Monty: Oh boy. The Green Bay Packers will face the San Francisco 49ers again. This is the fourth time in two seasons and the 49ers are 3-0 during that stretch.
First, let’s deal with the weather. Freezing ass cold. Do I really think this gives the Packers an advantage? No, I don’t. Both teams are dealing with the same conditions.
I do think the weather is going to affect the game, though. The football is going to be harder to hold onto. Hits are going to sting a little more. And kicking will probably be next to impossible, so let’s hope this doesn’t come down to a Mason Crosby field goal.
So, the Packers are taking the approach that, hey we’ve been in the playoffs for four weeks in a row. Well, if that’s the case then you aren’t playing on Sunday because you lost two weeks ago to Pittsburgh. In other words, that’s nonsense.
On the other side, the 49ers are the hottest team in football, having won six in a row. Do I care about that? Nope. It’s not the hottest team going into the playoffs that makes the run every year, it’s the team that gets hot when the playoffs start.
So the 49ers can shove their six wins in a row up their ass.
In the teams’ week one matchup, the 49ers torched the Packers through the air. Colin Kaepernick had over 400 yards passing and Anquan Boldin absolutely ate up the Packers secondary.
The major issue here was tackling. Boldin picked up huge chunks after the catch.
Case in point, Kaepernick was merely average the rest of the season. He had only one other game where he threw for more than 300 yards.
I don’t expect a repeat performance from either of these guys, especially with the way Tramon Williams and Sam Shields have been playing lately. The potential wild card is if the 49ers line Boldin up in the slot, where he’s going to be matched up on Micah Hyde.
I’m not overly worried about Hyde handling himself either, though.
To me, this game comes down to one thing. Who can establish the running game.
The 49ers didn’t see much of Eddie Lacy in week one. He had only 14 carries for 41 yards. If Mike McCarthy is smart, they’ll see plenty of Lacy on Sunday. The recipe for beating the 49ers is to smash them in the mouth. That’s how both Seattle and Indianapolis did it.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Mike McCarthy is smart. I think he’ll end up relying too heavily on Aaron Rodgers.
Meanwhile, we know the Packers can’t stop any running backs, so expect Frank Gore to have a big game. Once again, the defense will be the Packers undoing.
49ers 28, Packers 14
Shawn: Here it is, what we’ve all been hoping for — another shot at the big, bad San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers have gotten Michael Crabtree and Aldon Smith back, they’ve won six games in a row, and one could make a pretty solid argument that they are playing like the best team in football right now.
That’s all well and good, but if you’re a 49ers fan, then you are VERY concerned going into this game. You are concerned that your inexorable march to the Super Bowl is about to get derailed, not by a better team, but by the COLD, to which you have no idea how your team is going to react.
So, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yeah, it is going to be COLD. Historically cold. Actually, the forecast is looking pretty similar to the NFC championship game against the Giants in 2008, which was played in -1/-23 degree temperatures.
Yeah, the Giants outplayed the Packers that day, but that was a team from New York, not San Francisco, and the temperature that day was an anomaly. That isn’t the case this time around. It has been bitterly cold in Green Bay for the last two weeks. In those last two weeks, the Packers have been practicing outside, in the cold.
So, are the Packers guaranteed to play better in it? No, but there is no doubt they should be better prepared for it. They will know what to wear and how to handle it before game day, meaning they can spend less time thinking about it.
Colin Kaepernick, who otherwise should love the idea of playing the Packers again, has never played a game like this before. No one knows how well he’ll handle it.
Of course, Jim Harbaugh will likely look to mitigate that fact by sticking with the run and playing defense. The bigger, more physical team has the advantage in the deep cold, and recent history suggests that is San Francisco. We will see. In the first two months of the season, the Packers ranked in the top five in the league in rushing and against the run, and I suggested that they finally were the kind of team built for Lambeau Field in January. Obviously, the run defense has dropped like a rock kite since.
It may be unrealistic to think that the Packers’ run defense would rediscover itself at this point, but the cold will slow the game down some and speed, not power, is the key to the run-option offense. With the run-option reduced as a threat, that mitigates the Packers’ dire situation at OLB, and it makes the game a more straight up Frank Gore and their offensive line against our defensive front seven match up.
Yes, they still have the advantage in that scenario, but the Packers have Eddie Lacy and James Starks, who ran in cold temperatures the last two home games. If Aaron Rodgers can make more plays on third down than Kaepernick, then the Packers have a real shot to trade blows.
In a weather-controlled environment, I probably like the 49ers by at least 10. Maybe the cold will just make it 20-10 instead of 34-24. Quite possibly, but this is more a feeling than anything substantiated by logic. This kind of cold changes things.
Early in the day before the 2007 NFC championship game, I went out and shoveled my driveway. I came back in and said, “Whoever wins today has nothing to do with who is the more talented team. It will be decided by whoever handles the cold better.” Just THAT fact has to scare the crap out of 49ers fans.
The older you get, the more you feel the cold. Frank Gore is getting old. He is good for 120 and a TD. Eddie Lacy is young, full of chum, and protected by dreadlocks. He is good for 180 and 2 TDs. Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Effin Rodgers. The Packers win in the cold this time
So let it be written. So let it be done.
Packers 24, 49ers 17