NFC Championship Preview; San Francisco 49ers vs Green Bay Packers
On the flip side of the AFC, the NFC Championship game is a matchup of the two best teams in the conference. The San Francisco 49ers were the kings of the conference, finishing with a 13-3 record built off an elite running game and an even better pass rush. Rookie Nick Bosa has been a wrecking ball on quarterbacks all season, and Jimmy Garoppolo has been the perfect QB for this run-heavy team.
The Green Bay Packers were the second seed in the NFC this season despite a subpar season from Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers didn’t carry the team like he usually does in Matt LaFleur’s first season as Head Coach. The Packers compiled a 13-3 record thanks to their surprisingly good defense and the emergence of running back Aaron Jones.
The two met already this season, with the Niners destroying the Packers 37-8. Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times and threw for only 104 yards. Jimmy G completely outplayed him, throwing for 253 yards and two touchdowns. The two headed monster of Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman combined for nearly 100 yards.
San Francisco 49ers
The Niners are essentially a more polished version of the Tennessee Titans with an elite pass rush. They thrive on their running game, don’t make mistakes at the quarterback position and use their defense as their main source of intimidation.
Nick Bosa is one of the most disruptive players in the game in his rookie year and the rest of the defense follows suit with bruising hits each and every play. Why have the Niners been so successful despite not having any big names on offense? The brilliance of Kyle Shannahan’s offense.
The Head Coach of the 49ers has been engineering an offense that is extremely efficient. He has perfectly used all the pieces in his offense, including George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk, Tevin Coleman, Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders. The Niners are built for the playoffs and there’s a reason why they’re hosting the NFC Championship.
The X-Factor for the 49ers is Nick Bosa. If he can get to Aaron Rodgers and prevent Rodgers from making plays outside the pocket, the Niners will win this game. Bosa had nine sacks in the regular season and is as disruptive a defensive end as there are.
Rodgers makes a living extending plays and making incredible throws off his back foot. Keeping him scrambling and unable to square his shoulders to his receivers is key. If Rodgers never gets any time in the pocket, he can’t beat you deep and he can’t run for firsts downs. This is the number one key for Bosa and company.
The 49ers will win if
Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t turn the ball over. As important as Bosa and crew pressuring Rodgers, Jimmy G being able to avoid any major turnovers will win the 49ers the game. The teams are both very talented but in different ways. Garoppolo is not Aaron Rodgers but he is a good quarterback who knows when to take his shots.
As long as G stays cool under pressure, the Niners have nothing to worry about. The two-headed monster of Coleman and Mostert has been deadly so far this season. If Garoppolo can pick his spots they shouldn’t have any problems on offense.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers are interesting because even though they’re the number two seed in the NFC, they haven’t really played up to potential. Offensively, Aaron Rodgers has left a lot to be desired as a quarterback. He has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league for a decade, but he has only had synergy with his top wideout Davante Adams.
The Packers have won their games mostly on defense. Za’Darius Smith is an elite pass rusher and a disruptive force for the improved Green Bay defense. Long gone are the days of Rodgers throwing for 500 yards and five touchdowns.
The Packers have a lot of talent but they haven’t really been all that consistent this season despite their record. The three losses they’ve had this season have been bad ones, but they’ve managed to squeak out a lot of games they shouldn’t have won.
The X-Factor for the Packers is Allen Lazard. Lazard is a bit of a diamond in the rough. He went undrafted in 2018 and was signed to the Packers after being released by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Lazard is the de facto second wide receiver on the depth chart. The first is obviously Davante Adams, who has had great chemistry with Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers hasn’t seemed to get on track with the rest of his wide receivers. If Lazard can get open and make himself a target for Rodgers to hit, that opens up Adams as well. The whole season it’s always kind of been Rodgers and Adams, with the occasional sprinkle of Aaron Jones.
Lazard is extremely important to the success of the Packers’ offense because if he disappears, the Niners only need to worry about Davante Adams and Aaron Jones.
The Packers will win if
Aaron Rodgers is able to do Aaron Rodgers things. It sounds simple but Aaron Rodgers was hammered in their 37-8 loss to the 49ers. The Niners essentially kept Rodgers in check by sacking him, keeping him in the pocket and not letting him run around.
Rodgers is at his best when he’s improvising plays and moving around outside the pocket. Most of his big plays come off of broken routes or long runs. Part of what makes Aaron Rodgers special is that even when it looks like he’s trapped, he finds a way to squirm out of trouble and find a receiver deep downfield.
49ers 27, Packers 24
This will be a very good game. These are two very evenly matched teams. The main difference between the two teams is that the 49ers have an elite pass rush. The Packers have a good defense, but the 49ers have a great defense.
Nick Bosa will be able to keep Aaron Rodgers in the pocket. Jimmy G will make enough plays to give the Niners an opportunity to win. George Kittle will be a matchup nightmare and will score at least one touchdown. Aaron Rodgers may be an elite quarterback, but the San Francisco 49ers are an elite team.
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