A Pick From My Brrrain, Not My Heart (Maybe).Posted:Jan 3rd, 2014 4:42 pm
They've got eight Pro Bowlers. We've got none.
They've beaten us three times in the last 15 months and the games haven't really been close (though week one was an improvement).
When he faces the Packers, young Colin Kapernick plays like a cross between Joe Montana and Steve Young.
It's going to be bitterly cold, yet you could argue that favors them more than us.
There's not much leaning the Packers' way as we get set for the wildcard round playoff matchup between the 49ers and Pack, yet somehow, I think the home team's going to pull off the mild upset.
First, allow me to address the unsold tickets story. Opposing fans will have their fun that the team with a waiting list of 100,000 for season tickets couldn't sell out Lambeau for a playoff game. Whatever. Playoffs looked like a long shot until about 6:30pm last Sunday. Gametime wasn't announced till nine that night. Most people had just spent a lot of dough on the Holidays and couldn't justify it. So 40,000 tickets were made available and it took all week to sell them. Big deal. No other market would have done any better. Not to mention, ever sat outside for three hours when it's 15 below? Then be quiet.
Back to the game. The overwhelming storyline is the weather. I really don't believe it favors either team. If the Saints, Eagles or Panthers were coming in here, I'd give the Pack the edge. But against a team like the 49ers or Seahawks, I don't think it matters. Those are tough, physical defensive football teams that have the ability to use it to their advantage. The one guy I'll be watching is Colin Kaepernick. True, he was born in Milwaukee. But his family moved to California when he was four. They say one of his best college games was in Boise with the temperature in the 20s. -10 feels a lot different than 20. We'll see how he handles it. Expect the Niners to bring back the read option. Can the Pack contain it?
Let's go back to the first matchup this season. Although the Pack came up short, 34-28 they quieted the 'Packers are soft' chatter. They matched the Niners up front on both sides of the ball. SF couldn't run the ball and couldn't get Rodgers on the ground. The Pack fell short because they couldn't cover Anquan Boldin and couldn't get enough of a rush on Kaepernick.
Let's fast forward to now. With Clay Matthews out, the Packers probably won't be a whole lot better at pursuing Kaep, unless a guy like Mulumba, Perry or Neal has a breakout game. The D needs to do a similar job against the run, without Johnny Jolly to provide the nastiness. Frank Gore will be counted on heavily to move the chains and keep Rodgers off the field. San Fran is 8-0 when they have ball longer than their opponents. Sine the Pack has given up more than 1,000 yards to this team in the last two meetings, it's safe to say the defense needs to stand up on this day.
If the 49ers have similar success in these conditions on this stage at this stadium, Dom Capers will have a lot of questions peppered his way in the coming days to explain why he should continue as the coordinator. This is the ultimate test of progress for his unit. I know he'd love to have Matthews, Hayward and Jolly, but he doesn't. His unit needs to stick to Boldin, keep up with Davis and get off the field on third down. A couple more turnovers wouldn't hurt either. And I fully expect Harbaugh to unleash the pistol/read option stuff. It's perfect for the playoffs when the fear of injury is gone. It's win or go home.
Offensively, the Packers should have their way. The bitter cold will likely do a better job than the 49ers. Yes, they have the best set of linebackers in the league, along with a pair of great D ends and safeties. But their thin at corner and their best guy, Carlos Rogers, is unlikely to play with a hamstring. Last week, the Niners allowed a gimpy Carson Palmer to throw for 399 yards. The week before, at home on a Monday night, Matt Ryan passed for 341. Rodgers is ready, healthy and itching to prove he can beat this team. With Cobb back and Lacy appearing healthier, this is the most potent this offense has been all season.
It feels like a game that will be decided very late, just like last week. Rodgers calls last week's win in Chicago his greatest regular season game. A win on Sunday would add to his post season legacy and mark the Packers as a dangerous opponent making its fifth straight appearance in the divisional round.
A late Kaepernick mistake seals it.
Pack 31 49ers 28
Much more on this game on "Packer Preview," Sunday morning, 8am-9am on KFAN 100.3 FM in the Twin Cities and at kfan.com.