Preview: Packers vs. 49ers
The Packers will attempt to win their second game of the season later today when they travel to San Francisco. This will be the fourth meeting between the NFC heavyweights in less than two years. If Green Bay is to pull off an upset, here are the five keys to victory:
1) CONTROL TIME OF POSSESSION
This is easier said than done, especially without injured left tackle Elgton Jenkins, but the Packers have to keep the ball away from the 49ers. Matt LaFleur will need to dig deep into his playbook and find runs and passes that’ll work against one of the best defenses in the league. While the 49ers are banged-up at cornerback, it’s doubtful quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have the time to fully take advantage of aging Josh Norman and fifth-round pick Deommodore Lenoir. Expect to see plenty of motion and a lot of quick passes to Aaron Jones, Davante Adams, and Robert Tonyan. Simply put, if Corey Bojorquez punts more than three times, this could be a long night for Green Bay.
2) KEEP BOSA FROM DOMINATING
Nick Bosa is a dynamic edge rusher, so the Packers better have a plan to slow him down. That will be even more challenging without Jenkins. Right tackle Billy Turner will likely switch sides, and Dennis Kelly will take his place in the starting lineup. Needless to say, this ain’t good. Bosa wreaked havoc (nine pressures and two sacks) in the two games between the teams in ’19, and that was against a much better and much more experienced offensive line. If, as expected, the Packers choose to double-team him, the 49ers have other pass rushers who could cause problems.
3) KEEP KITTLE FROM DOMINATING
Opposing tight ends have caught 14 passes and scored three touchdowns in the first two games against Green Bay, and now coordinator Joe Barry’s beleaguered defense has to deal with All-Pro George Kittle, who will be hungry for the ball after being targeted only four times last Sunday. The plan will almost certainly be to double Kittle as much as possible, although that didn’t keep the former Iowa star from catching six passes for 129 yards and one TD the last time he faced the Packers in the regular season. The 49ers are going to score plenty of points tonight; whether that number is in the mid-20s or the mid-30s will likely depend on how the defense deals with Kittle.
4) SLOW DOWN THE RUN
The 49ers will be without their top three backs on Sunday night, but after the way they dominated the Packers on the ground in ’19, you almost feel as if they could sign a guy from the stands, and he’d run for 150 yards. Outside linebackers Preston Smith and Rashan Gary will need to hold their own against Pro Bowl offensive tackles Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey, and defensive linemen Kenny Clark, Kinglsey Keke, and Dean Lowry, and inside linebackers Krys Barnes and De’Vondre Campbell are going to have to be at their best. Otherwise, underrated quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be able to use play-action to pick apart an already very vulnerable Packers’ secondary.
5) IMPROVE COMMUNICATION
Unfortunately, this is a repeat from last week. The Packers’ secondary didn’t look quite as confused against the Lions as it looked in the opener vs. the Saints, but then again, Anthony Lynn is nowhere near as creative as Sean Payton. San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan, however, is every bit as creative as Payton. That means the back-end of the defense needs to stop making mental mistakes. Kittle and wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel will pose enough matchup problems even if communication between the linebackers, corners, and safeties is perfect.
PREDICTION: A win doesn’t seem likely, but the beauty of the National Football League is that you never know what’s going to happen. Heck, on Nov. 20, 1988, the Packers with Don Majkowski at quarterback went to San Francisco and beat Joe Montana and the 49ers 21-17. That particular Bill Walsh team went on to win the Super Bowl by 45 points. This Green Bay team is significantly better than the one led by coach Lindy Infante over three decades ago, so it would be silly to write this game off as a loss. An offense with Rodgers, Jones, Adams, and Tonyan is certainly capable of scoring enough points to beat any opponent in any venue.
The line from Vegas – 49ers by a field goal – seems too good to be true, and that automatically makes me want to take the Packers and the points… but I won’t. SAN FRANCISCO 34-24 (Season record: 1-1 straight-up; 1-1 vs. the spread)
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