Perhaps no team has been more anxious to get the 2013 season started then the San Francisco 49ers. After a disappointing end in 2012, the theme this year is redemption. However, while the defending NFC Champs are looking to exact revenge on the NFL, their week 1 opponent, the Green Bay Packers, come to Candlestick looking for some payback of their own. The Packers enter the game with a personal axe to grind against the 49ers, who seem to have Green Bay’s number as of late.
The last time these two powerhouses faced each other was last year’s NFC Divisional round, and Colin Kaepernick schooled the Packers while leading the 49ers to a 45-31 victory. With an entire offseason spent watching this game film, Green Bay will travel back to the site of their last game with one thing on their mind: revenge.
When Green Bay Has the Ball: Advantage Packers
No matter who is on the field with him, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is going to get the job done. He was recently a top Sports Illustrated quarterback rankings, and even with some questions as to the players around him, the Packers offense is still a nightmare to try and defend. Rodgers is accurate, smart and spreads the ball around. So while the entire stadium knows that Rodgers is going to drop back to pass more times than not, the 49er secondary is still going to have their hands full, and is overmatched in this area. San Francisco will rely on Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and the rest of the pass rush to disrupt Rodgers and give the defense a fighting chance of containing the Packers aerial assault.
The daunting task of chasing around the Green Bay receivers did get a little easier with the Packers losing Greg Jennings to free agency this offseason. With Jennings hurt most of the year, the Packers leading receiver in 2012 was Randall Cobb, who is no slouch, but is no Greg Jennings. The Green Bay running game last year was non-existent and the Packers hope that rookie Eddie Lacy can give them some balance in their attack, but can’t expect it to be week 1 against this defense. Lacy is a physical back, which is not a recipe for success against the faster and just as physical 49er linebackers led by Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman.
When San Francisco Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
The chances of the 49ers running the Packers off the field, as they did in their last meeting, is not likely, but is a possibility. The Packers defense was average in 2012, ranking 11th against the run and 17th against the pass, but when using the eye test it was evident that Green Bay’s defense is far from formidable. They have the big name players with Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk and B.J. Raji up front, but it’s the back end of the defense that is vulnerable. Add to the suspect secondary the loss of anchor Charles Woodson, and Green Bay could be in for a long day (again).
If the games turn into a shootout, Kaepernick has the weapons around him to keep pace. The 49ers will look to establish a balance attack, which will mean a steady diet of Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon and the running game. However, it will be the arm and legs of Kaepernick that need to take advantage of its glaring advantage over the Green Bay defense. Even without Michael Crabtree, the passing game will feature Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, both whom the Packers can’t cover one-on-one for the entire game. With the treat of the run or pass, the Packers will have to pick their poison and hope that Aaron Rodgers and the offense can keep it close.
What More Can They Ask For?
For two teams that expect to be in the Super Bowl, neither could ask for a better week 1 opponent. Both the Packers and 49ers need to measure themselves against the NFC elite, as their long term goals involve the playoffs. The good news for the 49ers is that the odds are in their favor. They have the better team, are playing at home, and despite the outcome they will get a chance to see how they stack up against a top tier team. If able to win, the 49ers will make it 3 straight against the Packers, but more importantly, it will give San Francisco some early season momentum, something they will need as they begin the long trip that they hope will end with a trip to the Super Bowl in New York.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.