Prediction: Talent and extreme cold weather favor 49ers, not Packers
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com Senior Editor
~It continues to amaze me when I hear national, and local, pundits say that the cold weather for the Niners-Packers game Sunday is an advantage to the Packers. Because a player lives there, they have an advantage in the game between the lines?
Does not compute.
What horrible cold weather does do is it makes the hands and fingers cold. It affects touch, precision. It won’t help a precision passing team. Go back to the 2007 NFC Championship game and you’ll remember what it did to Favre. Sure, Favre was older and hated the cold. Aaron Rodgers is younger, but he can’t like that cold weather.
Colin Kaepernick was born in Wisconsin. Rodgers was raised in California.
Rodgers has played more games in the cold weather, but the weather is going to affect both of those guys the same.
Eddie Lacy was raised in Alabama. He also has asthma. Regardless, he’s never felt anything like what he’s going to feel, and breathe, on Sunday evening.
The advantage or disadvantage won’t be known for sure until the game is over, but it typically favors the more physical team. Both mentally and physically.
The 49ers team is, perhaps, the most physical team in the NFL. And, as usual for some reason, they are as healthy as any team in the NFL, with the possible exception of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The 49ers have a solid offensive line, with three first round picks on it. The Packers also have a pair of talented first round offensive linemen. Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod were supposed to be Rodgers bookend franchise offensive tackles when Ted Thompson used his first round picks on them in the 2010 and 2011 drafts.
Where are they now?
On the flip side, the Niners do have a strong offensive line, partly because Joe Staley at left tackle, and Anthony Davis, at right tackle, continue to avoid the serious injuries that have plagued the Packers. They also have another Pro Bowl caliber first round guy at guard in Mike Iupati, starting Sunday. He did miss a few games this year, but he’s back and firing away for the playoff run.
That is a physical line. And behind them, a great running game featuring Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. Neither guy missed a single game this season, miraculously apparently.
They are a physical offense, as Packer fans can remember.
The defense has the best front-seven in the NFL, featuring All-Pro’s Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, and Ahmad Brooks. That’s a star-studded, and physical, defense. It’s essentially a dream team, that front seven. The Packers only have one player of that caliber on defense, Clay Matthews.
Oh yeah, of all those players mentioned, Matthews is the one that is out injured. Each and every one of those Niners front-seven studs happens to be healthy, again miraculously.
What we’re going to see Sunday evening are a lot of runs by the Niners where there are gaping holes, such as what we saw from DeMarco Murray in Dallas, and Le’Veon Bell from the Steelers.
Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan are the only ones who stopped Murray that day in Dallas. Had they not, the Bears would be playing this week, not the Packers. Garrett and Callahan won’t be on the Niners sideline Sunday night.
And then when the Packers over-pursue on Gore and Hunter, Kaepernick will keep it and run right past a blind Mike Neal or Nick Perry, just like we saw in last year’s playoff loss. Last year, San Francisco eliminated Green Bay 45-31, with Kaepernick running for a pair of touchdowns and throwing for two more. He set an all-time quarterback playoff record in the process with 181 yards rushing.
And when the Packers commit to both QB and RB running it, there’s Anquan Boldin, who torched the Packers for over 200 yards in this year’s opener, even with Matthews pressuring Kaepernick.
Vernon Davis also had 100+ yards and a pair of touchdowns that game. Do you think AJ Hawk or Brad Jones can watch the runs and still get to and run with Davis? Neither do I.
Michael Crabtree wasn’t there in week one, but he will be this Sunday. He’s Kaepernick’s top receiver.
The only edge the Packers have in terms of personnel is at QB, with the MVP Rodgers. However, the two games Kaepernick has played against Dom Capers’ Packer defense, he has looked like the greatest QB in the history of this sport. He’s been just good against everyone else. Meanwhile, as great as Rodgers is, and he and Peyton Manning are the best, Rodgers is playing against a great defense who will pressure him from all directions, from both Smith’s on one side to Ahmad Brooks on the other side, to up the middle from Bowman, Willis, and anyone else they send.
Rodgers is great, but nobody can compensate for so many mismatches elsewhere, on both sides of the ball.
I’ve run this game 100 times in my simulator, and the Niners win 92 times. The only chance the Packers have, aside from the impossible-to-comprehend chance the Niners suffer some big injuries, is if the Packers defense comes up with two or more turnovers and the Packers offense plays mistake-free. That’s asking for too much.