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Things were a little bit easier for the NFC teams last week, as this is the matchup that was expected with the #1 seed San Francisco 49ers taking on the #2 seed Green Bay Packers, both teams made good use of their bye week, the 49ers especially who had literally no-one on the injury report coming into the game last week. Much like the AFC, It’s a re-match of a regular season game where the 49ers smashed the Pack 37-8 even with a couple of injuries to key players.
The 49ers dominated the Minnesota Vikings and ran out very easy winners. From the first couple of drive you could see that there was only one winner. The 49ers marched down the field with Jimmy G getting most of his passing yards on that one drive, players were wide open, and they targeted the slot constantly with quick slants to finish with a TD to Kendrick Bourne in the middle of the endzone.
They quickly stopped Cousins and Cook on their opening drive and that was the flow of the game. The Vikings got their only score of the game when they picked on Akello Witherspoon and Stefon Diggs made a good adjustment on a slightly underthrown pass to run into the endzone untouched but that was as good as it got for the Vikings.
The 49ers stymied the Vikings run game which was so dominant the week before against the Saints. Dalvin Cook had the worst figures of his young career and Kirk Cousins was under pressure for pretty much the entire game. The fully fit defensive line for the 49ers all notched up at least one sack, Buckner, Thomas, Ford and Armstead all with one and Bosa with a couple and the Linebackers were all over the place stopping everything that was sent at them.
Things were pretty easy for Green Bay as the Packers did what they do at home, scored first, got out to a decent lead before sitting around doing very little in the 4th quarter to win by one score.
The Aarons had good games for the Packers as they have done at home for a lot of the season, Aaron Rodgers threw for 2 TDs and finished with a 113 passer rating and Aaron Jones ran in two touchdowns on 21 carries for about 3 yards per attempt. There was very little for Jamaal Williams who I thought would have had a decent bit of involvement but with them leading they didn’t feel the need to use him.
There’s only really one man in the passing game though with Davante Adams accounting for 2/3 of the Packers passing yards in this one and both of the TDs through the air. Keeping him quiet will be a key to the matchup this weekend, it’s not an easy thing to do as he’s a mighty fine route runner, but other than him they’ve got bit part players essentially. Jimmy Graham made a key catch to ice the game, but Lazard, Allison, MVS and Kumerow aren’t exactly trusted in the pass game.
The Smith brothers did their job well as they have all year finishing with two sacks a-piece and Blake Martinez made another 7 tackles to add to his 97 during the regular season.
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Green Bay Packers +7.5 @ San Francisco 49ers: Total – 46.5
Weather – 57f, no wind, no rain. – Jolly good show.
2340 UK Time kick off
Defensive DVOA – 10th vs pass, 23rd vs run. Weighted – 16th
Offensive DVOA – 11th in passing, 4th in rushing. Weighted – 9th
It’s been a weird season for neutrals watching the Packers progress, they haven’t really impressed in any single game this season yet finished the year with the best record in the NFC at 13-3 and more importantly for us, covered the spread on 10 of 16 games, and of course the win last week. So they’ve been out-performing the perception of the betting public at least. They’ve now won 9 games by one score or less this season which could show they’ve been lucky or that they manage games well.
They did continue their streak of scoring a TD in the first quarter last week though, it’s something that’s worked well for them for a lot of the season, the scripted plays at the start of the game, get out to a lead and play from in front. The Packers. 1st quarter good. Second half/4th quarter poor. That’s them.
Under Matt LeFluer in his first season with the team they’ve become more of a running team this season with Aaron Rodgers a scooch over 4,000 yards on the season and his second lowest passer rating in a decade. I’ve grown to considerably dislike Mr. Rodgers and the way he acts on the field, it seems like whenever anything goes wrong it’s everyone else fault. While I can’t deny he’s been one of the best QBs in the league for a long time, I happen to think that’s in the past. Sure, he can make all the passes, he works well out of structure and scrambles well. I just don’t think he’s up there up there any more. I don’t know. I’ve always been down on him tbh.
It doesn’t help that he’s got virtually no-one he trusts to throw the ball to. Davante Adams is pretty much the only guy he trusts in the passing game as shown by him having 2/3 of the teams yardage last week. Finishing with 160 yards and 2 TDs on the night. He’s had double digit targets in 9 of his last 10 games and around 7 catches per game. The way the 49ers defend him will have a big impact on the game tonight. Away from him they’re lacking in talent.
Allan Lazard seems like he’s the WR2 now, but he missed bits of last week with a knee and he’s been slowed in practise this week. It sounds like he’ll be playing but not guaranteed at the moment. Other than Davante Adams no-one in the WR corps had more than 1 target last week. Geronimo Allison is the WR3 for them but hasn’t been reliable at all this year. Jake Kumerow is the offseason winner every year but doesn’t ever seem to do much once the season starts. He’s always talked up by Rodgers but hardly gets a look in, if Lazard is limited he’ll step up. Oh, and MVS is one of the more frustrating players in the league. He had 5% of snaps last week, but can make 50 yards on one reception if he ever remembers how to catch the ball.
The second most targeted player last week was Jimmy Graham who caught 3 of his 4 targets, one the game-sealer in the 4th quarter. He went over his yard total as well. He is nowhere near the player he used to be but a big man in the middle is still used by Rodgers quite a lot. He only scored 3 times during the season. His line is set at 24.5 which is temptingly low in a game they may not be able to run the ball as much as they want to. The rookie Jace Sternberger had a lot of snaps last week but most of them were as a full back for Aaron Jones with Dan Vitale ruled out through illness, Jace the Ace did however had about 30% as a tight end. He’s caught 1 pass all year, last week for 2 yards. BUT did score in the preseason and is 40/1 anytime on 365 (hilariously at 6/1 on Spreadex) I’d argue he’s more likely than Marcedes Lewis (22/1) to score.
They use the run game a lot and it’s no real surprise given how Aaron Jones has broken out this year. It’s what a lot of fantasy types wanted the previous year but they didn’t use him. This year they’ve made him the main man and he’s done well with it finishing the regular season with over 1,000 yards, 16 rushing TDs at 4.6 yards per carry. He also mixed in the passing game as well, nearly 500 yards and 3 TDs. One word of warning against him scoring in this one though. He’s only scored in 3 of their 8 road games this year. Admittedly he scored in bulk in those games, 4 against the Cowboys, 2 each against the Chiefs and the Vikings. So when he does, he scores multiple.
If he struggles or if they get behind then it could mean more play for Jamaal Williams who only had two touches last week as the Packers essentially controlled the game. He had quite a few 3rd down snaps and is better than Jones in the passing game. The regular season game vs the 49ers he led the team in rushing. He scored 6 times in the regular season, 5 of them through the passing game.
The Packers defense started the year well and I thought would be one of the better units in the league but it’s been a bit tougher than I expected for a super quick group of players. Up front the Smith brothers (Preston and Zadarius) notched up 25.5 sacks on the season between them and had another 2 each last week. Linebacker Blake Martinez never takes a snap off, he finished with 97 tackles in the regular season. They’ve got a decent CB group with Jaire Alexander the best of them, and the pick up of Adrian Amos helping them. Kevin King is arguably the weakest of the CBs but still didn’t have a bad season.
Defensive DVOA – 2nd vs pass, 11th vs run. Weighted – 5th
Offensive DVOA – 8th in passing, 13th in rushing. Weighted – 8th
I think you’ve got to say the 49ers have the best head coach of the playoff teams, and therefore, probably the best in the league. I watched as they utterly dismantled the Bengals in week 2 with a perfect gameplan which took advantage of every match up. They stuff the Vikings last week and won every one on one matchup while not having to give away anything special on offense.
After having their bye week in week 4, they took full advantage of the bye in the playoffs and are currently 100% fit, everyone on the active roster will be available, and that was important last week as Kwon Alexander and Dee Ford returned. Ford especially helps everyone else’s numbers.
I’d argue that the jury is still out on James Garoppolo. I find it very hard to figure out whether he’s good or not. He just wins games. Last week he marched them down the field on their first drive with a lot of in-cutting slants which took advantage of the Vikings missing their starting slot corner, he totalled 57 yards on that one drive. But he threw a terrible interception straight into the hands of Eric Kendricks and could well have thrown a couple more in the game. The second half with a lead they took the ball out of his hands and he finished with 131 yards from 11 completions. The thing is, when he has been required to do something, he’s done it, so my criticism is probably unwarranted but I’ve just not seen enough for me to think he’s great. I mean he’s got a passer rating of over 100 on 9 of his 16 reg. season games. I dunno. I don’t think he can win a game for his team but I think after 13 interceptions this year he can lose it for them.
The run game is where this team lives and breathes though. They’ve had to use multiple backs this year as they just kept getting injured. It was expected by most that Tevin Coleman would be the main man having a history with Shanahan from the Atlanta days but he was ineffective for a lot of the season and seemed to fall out of favour with Raheem Mostert eventually taking over the #1 role towards the end of the season, so of course after tipping up Mostert to score Tevin Coleman got most 22 carries for 105 yards and 2 TDs last week against the Vikings.
Coleman was always considered the goal-line back and that bore out as he went in from the 1 and the 2 yard line. Mostert ran well when he had the chance with 12 carries for 58, so all is not lost for fans of the Colonel, but last week made me wary of backing anyone in this backfield. The books have last week as the outlier though with Coleman set at 37.5 and Mostert at 50.5 rush yards. Matt Breida is still there too but seems to be 3rd choice in the rotation, 8 for 17 for him last week.
It looks like Deebo Samuel has taken over as the main man in the passing game, and it’s probably deserved as he improved week on week in his rookie season, he’s quick and works well in all areas of the game, even rushing the ball where he actually scored as many TDs as he did through the air this season (3 from 14 attempts) and he scored in the regular season win against the Pack. He’s taken over from Emmanuel Sanders who they brought in halfway through the season from the Broncos. He had an immediate impact but his numbers have slowed since then, he caught both of his targets last week for 33 yards. If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the last couple of months on the 49ers you’ll know I mention Kendrick Bourne quite a lot, he’s got a true identity… (get it? Bourne… Identity. I’m too funny) in this offense as a redzone target converting 6 catches into 5 RZ TDs in the regular season and adding to that last week against the Vikings. He had 40 yards last week and I think his line of 20.5 on William Hill is pretty low this week, he also shouldn’t be 3/1 to score anytime.
Outside of the main 3 you’re looking at Richie James who works primarily as a kick returner, Dante Pettis who was the talk of the off-season and expected to take a big step forward in his second year in the league, but has done very little this year with just 11 receptions for 2 TDs and 109 yards, and rounding off the depth chart, he doesn’t deserve his name in bold. Jordan Matthews.
Then you’ve got the BEST TIGHT END IN THE LEAGUE – GEORGE KITTLE. Ignore the box score last week, he was brilliant. He blocks like an offensive lineman but runs like a receiver. For me it’s his all round game including the blocking which puts him a touch above Kelce in the rankings, it helps that he’s a character as well and loves the game. There’s some great videos out there, one in particular of him driving his man to the ground while laughing maniacally at him. He only caught 3 of 5 for 16 yards last week as they went away from the passing game, but he adds so much more than that. He finished the season with 1,089 yards and 5 TDs. The TDs are lower than expected but I think that might change in this one.
Since week 7 (so the last 10 games) the Packers are 4th worst in yards allowed to the tight end position. 74.5 is a high line for him, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him go over it. I can’t take him as the second lowest TD scorer either at 2.30 on 888 but again wouldn’t be shocked to see him find the endzone, he led the team in redzone targets in the regular season.
The 49ers defense was immense last week. The defensive line were constantly in the backfield, the linebackers were everywhere, the secondary was lights out (once they benched Akello Witherspoon who got abused) every area was on the top of its game. Nick Bosa is the defensive rookie of the year, he added another 2 sacks last week and has been great to watch last year. As I said in the review of last week, every one of their 1st round drafted linemen finished with a sack. They just work well as a unit. Richard Sherman had an INT last week and PFF graded him as the best corner in the league last year, he made the second team all-pro roster. Fred Warner and the Jacquzzi Tartt himself are great in the middle of the field. It’s just a very good defense.
According to Whale on the Deep Dive podcast the Packers haven’t won a game as 7 point or more underdogs since Brett Favre did it in 2005. Admittedly they’ve only been in that situation 8 times with Rodgers at QB, but he’s lost every single one of them.
If the 49ers take care of Davante Adams then I’m not sure how the Pack move the ball. He’s all they’ve got in the passing game, and I believe LB corps of the 49ers is good enough to stop Jones. I originally thought that Sherman would follow Adams and shut him down, but it seems he played nearly every snap this season on the left side of the field. It looks like he did move around a little last week and he’s obviously capable of that but I’m not clever enough to know how they’ll work it this week. Either way I think they’ll slow Adams enough.
The 49ers home record this year has been good, although 2 of their 3 losses game at the Levis. They had some games where they scored huge totals and averaged over 100 yards per game more than road teams when at home. The regular season game vs the Packers they won by 29 points and had ~130 more yards than the Packers in that one, admittedly Bulaga went out injured which is a big loss for the Packers line but the 49ers were without Joe Staley, Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander so weren’t exactly full strength themselves.
I think the 49ers are quite considerably the better team with the better coach, and I think they’ll win this one. I think they’ll probably cover the spread, but at over a TD it’s a risky bet to take on despite the Packers record as 7pt dogs.
- The 6 point teaser with the Chiefs -1, bringing this to -1.5 – 5/6 (RZ/365) – 5pts
- Total sacks o5.5 – 1.90 (365)
- Kendrick Bourne o20.5 receiving yards – 1.85 (Will Hill)
- Raheem Mostert first rushing attempt o3.5 yards – 2.10 (PP)
- Deebo Samuel o49.5 receiving yards – 1.91 (PP)
- Jace Sternberger – 40/1 (365) – 0.5 stake
- Jamaal Williams – 5.20 (Redzone)
That’s about all I’ll tip up on it. Not the easiest game to call, but should be another cracker. Hopefully.
Good luck with whatever you’re on this weekend, and thanks for reading all season.
Next week the fun begin with my usual Stupid Punts write up which always entertains me, and of course a full preview of the big game.