The NFC West went down to the wire. Last week was rivalry week as the St. Louis Rams traveled to Seattle to play the Seahawks and the SanFrancisco 49ers went to Arizona to face the Cardinals. There was a playoff stake at risk for the Cardinals while the Seahawks needed to win in order to clinch the NFC West Division title. The final standings for the NFC West are as follows:
1) Seattle Seahawks 13-3
2) San Francisco 49ers 12-4
3) Arizona Cardinals 11-5
4) St. Louis Rams 7-9
Wildcard Weekend San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers
The only NFC West team in action will be the San Francisco 49ers. They will have to go to the Green Bay Packers in a wildcard match up. The 49ers are riding a six game win streak and they are playing some of their best football all season. Colin Kaepernick has bounced back from a rocky stretch and has regained his dynamic style of football. That is in large part due to the return of Michael Crabtree. Crabtree and Anquan Boldin form a very tough combo of receivers. Both of these players are rugged, strong and aggressive by nature. This is shown in the running and passing game. Kaepernick can get the ball to them on short passes and they will break tackles as they accumulate yards after the catch.
Vernon Davis scored a career high 13 touchdowns this season. He is the big play threat for the 49ers. They like to get the ball to him on play action and they will scheme to set up match ups that work in their favor. He has been a serious vertical threat as shown by his average of 16.3 yards.
The running game consists of a steady dose of traps, whams and inside running plays by the 49ers. They like to get Frank Gore to the second level and rely on his ability to sneak through small holes after he lets the play develop. Their offensive line is big and likes to wear down defenses as the game goes on.
The Packers are a team that will ride the play of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL and he showed how valuable he is to the team last week. Rodgers can get the ball to his play makers, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb. They like to get the ball to Nelson on bubble screens and allow him to really go to work on the boundary. Nelson is able to generate a lot of yards after the catch and has developed into one of the better receivers in the NFL. Jones is their vertical guy. He is the kind of receiver that is able to get positioning on deep passes and especially excels on the back shoulder throws.
Cobb is their biggest threat. He is an explosive player from the slot position. Players like Cobb are extremely hard to cover because of their shiftiness. As a slot receiver, he has the two way go and will at times make opposing defenses look very silly. They put the ball in his hands and rely on him to make plays. The Packers will even line him up in the backfield.
Eddie Lacy adds a whole new dimension to the offense. He gives them a big back that allows them to hammer away at opposing defenses. Lacy gives the Packers offense some balance. He’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry and has rushed for 1,178 yards as a rookie. It is safe to say that drafting Lacy was a success for the Packers.
Frank Gore vs A.J. Hawk Gore will be the key to the 49ers winning this game. He is a catalyst for the offense but that will be even more evident this week with the weather factors. It will be difficult to pass the ball in zero degree weather. Gore is a grinder of a running back that will get opportunities to make players miss at the second level. Hawk is a very important part of the Packers run defense. He is a high energy player that really gets involved in the run defense. He will be a key factor in keeping the runs by Gore from breaking off long runs.
The Verdict: 49ers 24 Packers 14
The weather surprisingly will work in the 49ers favor. They are the more rugged of the two teams. Their team has what I call a “Pack and Play” style to them. Gore is a strong runner that does a great job allowing that massive offensive line to create running lanes for him. Their offense wears down on defenses. The passing game will continue to benefit from the YAC ability of Boldin and Crabtree, especially from the slot.
The defense of the 49ers have some major play makers including my Defensive Player of the Year in Navorro Bowman. Patrick Willis will also be a presence. Both of these players will have double digit tackles. Ahmad Brooks will aggressively set the edge to contain the stretch run plays that the Packers like to run. Another factor is Aldon Smith. He was able to garner one sack against the Packers in the season opener. Over the last month or so, Aldon has elevated his play. Justin Smith is another player to watch out for.
The Packers defense is weakened by the loss of Clay Matthews. Tramon Williams and Morgan Burnett will be healthy for this game. That may bode well for the passing defense that allowed Kaepernick to pass for over 400 yards without them. B.J. Raji can hold his own on the defensive line but he can’t do it alone.
The 49ers will rely upon the running game to win this game. Frank Gore is set to have over 120 yards rushing and the 49ers will play smash mouth football as they advance to the next round of the playoffs.
By Turron Davenport
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