Things worked quite well for the San Francisco 49ers last season against the Green Bay Packers both in the regular season and the playoffs, but their recent dominance thanks to defense and the read option will be put to the test once again as two of the NFC’s best clash in Candlestick Park for what might be the best game on the NFL’s opening weekend.
The focus, obviously, will be on Aaron Rodgers, and how his troubled offensive line will be able to hold against the excellent 49ers’ pass rush and give him a chance to test the revamped San Francisco secondary, which will be showing some new faces.
On the other side, Colin Kaepernick will be absorbing most of the attention, as he enters this regular season game against the Packers in a very different situation to the one he was in last year when the two teams met in the season opener. He was an unknown 12 months ago, and now considered by many to be the prototypical quarterback of the future.
The Packers couldn’t handle Kaepernick in the playoffs last year, as the 49ers won 45-31. The 49ers used the option 16 times, gaining 176 yards on those plays. The most worrying fact for the Packers? The 150 yards the Niners gained on those plays before contact, showcasing just how much of a problem that read-option offense caused for them. Kaepernick himself rushed for 181 yards on 16 carries, while Rodgers had a good day, nothing more.
And the Packers need more than just a good day from who might be the best quarterback in the NFL. Rodgers hasn’t seen quality protection for the last couple of season and especially since Bryan Bulaga went down with a knee injury. This means rookie David Bakhtiari will take care of Rodgers’ blindside, a quarterback who was sacked 51 times last season.
Another problem for the Niners will be Frank Gore, even though he’ll probably take lessened role this season. He ran for more than 110 yards in both meetings against Green Bay, but the running game might be affected with their problems at wide receiver, and especially Michael Crabtree not playing.
However, the Packers and Rodgers have problems of their own, which is trying to find the right kind of balance in their passing game, while hoping to resurrect their running game through rookie Eddie Lacy, against a team that allowed 94.2 rushing yards per game last season, 4th best in the NFL.
Prediction – Both teams aren’t perfect heading into the opening game and in need of some cohesion, especially on offense. Luckily for the 49ers, they have a better defense and more reliable running game to fall back on, which will be enough to win against the Packers for the third time in 12 months.