San Francisco 49ers already beat the Green Bay Packers this season 37-8. Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson / AFP
We’ve seen this one before…where the invincible Green Bay Packers (13-3) travel to California to challenge the untouchable San Francisco 49ers (13-3) for the AFC Conference Championship. The showdown at Levi’s Stadium this Sunday, and for the very first time in Levi’s since the stadium was inaugurated in August 2014. But the 49ers will host their tenth Conference Championship game, and with this being their sixteenth Conference Final, they are tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers with the most Conference Finals in the League’s history.
The Packers and 49ers have met seven times at the playoffs since 1995 with a 4-3 record for Green Bay. Both teams share 7 SuperBowl wins between them (Green Bay 2 and San Francisco 7), so there’s a lot of history here, and we should expect one hell of a showdown between these two sides. San Francisco won the two bog ones in which Aaron Rodgers was the quarterback for Green Bay in 2012 and 2013. When the 49ers won the SuperBowl, it was Colin Kaepernick as quarterback and it was a long time ago, but today San Francisco is the best team in the NFC, and they beat the Packers 37-8 in week 12 of the regular season. So, everything seems to be in favor of San Francisco. Still, don’t forget that Aaron Rodgers has two SuperBowl rings.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco allowed only 147 total yards and an unbelievable 17% of third-down conversion against the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round with an show by Defensive End Nick Bosa, who made six tackles and two sacks. The 49ers controlled the game from the beginning focusing on the running game. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw for only 131 yards in 19 attempts with one touchdown and one interception, a very different performance from Garoppolo.
That was Coach Kyle Shanahan’s game plan, but San Francisco has more tools pull out of the bag at any moment to surprise the Green Bay’s defense with Tight End George Kittle, Wide Receivers Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders, and Running Backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman who ran for 105 yards against the Vikings.
Tevin Coleman led the 49ers’ running attack. Photo credit: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images
The 49ers will try to establish the running game again as the Packer’s defense is better prepared to press the quarterback than to stop the running game. Green Bay allowed 120 rushing yards per game in the regular season, and San Francisco rushed 144.1 yards per game. Coach Shanahan uses many pre-snap movements that leave the defense out of position. For that reason, San Francisco’s running attack is so effective, and because of that, Green Bay’s defensive line will be forced to play a very tight and disciplined game if they want to deny the 49ers momentum.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers played this season under the radar, saying: “no one believes in us”, and are trying to show they have less to lose than the 49ers. Green Bay needed to put a lot of effort to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round 28-23 after starting the game with a 20-3 advantage in the first half. The Packers didn’t score in the fourth quarter, something they can’t afford against the 49ers.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers convert two key plays in third-down against Seattle Seahawks. Photo credit: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
Wide Receiver Geronimo Allison didn’t practice on Wednesday, apparently down by the same virus that ruled Tackle Bryan Bulaga out of the Divisional Round against the Seahawks. Packers’ offensive line had suffered a lot of health issues and injuries forcing Coach Matt LaFleur to make several changes. San Francisco achieved three sacks per game in the regular season and six against Minnesota and pressed Quarterback Kirk Cousins in 46% of the plays. Green Bay needs to protect Aaron Rodgers, so he has enough time to throw the ball in the key moments as he did against Seattle.
Will Aaron Rodgers win a Superbowl again?
The outcome of the AFC Conference Championship could lie on the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. If they can stop the 49ers’ running attack, Jimmy Garoppolo will be forced to throw more than he’s comfortable with. Green Bay has the tools to limit San Francisco’s air attack considering the secondary’s job in the first half against Seattle in the Divisional Round. The Packers also need to stop the 49ers when they pull-out their creative offensive plays to have a better chance to be clinch their ticket for SuperBowl ILV.
Final Score: 49ers to win 31-23 outright
Spread: Packers +7.5 (55%) / 49ers -7.5 (45%)
O/U: 45 Over (63%) / Under (38%)