Breakdown: Week 4 – Packers at 49ers

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The Packers are off to a 3-0 start, the defense is playing better than they have in years, and Aaron Rodgers is, once again, playing like an MVP. Up next is another grudge match as the Packers travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers.

The Packers are 0-3 against San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick starting at quarterback. His ability to gain yardage with his legs along with an elite defensive unit has been a puzzle that the Packers have just not been able to solve. Green Bay has already gotten the Seahawks monkey off its back. Now, they look to put the struggles against Kaepernick and the 9ers behind them as well.

Green Bay Offense vs. San Francisco Defense

This used to be a case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. But this 49ers defense is just a shadow of what it was even a year ago. This offseason they lost linebackers Chris Borland and Patrick Willis and defensive end Justin Smith to retirement.  They also lost linebackers Aldon Smith and Dan Skuta, and cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox. Their pass rush is nowhere near what it used to be, and their ability to stop the run has diminished as well.

Meanwhile, the Packers offense is firing on all cylinders. They have a top ten running game, even though Eddie Lacy has been limited due to an ankle injury. Despite playing against two very good defenses, Seattle and Kansas City, they’ve been able to manage 4.2 yards per carry and 127 yards per game.

Through the air, they’ve also been elite. While not among the league leaders in passing yardage, Rodgers has thrown 10 touchdowns already, more than anyone, and on pace for 53 this season.

Green Bay Defense vs. San Francisco Offense

This is the part of the game that makes me sweat. Kind of. Dom Capers has a less than impressive history against the read option, which Colin Kaepernick runs very well. The Seahawks ran the read option for much of the second half against the Packers two weeks ago and did so successfully. To be fair, it wasn’t part of the Seahawks original game plan and they only used it as a last resort because nothing else was working.

Fans shouldn’t lose too much sleep over the read option because it’s really the only thing Kaepernick can do. He doesn’t have elite targets to throw to, not that he can make all the throws anyway.

What the 9ers do have is a running game. Between Kaepernick’s scrambling ability and Carlos Hyde, who has proven to be a reliable option at running back, their rushing attack has the potential to cause Dom Capers fits. This run defense has improved significantly this season though. After a rough start against Matt Forte in Chicago, this unit has limited Marshawn Lynch and Jamal Charles to 90 rushing yards on 3.4 yards per carry. No defense would be upset with those numbers.

The Packers hold an advantage against this offense, especially if they can slow down the read option and keep Kaepernick in the pocket.

Special Teams

These are two solid special teams units. Most eyes will be on Australian rugby star turned NFL return man Jerry Hayne. While he’s yet to make a major impact, he definitely has the potential to break one for a big gain at any moment. The Packers coverage unit has been fantastic, so this matchup really doesn’t worry me. The Packers have their own return threat in Ty Montgomery, who also has the potential to take a kick to the house at any moment.

Prediction

It’s hard to see where the 49ers have an advantage here. The Packers are better in all three phases, and unless they have a major letdown game, it’s impossible to pick against them here.

Packers 38 – 49ers 20

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By Brian Fonfara

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