The journey to Super Bowl LIV is almost over as today marks the last two games prior to the championship final. The day kicks off with the Tennessee Titans taking on the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship and ends with the Green Bay Packers facing off against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship (6:40 PM ET Sunday on Fox).
The last time these two teams met in Week 12 of the season, things did not go well for the road team. In fact, it was Aaron Rodgers’ worst game of the season and one of the worst of his future Hall of Fame career. Rodgers had just 104 passing yards and one touchdown. He was outplayed by Niners’ QB Jimmy Garoppolo, but he wasn’t the only one.
In short, the Packers were wholly embarrassed in a way they haven’t been in some time. Green Bay managed just 198 total yards and despite leading in first downs and time of possession, the team was only able to score eight points in the loss. The final score was 37-8.
Now, since that loss, one that made NFL analysts question the Packers’ legitimacy as title contenders, things have changed a bit. Green Bay hasn’t lost again, though their quality of opponents in that five-game stretch were less than impressive.
San Francisco were kicking off a three-game gauntlet against Super Bowl contenders when they hosted the Packers. The 49ers won two of the three, dropping a close one to the Baltimore Ravens and defeating the New Orleans Saints in an absolute shootout. Then San Francisco lost uncharacteristically to the Atlanta Falcons. With just two games left in the season, the 49ers had put themselves in a position where they needed to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in week 17 to win the NFC West, despite having opened the season 8-0. It came down to the final play and one of the best defensive stands of the year as the Niners defense, as it has most of the season, came up big time, stopping the Seahawks from a game-winning touchdown at the one-yard line.
In doing so, the 49ers kept Russell Wilson out of the end zone with the game on the line. Might they be able to stop Aaron Rodgers in the same position? Well, that could depend on which version of Rodgers takes the field today. Before we decide on the Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers predictions for this preview, USAbetting will taker a closer look at this NFC Championship matchup.
Protecting Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers is the Packers’ best weapon. There’s no doubt about that. That offense runs through him, whether it is the passing or running game. Rodgers is an all-time great but like most quarterbacks, the best way to allow him to use the full extent of his skill set, is to keep him out of trouble. A great scrambler in his early days, Rodgers is a little more of a pocket passer now, where he lets his gun slinging make the difference. He has got the offensive help to do that as Davante Adams is a fantastic deep ball threat.
It all begins and ends though with Rodgers’ offensive line. Let’s use last week’s playoff victory over the Seahawks as an example. Rodgers was only pressured on nine of his 30 drop backs. When not under pressure, Rodgers completed 14 of 19 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns. When under pressure, he went just 2-for-8 for only 36 yards as well as a sack. The pass rush was key and unfortunately for the Packers, they will only be facing a tougher unit today.
The 49ers have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL, with two members of their front line ranking in the top-20 in total QB pressures and another, finishing seventh among interior defenders. The defensive front line has been a huge strength for San Francisco and could continue to be at home on Sunday. Rodgers won’t be easy to beat through the air, but it won’t be impossible, especially with a defense that can create a little chaos for the future Hall of Famer.
Davante Adams vs Richard Sherman?
What happens when an irresistible force meets an unmovable object? We may find out today.
Since leaving the Seahawks in favor of the 49ers a few years back, Richard Sherman has continued to show why he is one of the best at what he does. He is an elite defender in the secondary and was even referred to by some news outlets this week, as Green Bay’s kryptonite. To Sherman’s credit, his presence alone changes how quarterbacks, even the best of them, approach defenses. Rodgers has only targeted Sherman on less than seven percent of his throws when playing against either the Seahawks/Niners.
That doesn’t mean Rodgers can’t beat Sherman, as he very well could. He just takes the smart approach and doesn’t even try. So what does that mean for this NFC Championship game? With how the 49ers play defense, Sherman will likely occupy the right side of the field leaving Rodgers the opportunity to target the left. You can bet that is the side of the field where Adams lines up.
In Niners’ losses this year, quarterbacks have found success when targeting Sherman’s counterparts, as well as short fields. This is something that could play into Green Bay’s strategy considering the use of Aaron Jones, the NFL’s leading touchdown receiver/rusher, in both a rushing and passing capacity. Jones is a big asset when it comes to check downs and screen plays and against the 49ers, he should find some openings to break off nice plays.
With Sherman ball hawking down the field, airing it out might not be Rodgers’ best move. If he does air it out however, look for him to target his best receiver, one who undoubtedly will be as far away from Sherman as the 49ers allow.
Our Preview’s Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers Predictions & Picks NFC Championship Gambling Advice
This is the second of the two championship games that features matchups from earlier this season. That doesn’t necessarily dictate a different outcome. While it won’t be another blowout, look for the 49ers to pick up the win en route to the Super Bowl for the first time in six years. However, when it comes to the betting picks’ suggestions, these are our Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers predictions for this preview:
- San Francisco are big favorites, so we like a pick of the Packers +7.5pts on the spread @ best odds of -105 with Bovada. It is -110 with most of the other recommended major United States’ sportsbooks.
- When it comes to the total points that could be scored in this NFC Championship game, we will go under 47pts @ -115 with Bovada. The other bookies are generally a point lower than that.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & 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.