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Packers Week 12 Preview – 49ers: an Unknown Quantity Even After Ten Games

While a 9-1 record is nothing to sneeze at, there is still a debate over just how good Green Bay’s next opponent is. The primary reason is the favorable schedule the Niners have enjoyed up to now. All nine of the 49ers’ wins have come against teams with no better than a .500 record. In contrast, the Packers are the only NFL team with four wins over teams with winning records: Vikings, Cowboys, Raiders, and Chiefs.

The rest of the way, San Francisco will face tougher opposition — including the Packers, Ravens, Saints, Rams, and Seahawks. The Ravens, Saints, and Seahawks are away games for the Niners.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Oct 31, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10)throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One can also debate the skill of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s being paid a king’s ransom: $137.5 million over five years. Yet the 28-year-old has a very thin record of NFL experience: only ten starts prior to 2019, though his record in those games (two as Tom Brady’s replacement) is eight and two. As for the nine wins this season, San Francisco is well known to be a run-heavy team, so how much credit Jimmy G should get for this season’s early success is open to discussion.

Statistics to date suggest he’s a mid-level talent at this stage of his development. He ranks 17th in passing yardage (Rodgers is 11th). His passer rating of 97.7 is 13th best (Rodgers’ is tenth) – in his sole loss of the season, to Seattle at home on November 11 by a 27 to 24 score, Garoppolo’s passer rating was a dismal 66.2.

His completion percentage of 68.8 is sixth best (Rodgers’ is 64.8). He and Rodgers are neck and neck in average yards per attempt, tied for ninth. His 18 touchdowns versus ten interceptions is below average – the Packers will surely be drooling to add to his interception total.

Garoppolo has been sacked 19 times, three less than A-Rod. He is not a run threat, as he’s only rushed for 34 yards on the year. Though Aaron has only run for 109 yards so far, it remains a powerful weapon that he likes to can call upon when it’s most needed.

San Francisco 49ers RB Matt Breida

Oct 13, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida (22) carries the ball during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Ground Game

As for that ground attack, the Niners are averaging 149 yards on the ground, good for first in the conference, and second to the Ravens in the NFL. Matt Breida leads the way, with 542 yards on the ground and a 5.0 average; Tevin Coleman has 409 yards and a 3.9 average; Raheem Mostert has 342 yards and a 5.2 average. None of the three is highly pedigreed, but each has found success in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system.

The three RBs have combined for 41 catches for 353 yards, one yard less than Aaron Jones has totaled on his 35 receptions.

San Francisco has the home-field advantage. Green Bay is coming off a bye week, while the 49ers last Sunday outscored the Cardinals 19-7 in the fourth quarter to eke out a win – a fourth running back, Jeff Wilson, was left unguarded and provided the margin of victory with his 25-yard TD reception with a half minute left in the game.

NFL’s Top Pass Defense

While the 49ers fancy the run, they absolutely rely upon their defensive prowess. They have only yielded 253 yards per game this year, second only to the Patriots. A scary thought: that’s 131.7 fewer yards that the Packers allow on average.

In breaking down their defensive stats, their pass defense is tops in the league while the run defense is only 19th best. Like LaFleur, Coach Kyle Shanahan must believe it’s smarter to concentrate on defending pass plays rather than runs. Maybe the challenge will add some motivation for Aaron Rodgers. A Packers win would put them in prime position to be the NFC’s top seed heading into the playoffs.

All of this leads one to wonder: will LaFleur feature his rushers, Jones and Williams, over quarterback Rodgers and the air game? Shanahan can pick his poison, as the Pack has the 10th worst pass defense and the 8th worst run defense.

As for scoring, SF is cruising along at 29.5 per game, second best in the league; Grean Bay, at 25.0 is in a respectable ninth place. Points allowed by the two teams is more worrisome. The 49ers are allowing 15.5 points per game, again second best in the league; the Packers rank 14th, having given up 20.5 points per game. Once again though, the great disparity in strengths of their previous opposing teams ought to alleviate much of the concern.

Injury-wise, the Packers have virtually a clean slate. The 49ers are less fortunate. Super tight end George Kittle is recovering from a knee injury and is questionable to play. RB Matt Breida’s sore ankle renders him also uncertain to play, which could factor into the outcome greatly. Tackle Joe Staley (finger) and kicker Robbie Gould (quad) are also dealing with injuries. As I write this another likely absentee is disruptive edge rusher Dee Ford, who had 13 sacks last year when with the Kansas City Chiefs. His hamstring injury might cause him to miss multiple games.

Kyle Shanahan with Jimmy Garoppolo

Oct 31, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) with head coach Kyle Shanahan against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Shanahan vs. LaFleur

Lending intrigue to the contest, from 2010 through 2013, the Washington Redskins, coached by Mike Shanahan, had his son Kyle as offensive coordinator, and LaFleur served as quarterbacks coach. Additionally, Matt’s younger broker, Mike LaFleur, this season was named the 49ers’ passing game coordinator. The rumor is that Matt wanted his brother to join him in Green Bay, but that Kyle blocked any such move. It seems likely that the two LaFleurs will pair up eventually in Green Bay.

More importantly, both espouse the same general offensive philosophy. Kyle was first to become a head coach, moving on to San Francisco in 2017. Though he’s already considered to be a rising star in his profession, his current record with the 49ers is but 19-23. LaFleur appears on a faster track, with his nine wins, whereas Kyle had only 10 wins after his first two full seasons.

Matt LaFleur just celebrated his 40th birthday on November 14. Kyle Shanahan is exactly one month younger. They are best of friends and, except perhaps over the past week or so, the two correspond with regularity.

And the Winner Will Be . . .

Most of the experts have the 49ers as a slight favorite. SPORTSBOOKWIRE, a USA Today outfit, however, is concerned about San Francisco’s recent struggles, and especially its lackluster home performance against the 3-7-1 Cardinals. In making the below prediction, they like the fact the Packers are so healthy and should be well rested after their bye week:

“Bet the PACKERS (+145) to win this one outright, despite being the underdogs. They have the offensive line to neutralize the 49ers’ pass rush at least slightly and give Rodgers time.”

This shapes up to be a dandy confrontation. What are your thoughts on the outcome?

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Dick Biggles November 21, 2019

    I think the magic is going to run out someday for the 49ers. They can’t go from being a crap team for years to suddenly the best team. I think they will deflate the last several games of the season. Actually, I think the Seahawks are the team to beat right now.

  2. Robster November 21, 2019

    Local Update: SMSA 7, Regis 0! My alma mater, St. Mary’s Springs Academy (Fond du Lac) just won its third consecutive Wisconsin State football championship, this time in Div. 6. That’s three in a row, 15 straight playoff wins, a record 9th WIAA title overall, plus 8 WISAA titles before that. I highlighted Coach Bob Hyland and last year’s win on TP (“The Greatest Football Coach of Them All?”) – he’s the winningest football coach in State history, and I think he’s now #4 all-time nationally – and he’s still getting better. Go Ledgers!

  3. Robster November 21, 2019

    Oops, I must have been looking ahead to Sunday when I credited Coach Matt with nine wins instead of eight.

  4. PF4L November 21, 2019

    “They have the offensive line to neutralize the 49ers’ pass rush at least slightly and give Rodgers time.”
    Lets put that on ice and see what happens.
    Little early for me to get into it, but the Packers may not see a better chance at beating the 49 er’s considering their injury list.
    Who will win….i have no fookin clue.But……if the Packers don’t at least make this a battle to the end, i’ll be highly disappointed, as will many of us i assume.

  5. Aaron's Brother Albert November 21, 2019

    Gotta hope LaFleur pulls out all the stops on this one, but we can’t afford injuries or penalties, as we gotta a ship to sink in Minnesota.We gotta find the tools that work the best, and use them. We need some good play from the tight ends, and I’d like to see some more work from our fullback.
    Forget that passing at the goal line if nobody can catch the ball. This team could very well have been at 10-0 this season, and it’s been a joy to see them win for the effort they have put in. What a great group of guys. Cheese Is Good ! …🐀🧀
    Go Pack Go ! 😁… 💨 … 🏈…🚀🌑…🚀🌕
    Feed them the Green Cheese !

    1. KILLER November 22, 2019


      First of all, 6-4 is much more realistic and where they should be. Two wins garnered via the refs. Refs tried to add the Eagles game also even with the huge Thursday night home game advantage for the Packers and the Packers STILL lost. Without ref wrong calls the Packers would be 6-4.

      You make it sound like the two lost games were oh so close almost games. Eagles won by 7 even with the Refs on the Packers side. If the Packers scored a TD to tie it would not have meant a win. If you change that “within 7” then you need to give the KC game to the Chiefs. And the Lions game to the Lions and the Vikings game to the Vikings.

      Oh, and in what world was the Chargers game a close almost “could very well have been” win? It was not at all close in any way. The Chargers blew out the Packers. They owned the Packers in every way, every facet.

      Also, isn’t green cheese moldy cheese?

      1. PF4L November 23, 2019

        In a rare occurrence of commenting on the vikings. Stay tuned for The Lonely Boy’s next deposit of excrement when he explains why the refs were correct in NOT calling a penalty on Jayron Kearse for grabbing and pulling on Noah Fant’s Jersey for 2.5 seconds, keeping Fant from catching the winning TD pass in the last play of the Denver game.
        Most likely reasoning from the Lonely Boy is that the jersey has to be completely pulled off of Fant’s body for it to be a penalty.
        You’ll have to excuse The Lonely Boy if he doesn’t respond right away. Word is his food card was replenished and he’s currently grocery shopping.

        1. PF4L November 23, 2019

          PLEASE NOTE:…Once again, as a reminder. The Lonely Boy and i are friends. We don’t laugh at each other, we laugh with each other. That’s the way we roll and we both enjoy it.
          Factual Truth’s: The above post may not be factually correct. Meaning…i may be guessing what he is thinking or going to say. but i can do that because i know him so well. Although, i have to say the food card is correct. I’m always laughing with him about that and teasing him that he can’t afford Spaghetti. I wouldn’t do it if he didn’t enjoy it.

  6. Savage57 November 22, 2019

    I wasn’t aware the Niners stacked their record against teams which are average at best, so thanks for that. It puts a lot of the hype regarding their team this season into perspective. That said, they have some players, and the Packers will need to neutralize them.

    This is a game the Packers will be as ready to play mentally and physically as any so far this season. It’s the opener for their second half of the season and one they can use as a statement game, both to themselves and the league that they’re a team to be reckoned with. It’s going to be critical the Packers get out of the blocks and establish the tone and tempo for this game, and use that advantage to open up the entire playbook throughout the game on both sides of the ball.

    If they can manage that, the Packers have the playmakers to make this one a laugher. One of the perhaps forgotten aspects of this game is the fact they’re playing in Aaron Rodgers backyard against his boyhood team which blew him off in the draft. I don’t know if he still carries around the chip on his shoulder he used to, but if ever there was a situation to pull that out of the closet and dust it off, it’s this one.

    1. PF4L November 23, 2019

      Against a team that scores 29 PPG (2nd best), and only yields 15.5 PPG (2nd best). I don’t know if i’d look for a blowout (laugher) on the road, even with their injuries.
      The 49ers defense yields 253 yards per game (run and pass total). The Packers give up 257 YPG, just in the passing game.
      I have to agree that the Packers should be ready to play mentally and physically. After their last west coast trip, they damn well better be.

  7. Kato November 22, 2019

    Yeah I want them to be at least competitive. I almost wonder if they would be better off losing now? Homefield advantage sounds nice, until you realize the Packers aren’t particularly good at playing defense and especially stopping the the run. Which when it is 10 degrees in Green Bay in January, you have to do so. I almost feel if they play the 49ers in the playoffs, they have a better shot of beating them on their field in the weather there than in Green Bay. Just a thought, could be totally wrong

    1. PF4L November 22, 2019

      Better off losing? That does it….Jason, call security.

      1. Kato November 22, 2019

        Lol. I would rather win the playoff game than the regular season game, any sane football fan would. I just don’t think this team is set up to beat San Fran’s style of play in GB in January. Unless Rodgers is playing absolutely out of his mind

        1. PF4L November 22, 2019

          It’s a losing mindset to pick which game you’d rather win. You go 100% plus trying to win both of them, that’s a winning mindset. I feel like with the injuries on the 9ers side, and the relative healthy Packers, They have a good shot to win this game ( i’m not saying they will). But i think this a huge statement game that has multiple implications for the positive if they win..
          As far as a playoff game against the 9ers. They can bring their tanned asses to the frozen tundra in January. I will go out on a limb and guess that every player and coach on the Packers would agree. Home field is invaluable in the playoffs. I think your over thinking it. I’ll pretend this conversation never happened.

          1. Stiggy November 22, 2019

            “Jason call security” haha.

          2. unca_chuck November 26, 2019

            We all remember the last time the 49ers came to the frozen tundra in the playoffs, amirite?

  8. MMSUCKS November 22, 2019

    Trusting that the Packers can win with the injuries that San Francisco currently has. I believe that for the Packers to win that they must contain Kittle IF he is playing. That means Martinez will be in coverage. That could get ugly fast. Kittle either opens up the run game, or the run game opens up Kittle. Either way, Martinez will factor into this. I do NOT like either scenario. Martinez is over-rated and could be the negative factor that the Packers cannot overcome. I am ever hopeful that this will not be the case. I believe that Shanahan WILL exploit Martinez all day if Kittle can play. Otherwise, I believe the Packers have a good chance to win. Garappolo will choke if pressured. Also, if Rodgers keeps the ball away from Sherman the passing game should go well. I feel that Sherman has something to prove to Rodgers and will look for any way to make that happen. Go pack Go!

  9. PF4L November 23, 2019

    Well..(you may want to sit down for this) ..We have some horrible news coming out of Green Bay. Apparently in Thursdays practice. Highly touted offensive lineman Cole Madison went down with a knee injury. No word on details other than it’s labeled significant. I was hoping he could be available in case we needed him for the playoffs, or maybe he could have played a few snaps in a game. Even if he wasn’t going to get any action, he could have been useful. Come December, those benches aren’t going to warm themselves.