockers returning to practice after missing most of their last game against Seattle with an illness. Can Aaron Rodgers pull off another upset victory and get a shot at his second Super Bowl ring? Let’s dive in.
Matchup: GB (13-3) vs. SF (13-3), 6:40 pm ET, FOX
(Odds as of Saturday at 6:00 pm ET. Lines subject to change.)
Spread: SF -7.5
I have a hard time believing Green Bay can win this game. San Francisco has been the better offense and defense this year, and Green Bay is much more manageable outside of Lambeau Field. The 49ers also have enviable depth at most of their positions, whereas Green Bay seems to be overly reliant on only Aaron Jones and Davante Adams.
This San Francisco defense has the talent to take away Jones and Adams, and force Aaron Rodgers to rely on other less-proven targets, and I think this is when we see him start to struggle just a little bit.
Let’s also not forget that just a week ago the Packers barely squeaked by with a win over a very injury-plagued Seahawks team while being given one extra week to rest and prepare. That doesn’t bode well against a very confident and very healthy 49ers squad.
However, Aaron Rodgers is capable of turning any game on its end, especially if the Green Bay offensive line can keep the elite 49ers pass rush at bay (no pun intended). San Francisco is quite reliant on their star-studded defensive line to generate pressure often without blitzing or bringing extra defenders. It’s been a rock-solid strategy for them up to now, as they’ve been one of the least blitzing defenses this year while still bringing more than enough pressure.
I believe the X-factor in this game is how well the Packers offensive line is able to hold up against this fearsome front seven for San Francisco. If they can double-team Nick Bosa and limit the rest of the 49ers defensive line, the 49er defense becomes much more beatable, and Aaron Rodgers is more than capable of taking advantage of a few extra seconds in the pocket.
While Aaron Rodgers may have had a down year statistically, he still guided the Packers to another NFC North title with a brand new head coach and is still one of the most accurate, mistake-free passers in the game today. If you still need convincing that Rodgers can pull this off, history can add some insight to this. Looking back at how the 49ers performed in the regular season, most of their games they were thoroughly dominant usually winning by multiple possessions and not having too much trouble coasting to victories.
If you look a little closer, a few of their games were very competitive and close throughout, and San Francisco could’ve very easily lost a couple more of them. Why were these games so much more competitive? Because of the opposing teams style of quarterback play.
SF 28 ARI 25. SEA 27 SF 24. BAL 20 SF 17. SF 26 SEA 21(2nd matchup).
Looking at those scores, what do the Cardinals, Seahawks, and Ravens all have in common? All three have extremely mobile quarterbacks that aren’t afraid to make plays with their legs. Likely MVP Lamar Jackson broke the single season quarterback rushing record, Russell Wilson may be the best improvisational throw-on-the-move quarterback in the game today, and speedy Kyler Murray almost guided a severely undermanned Cardinals team to an upset over the powerhouse 49ers.
If Rodgers and Co. want any hope to win this game, we’ll have to see a vintage Aaron Rodgers game, where he surgically picks apart the defense and makes plays with his athleticism and scrambling ability. Those games show that mobile quarterbacks have given this 49ers defense a lot of problems, and have exposed a vulnerable spot on an otherwise rock solid defense.
I still predict the 49ers to win, but it will be very close, and likely come down to the last couple minutes.
The Angle to Take: GB +7.5 or better
San Francisco should jump out to an early lead in this game, forcing Green Bay into catch up mode. Green Bay won’t be shy about letting Rodgers air it out 50+ times, and I expect their game plan to become more aggressive as the game goes on. This, coupled with the mild weather in Santa Clara leans to the over having value.
The Second Angle to Take: Over 46
The total for this game at 46 is still not that high, considering a few of the playoff games we’ve already seen. Aaron Rodgers will be trying to mount a comeback for most of the game, and there should be enhanced scoring opportunities for both sides in what should be a back and forth affair. I wouldn’t be surprised if this total creeps up closer to 50 come game time.
Picture Source: Si.com
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