Overview: Neutral viewers are in for a treat as the two top seeds from the NFC last year play each other in the first week of the season at Lambeau Field on Sunday. The Green Bay Packers are 5 point favorites in this game, and deservedly so. Featuring 2011 NFL MVP Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a great receiving corps, this Packers team can score on anyone including the defensively sound San Francisco 49ers.
Packers Key Players: Aaron Rodgers, B.J. Raji
On offense, the Packers will look for Aaron Rodgers to pick up from where he ended last year in what was possibly the best season by a quarterback ever. Though San Francisco has a great defense, the weakest part of it is their defensive backfield. Rodgers will take what the Niners’ defense gives him, but with six legitimate pass catching threats (seven if you include touchdown machine John Kuhn) the 49ers can only hope to contain Rodgers, not stop him.
Saying that Alex Smith is a “game manager” is like calling Brett Favre a “questionable decision maker”. The 49ers are a run-first team. In order for the Packers to contain the 49ers’ many running backs, they will need Raji to control the line of scrimmage, something that he was inconsistent at doing last year.
49ers Key Players: Justin Smith, Alex Smith
If the 49ers are going to stop Aaron Rodgers they are going to need an amazing performance from Justin Smith, possibly the best defensive player in the league. Smith will need to apply pressure on Rodgers early and often in order to force him to make a rare poor decision.
Alex Smith will likely have to have a positive impact throwing the ball for the 49ers to win. Smith needs to find Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis if the Niners are going to stay in the game. He also needs to limit his mistakes and not give up any easy interceptions to Green Bay’s ball-hawking secondary.
Outlook: This game will be close, but no one is stopping Aaron Rodgers right now, not even one of the best defenses in the league.
Prediction: Packers 24 – 49ers 15