Fans of the Green Bay Packers can relax a little after the team rebounded with a 35-17 win over the Lions on Monday night. But now the Packers face a stiffer test from the 2-0 San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night in a true rematch of the 2019 NFC Championship Game.
The 49ers are a 3.5-point home favorite at many of the top sportsbooks. When these teams met last November, Green Bay won 34-17 against a 49ers team ravaged by injury on both sides of the ball. This is much closer to being a real rematch from two years ago when the 49ers twice bullied the Packers in big wins, including a 37-20 victory in the NFC Championship Game. Can they do it again or will the Packers finally toughen up for one of these matchups?
Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, September 26, 2021 – 08:20 PM EDT at Levi’s Stadium
Aaron Rodgers and a Familiar Chip on His Shoulder
Aaron Rodgers is no stranger to holding grudges and having chips on his shoulder. One of the biggest has always been for the 49ers after they drafted Alex Smith over him with the first overall pick in the 2005 draft. Rodgers won his first two starts against the 49ers when they were a bad team, but since 2012, he is only 3-6 against the 49ers and 0-3 in the playoffs.
The statistics have mostly been good, but Rodgers was only able to put up 28 points in two meetings in 2019, both won by the 49ers in Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers sacked him eight times in those games and caused him to lose two fumbles. Last year, the 49ers just did not have the defensive players available to deal with Rodgers during his MVP hot streak. Now Nick Bosa is back and leading the team with 3.0 sacks in the first two games. The 49ers just held a Philadelphia offense that looked really good in Atlanta to 11 points on Sunday. This will be Rodgers’ toughest test in September.
Rodgers had that dreadful performance in Week 1 in Jacksonville against the Saints, the first 35-point loss of his career. He turned the ball over twice in the red zone, which is so uncharacteristic of him. Fortunately, the Lions were waiting for him on Monday night, and he carved that defense up with a few outstanding throws in the third quarter. While he finished with four touchdowns on the night, Aaron Jones basically ran most of them in on throws that even backup Jordan Love could complete blindfolded. But on a drive to start the third quarter, Rodgers showed with a 50-yard bomb on a third-and-12 and a rifle shot to Robert Tonyan for a 22-yard touchdown that he still has some MVP-caliber play left in him.
He’ll need it this week as the 49ers could hang an impressive point total on the Packers if their offense is in rhythm. In his career as an underdog of 3-to-3.5 points, Rodgers is 8-7-2 ATS and 6-11 SU. The Packers have really struggled with elite NFC teams outside their own division in the last decade, but we are still learning if the 49ers are that legitimate this year. Beating Green Bay again would go some ways in proving they are.
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Like Green Bay, the San Francisco offense has a dominant game against Detroit on the resume, and a not-so-impressive game the other week. However, the 49ers were at least competent in getting the win in Philadelphia on Sunday. Jimmy Garoppolo has only been sacked once this season, which equals how many sacks the Green Bay defense has, the worst total in the league through two games. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel is dominating with 282 yards in two games. Tight end George Kittle hasn’t even broken 100 yards yet and the team has basically ignored the rest of the receiving corps, including a surprising limit on snaps for second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
Garoppolo is certainly taking advantage of the easy throws a Kyle Shanahan offense provides him. Once again, the 49es are leading the NFL in YAC per completion at 8.1 yards for Garoppolo. If he can just make a few bigger throws a game, then this passing offense will really take off. At the very least, this should be a favorable matchup as the Packers have struggled to pressure the quarterback and Za’Darius Smith is on injured reserve with a back injury. Garoppolo’s plan may be to throw where corner Kevin King is in coverage, assuming the plan is to throw. Garoppolo infamously attempted just eight passes in his last start against the Packers with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. It worked too.
The Packers are going to have to prove if they can stop the run in this one. Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns in the 2019 NFC Championship Game against Green Bay. Unfortunately, Mostert is out for the season and the running back injuries are once again piling up for the 49ers. They may be close to giving Frank Gore a call – no joke. But if any coach can get a run game going with the most random of backfields, it would be Mike Shanahan’s son.
I am not overly enthused with the way either team has started the season, but I think the 49ers have the better defense and should be able to create plenty of good offensive opportunities in this matchup. I will take the 49ers to cover for my NFL picks, but hopefully, we get another good game in prime time. The last three meetings between these teams were all island games decided by at least 17 points.
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