It has become one of the NFL’s most interesting postseason rivalries and it will play out in the wildcard round once again. With a spot in the divisional round on the line, the No.5 San Francisco 49ers will travel to the dangerously cold confines of Lambeau Field to face the No.4 Green Bay Packers (4.40pm ET on Sunday).
The Aaron Rodgers Effect
Faced with a must-win game to make the postseason, the Packers turned to Aaron Rodgers (pictured). Like he always seems to, Rodgers came up big when he had to and with it all on the line, he did not disappoint. He did all of that too in just his first game back.
Having missed seven weeks, when the Packers had a chance to make the playoffs, there was no doubt that Rodgers was going to play. Whether he would be 100% was still in question but with little to no rust, Rodgers proved he was healthy as he led the Packers with 318 passing yards and two touchdowns.
With Rodgers back and still in good form, the Packers are a completely different team. They are 6-2 when he leads the team in passing yards this year and just 2-5-1 when he doesn’t. Against the 49ers and against any team the Packers might face in later playoff rounds, Rodgers is no doubt the X-Factor for Green Bay.
Let the Running Begin
When the Packers faced the 49ers in the playoffs last year, San Francisco was a better-rounded team and ultimately it showed. Colin Kaepernick torched the Green Bay defense on the ground and in the air as his all-purpose yard total was one for the history books. The offensive onslaught was just too much for Green Bay to keep up with, which is saying something considering Rodgers is the QB.
Rodgers never had help though in the running game. His receivers were top notch but there was no real rushing threat to take the attention and the pressure off the passing attack. The 49ers will once again have Kaepernick and top-ten running back Frank Gore to supplant him, but this year Rodgers will have his own stud in the backfield.
Drafted out of Alabama, 2013 was the year of Eddie Lacy. The rookie didn’t exactly burst onto the scene but performed solidly all season long. A concussion in the season’s second game did serve as a minor setback but following that, Lacy established himself as one of the best and new young backs in the league.
Lacy finished the year as the league’s leading rookie in almost every rushing category. His 1,178 total rushing yards and 78.5 yards per carry was good enough for eighth best and his 11 TD put him among the top three at his position.
In the two wins for the Packers without Rodgers, Lacy’s importance can’t be understated. He rushed for over 200 yards in the victories and scored two touchdowns as well. In the tie, Lacy again rushed for over 100 yards and another TD.
It is safe to say that without Lacy the Packers probably wouldn’t have even made the postseason. With him however, their shot at an extended playoff push is heightened. San Francisco has the league’s fourth best run defense and it is a defense that held Lacy, in his first NFL start mind you, to just 41 yards on 14 carries and a TD. Lacy will likely have to make his own holes and opportunities but if last week showed anything, it’s that Rodgers and Lacy can co-exist quite well in an offense. This of course is only good news for Green Bay.
Defense Wins Championships
Offensively, the Packers have a pretty significant edge over the 49ers, especially in the passing game. They finished sixth in the league compared to 30th for San Francisco in that category. Rankings aside, Green Bay averaged nearly 100 yards more from their QBs than the 49ers did.
As for the rushing game, the teams match up pretty evenly. Lacy had a better season than Gore but combined with Kaepernick, who is always a threat to run, the 49ers finished third in rushing compared to seventh for the Packers.
San Francisco however has a big advantage when it comes to defense and as the saying goes, defense wins championships. The 49ers have been known for their hard-nosed style of defense for quite a few seasons now. It was largely because of this defense, much of which is the same, that the 49ers reached the Super Bowl last year.
The Packers have struggled to stop the run and pass, finishing 24th and 25th in the league respectively in these two categories. Making matters worse is the fact that one of Green Bay’s best defensive playmakers, Clay Matthews, is out with a thumb injury.
The 49ers on the other hand finished seventh in opponents’ passing and fourth in opponents’ rushing and enter this game completely healthy on the defensive side of the ball.
49ers at Packers Betting Picks Advice
Perhaps the biggest advantage to come to the Packers is by way of Mother Nature. The forecast in Green Bay is bleak with temperatures ranging between a high of 5 degrees and a low of -18. Used to much warmer California temperatures, the freezing cold could present some trouble for the 49ers.
The sportsbooks seem to think the cold won’t get in the way as they have the road team favored by three while the total points is set at 45.5.
Last season the 49ers emerged victorious and they are expected to do the same this year. They are the popular pick both against the spread and on the moneyline. However, betting against Rodgers, especially with all of his weapons, could prove to be a mistake. The Packers are also at home and Lambeau has proven friendly to them many times, especially in the postseason, in the past.
- For this reason, I’m taking the Packers to get the win straight up and to beat the spread. As for which bet to place, well you can get Green Bay at +120 betting odds on the moneyline with BetOnline. That is tempting. But we prefer to take them on the spread +3pts @ odds of -115 with Bovada Sportsbook. It is +2.5pts for -110 with BetOnline.
- I also like the over on 45.5 points as this game could turn into a shootout much like last year’s playoff battle. You can get that at -110 with either BetOnline or Bovada.
- Those advised bets are with the two top US sportsbooks and both are ideal for Americans to wager at. But if you are outside of the USA then take the +2.5pts at 10/11 with Bet365 (does not accept US residents), where you can also get +45.5pts at the same odds.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.