The table has turned in the Packers-49ers rivalry. Two years ago, the 49ers ran roughshod over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game en route to a trip to Super Bowl LIV. It was the 49ers’ second blowout win over the Packers in less than two months, as San Francisco was the clear class of the conference.
Since 2019, the Packers have won two straight games in the series that include Green Bay’s dramatic 30-28 win in San Francisco back in Week 3. The win was one of 13 regular-season wins for the Packers, who locked up the NFC’s only playoff bye after winning the No. 1 seed. The 49ers earned a rematch with the Packers this weekend after upsetting the Cowboys in the wild card round as the NFC’s sixth-seeded team.
We’ll preview the game along with giving our prediction for Saturday’s outcome. Here’s how you can follow the action in real time.
How to watch
When the 49ers have the ball
While not quite as strong as they were in 2019, the 49ers still possess one of the league’s top rushing attacks, led by Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel. In last Sunday’s 23-17 win, the duo combined to rush for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries. The 49ers’ rushing attack will be even more vital on Saturday with Jimmy Garoppolo dealing with shoulder and thumb injuries. Given Garoppolo’s status, the 49ers may run some packages featuring rookie quarterback Trey Lance, who had two regular-season starts. Regardless of who is under center, the 49ers’ passing attack will continue to rely on Samuel and George Kittle, who set a career high this season in touchdown receptions. The Packers can’t sleep on second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who led the 49ers in receiving yards in last week’s win in Dallas.
Green Bay’s defense will be without cornerback Jaire Alexander (shoulder) and defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (illness). They may also be without outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, whose elbow injury has him labeled as questionable. Despite those losses, the Packers still have several formidable players on defense in linebackers Rashan Gary (9.5 sacks) and Preston Smith (9 sacks), Pro Bowl defensive end Kenny Clark (4 sacks and 14 quarterback hits) and cornerback Rasul Douglas (five interceptions). The Packers’ defense will have to be better in third down and in the red zone, as it finished the season 23rd and 30th in the league in those categories, respectively.
When the Packers have the ball
The running game was one of the biggest differences between the two teams in 2019. The Packers have since diversified their running game with the inclusion of second-year running back AJ Dillon. The thunder to Aaron Jones‘ lighting, Dillion led the Packer with 803 rushing yards during the regular season. His emergence helped reduce Jones’ workload during the season, while keeping him fresh for the playoffs.
Of course, the onus of the Packers’ offense continues to be quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who put together another MVP-caliber season in 2021. Rodgers continues to enjoy a peerless partnership with Davante Adams, who earned All-Pro honors after catching 123 passes for 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Packers’ passing game will have slot receiver Randall Cobb back for Saturday’s game after he was activated off of injured reserve on Thursday. While Cobb’s presence will be felt, look for Rodgers to continue to keep Allen Lazard — who was second on the Packers in receiving yards and touchdown receptions this season — involved in the offense.
Like the Packers, the 49ers have several defensive players whose statuses are questionable for Saturday. Among the 49ers’ injured defensive players include linebackers Azeez Al-Shaair (knee) and Dre Greenlaw (groin), safeties Marcell Harris (Achilles) and Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. (calf). Pass-rusher Nick Bosa will play after leaving last Sunday’s game with a concussion.
Injuries aside, the 49ers have considerable talent on defense, led by Bosa, defensive end Arik Armstead (6 sacks), and defensive backs K’Waun Williams and Jimmy Ward, among others. Last Sunday, the unit sacked quarterback Dak Prescott five times while holding the Cowboys to just 5 of 14 third-down efficiency.
Latest Odds: Green Bay Packers -5.5
As they proved last Sunday, the 49ers are capable of winning on the road in the postseason. And if not for Garoppolo’s injury situation, I’d probably pick San Francisco in an upset. But given Garoppolo’s status, I’m taking the Packers in a close game. Look for the Packers’ running game, led by Dillion and Jones, to play a big factor in the outcome of the game.
Score: Packers 24, 49ers 17