Short week, west coast trip, 80+ degree weather, a quarterback the Packers have struggled against, a team desperate for a win, and a new head coach that’s sure to provide some un-scouted looks on both offense and defense… add those ingredients up and you have yourself the makings of a potential trap game in San Francisco this weekend.
On paper, on any given week, this is a game that the Packers should win nine out of ten times. In fact, the Packers are nine point favorites. Even as heavy favorites, is the Packers aren’t careful, this is the type of game that could slip away. To avoid that happening, here are some matchups that Green Bay will need to win:
Colin Kaepernick vs. Packers’ Contain
It’s not a secret that the Packers have had their struggles against Colin Kaepernick’s athleticism over the last few games they’ve played. In his career against Green Bay, Kaepernick has run 31 times for 318 yards and 2 touchdowns; averaging over a ridiculous 10 yards per carry.
The Packers have struggled with all aspects of trying to contain the athletic and elusive 49ers’ quarterback. Recently, the Niners have made an effort to turn Kaepernick into more of a pocket passer, with less than stellar results. Kaepernick has struggled mightily the past couple of weeks which could result in the 49ers puting Kaepernick in a position to get out of the pocket and make plays with his legs.
While it’s hard to imagine anyone in San Francisco clamoring for Blaine Gabbert, Kaepernick has to realize that if he doesn’t improve soon, the 49ers will be in the market for a new QB sooner rather than later.
The Packers will have their hands full, but it won’t hurt that they just played Russell Wilson and the Seahawks 14 days ago. While Wilson and Kaepernick aren’t the exact same type of athletes, the preparation that the Packers put in to containing Wilson to the pocket will carry over well into their preparation this week.
Look for the Packers to spy Matthews or Palmer from the inside and create a perimeter around Kaepernick with their outside linebackers. If just one player isn’t assigment-sure, Kaepernick can gouge a team on any given play. It will take a consistent approach on Sunday to slow Kaepernick.
Eddie Lacy vs. NaVorro Bowman
This is a matchup that will be just plain fun to watch. While it’s disappointing that neither Lacy nor Bowman are fully healthy, these two football Goliaths will still put everything they have into running each other over. Simply put… I can’t wait to watch it happen.
This is a classic matchup of unstoppable force vs. unmovable object. Put in a prayer for both players’ health because I have a feeling neither man will know when to quit. Enjoy this one, folks!
The Centers vs. The Nose Tackles
On one side or the field the Packers will have a very favorable matchup with the rejuvenated and revitalized B.J. Raji vs. Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst rated center, Marcus Martin. If the 49ers are going to want to beat the Packers, it’s going to start with a balanced attack on offense.
In order to make that happen Marcus Martin is going to have to control Raji, Pennell, Guion, Daniels or anyone else who lines up over him. It will be absolutely critical for Martin not to have another bad game and open holes up for Hyde inside which will in turn open up the offense for Kaepernick and the 49ers. If Raji continues where he’s left off the past three games, the middle will be clogged and the 49ers could become much more one-dimensional.
On the other side of the ball we’ll see more of a hardcore power vs. power matchup with Corey Linsley and Ian Williams. Where you want to watch this matchup is in the run game. Williams is an underrated run stopper and as we know Linsley can really generate power in the run game. Whether it’s because the Packers want to remain balanced throughout the game, or if it’s because the Packers are up late trying to execute their four minute offense, they will need Linsley to show up against a very stout interior defender in Williams.
Packers’ Safeties vs. Carlos Hyde
With Morgan Burnett’s health in question, it looks like Micah Hyde will get the start again, paired with HaHa Clinton-Dix at safety. The Packers front seven could be quite occupied with containing Kaepernick to the pocket which will force the safeties to be very involved in the run game.
Carlos Hyde is a very talented and physical runner not all that different from Eddie Lacy. If he hits a hole he can use power or a little bit of elusiveness to avoid oncoming defenders. Because of this, it will be important for Clinton-Dix and Micah Hyde to fill their run gaps effectively. We’ve seen HaHa struggle with making tackles in the open field over the course of his career, and this Sunday it will be vital that he makes sure tackles against a very tough runner in Carlos Hyde.
49ers’ OLB’s vs. Packers’ Tackles
Until Bulaga gets back the Packers tackles versus the opposing teams’ edge rushers is going to be a matchup to watch every week. I know PFF has had a bit of controversy this past week with their grading of Aaron Rodgers, but they have Bakhtiari and Barclay ranked 69th and 73rd respectively, out of 74 eligible offensive tackles. Regardless of what you think of PFF, if you’ve watched any of the Packers’ games this season, you’ve probably come to pretty much the same conclusion.
While the 49ers don’t have the same pass rush prowess they once did, Aaron Lynch and Ahmad Brooks still have the ability to beat the Packers’ tackles one on one and cause problems for the Packers in both the pass and run game. Simply put Bakhtiari and Barclay need to play better and it needs to start this Sunday in the Golden State.
Thank you for reading. Andy Herman is a staff writer for Titletown Sound Off. You can follow him on Twitter @SconnieSports. For even more Packers content, follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.