Going into Monday November 4th’s divisional game with the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers were sitting on a 5-2 record looking like a team that was going to make a serious run at home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Aaron Rodgers brought the Packers down the field on the opening drive and then settled for a field goal after being sacked by Shea McClellin. After that sack Rodgers went to the locker room and never came back in the game. The Packers fought the whole game, but ended up losing 27-20 when the defense couldn’t make a stop to give Seneca Wallace a chance to tie the game. The result of the game was bad, but the news on Rodgers was worse. Rodgers had a fractured collarbone and was expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Rodgers ended up missing 7 games and the Packers went 2-4-1 over those 7 games. Rodgers came back against the Bears in week 17 and lead the Packers on a 4th quarter touchdown drive that put the Packers into the playoffs thanks to a TON of help from the Bears and Detroit Lions.
* Lions finished the season by going 1-6 (including losses to TB Buccaneers, NY Giants and the Minnesota Vikings)
* Bears finished the season 3-5 after the win against the Packers on November 4th
That is how we got to the Green Bay Packers winning the NFC North and hosting the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The 49ers have beat the Packers pretty handily over the last 3 games; week 1 in 2012, NFC Wild Card playoffs 2012 and week 1 this year. The 49ers believe they own the Packers and it is easy to understand why. If you add in the fact that the Packers will be without the “playmaker” Clay Matthews and an important run stopper Johnny Jolly the 49ers should be favored and they are, by 2.5 points (the last I saw). What is it going to take for the the Packers to beat the 49ers on Sunday in sub-zero temperatures?
Keys to Winning
1. The Packers need to embrace the cold on Sunday. As of right now the forecast is called for a high of -6 and low of -20. The players need to show that they are the ones that play in Green Bay and not let the 49ers get comfortable. The best case scenario would be to win the coin toss, take the ball and put together a long opening drive and keep the 49ers offense on the sidelines trying to stay warm.
2. Stop Colin Kaepernick from running. Yes, Kapernick threw for over 400 yards in the week 1 match-up, but the weather is going to make it hard to pass and that will help the Packers defense. Without Jolly and Matthews the task of stopping Kaepernick is going to tough. AJ Hawk is going to have to step up even more than he has and have a career game. The defense is going to need to keep outside containment and stay in their lanes. This is going to be a tough task.
3. The Packers need to stick with the run and wear down the 49ers defense. Once the 49ers put an extra man in the box the Packers can pull out the play action and have the 49ers guessing in the second half. Eddie Lacy and James Starks are a great 1-2 punch and they need to show it on Sunday. If the Packers can win the turnover battle, then they can win the game.
Player of the Game
For the Packers to win this game the defense is going to have to play a perfect game. AJ Hawk will need to be the leader he has been all season and more. I am not expecting the one handed interception like he had against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I expect a forced fumble, double digit tackles and a sack.
The winner of the game between the 49ers and Packers will go to the Super Bowl. I see a low scoring game with the Packers pulling out the victory 24-20.