By Charles Jay
The Green Bay Packers really took it on the chin when they last played the San Francisco 49ers, who dominated in most statistical categories on the way to a 37-8 pasting that was over at the half (23-0).
And even though we realize that every game is different, we also know that like in boxing, where “styles make fights,’ sometimes there are natural matchup advantages to be derived in the NFL. Is this one of those cases? And if not, can the Pack, well, come back? We’ll see, as the winner of Sunday night’s NFC Championship begins at 6:40 PM ET at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.
Interestingly, Green Bay’s win expectation, as measured a graphic that takes point differential into consideration, is 9.7 wins against 6.3 losses, which actually would have left them out of the playoffs. So are they overrated?
In the NFC Championship odds that have been posted at BetAnySports on this game, the Niners are decisive favorites:
San Francisco 49ers -7.5
Green Bay Packers +7.5
Over 46.5 points -110
Under 46.5 points -110
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There’s nothing all that remarkable in what Green Bay does. Aaron Rodgers did not have one of those years that produces Hall of Fame busts. Davante Adams (997 yards) accounted for one-quarter of the yards he threw for through the air. His fellow wideouts aren’t going to keep defensive coordinators up at night. But they aren’t all that bad, either, as Rodgers has had to learn to work with the likes of Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scanting. And tight end Jimmie Graham has been a shell of his former self.
They have to provide some run element, and so Aaron Jones, who averaged 4.6 yards a carry and scored 16 touchdowns, has been more than just a distraction to the opposition. Between him and Jamaal Williams, they caught 88 passes for 727 yards. So as you can see, it’s a little here, a little there. Except that Adams needs to be a big part of it. If you take him out of the equation, Green Bay becomes a lot more ordinary. That was the case on November 24, when he had just 43 yards in receptions.
in that 37-8 defeat, Rodgers threw the ball 33 times and had just 104 yards. It was, by most standards of measurement, the worst game he’s had since becoming an NFL starter. In fact, if you want to go a step further, you could take the 38 yards in sack losses into account and he’s got 1.7 yards per dropback.
We have no doubt that Rodgers has the capability of bouncing back and playing better in the rematch. But he is not going to make this game his own. Road numbers don’t suggest it; his passer rating is twelve points lower than it is at Lambeau. And there is a very big disparity in yards per attempt – 8.0 to 6.1. Yes, that’s a big difference. And while his 7.8-yard average on play-action passes is better than his overall number (7.0), it’s not stupendous (well, considering that, say, Ryan Tannehill is at 13.5).
But the Niners were easily able to limit his range, neutralize Adams and sack him five times. Remember that San Francisco does not like to blitz if they don’t have to, and Rodgers actually does a pretty good job of beating blitzes. In other words, he isn’t going to be exploiting something that is a major part of Robert Saleh’s defensive game plan.
Still, the 49ers are going to switch up who is among the “four” that go after Rodgers. The offensive line was not able to handle it last time. ALL Packer wideouts aside from Adams were held to single-digit receiving totals. And you know that Matt LaFleur, who served on the same Redskins staff as Kyle Shanahan under Mike Shanahan and believes very much in the same play-action attack, wasn’t surprising his former colleague with anything. By the way, I would expect that Mike is going to be chipping in a little advice here, and “shhhhhh,” probably secretly wants another shot at a NFL head coaching job.
I’m not convinced that the Packers could do enough to change the fundamentals of this matchup around. Take into account that runaway results at this stage of the post-season are not unusual; in fact, since the merger, 56% of conference championship games have been decided by more than ten points. We’re laying the points.
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