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Top 5 Matchups to Watch for Between Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers in Divisional Playoffs

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Top 5 Matchups to Watch for Between Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers (12-5) will take on the San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) for the right to play in the NFC Championship game. The contest will be a rematch of their Week 1 meeting in which the 49ers defeated the Packers 30-22 at Lambeau Field. However, Saturday night’s NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park will be far different from the contest that took place at the start of the season.

There are several great matchups to watch for when these two talented teams collide, but fans will want to key in on several specific competitions that could give one team an edge over the other. Also, fans who watched the first go around between these two teams are in for a treat as both organizations have made changes throughout the season.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick will play instead of Alex Smith, who started against Green Bay in Week 1. Smith was outstanding against the Packers in that matchup, but a concussion in Week 8 forced him to miss a game. Kaepernick played so well that he was eventually named the starter for the rest of the season.

The Packers also have a different look then they did in Week 1 due to several season-ending injuries that have hit the team similar to what happened in 2010 when they went on to win Super Bowl XLV. However, both squads have been playing with their new looks for quite some time, which means it should not be as much as a factor.

The following slides are the top five matchups to watch for between the Packers and the 49ers.

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5. Aaron Rodgers vs. 49ers’ Secondary

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has once again put up some very impressive numbers, which means he will be San Francisco’s No. 1 priority come Saturday. The 49ers’ secondary has been outstanding against the pass this season and could provide plenty of trouble for Rodgers, especially if they are able to play him with a Cover 2 defense. The San Francisco defense has allowed only 200.2 passing yards per game and recorded 14 interceptions while they have held quarterbacks to a 78.0 passer rating.

However, Rodgers ranks among the best in the league at his position as he has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 4,295 yards, 39 touchdowns and only eight interceptions while he posted a league-high 108.0 passer rating. If there is any quarterback in the NFL that can take a part San Francisco’s secondary piece by piece it is Rodgers.

The 49ers’ defense must be cautious when facing Rodgers, as he and Tom Brady are the only two players this season to throw for more than 300 yards. Not to mention, Rodgers will be playing with a chip on his shoulder which does not bode well for the Bay area.

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4. Green Bay Front Seven vs. San Francisco Offensive Line

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San Francisco has the most physical offensive line in all of football and proved that much against Green Bay earlier this season. The Packers defense looked like they wanted no part of the 49ers’ front five as they were pushed all over the field. However, Green Bay is a different team in the playoffs and they refuse to be embarrassed again.

The Packers’ front seven will do everything in their power to give running back Frank Gore the Adrian Peterson treatment in which they will attempt to hold him under 100 rushing yards. The only way to do this is by building a defensive wall at the line of scrimmage and securing the edge so Gore cannot bounce outside. Considering Gore rushed for 112 yards on 16 carries on Sept. 9, Green Bay will certainly have their hands full.

San Francisco’s offensive line is much better run blocking then they are in pass protection, which means if Green Bay can stop Gore then they will have a good chance of getting after Kaepernick.

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3. Aldon Smith vs. Marshall Newhouse

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

This matchup could single-handedly break Green Bay’s back. If outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who led the NFC with 19.5 sacks this season, can get past Marshall Newhouse consistently then the Packers are in big trouble. On the other hand, if Newhouse can somehow prevent Smith from getting after Rodgers without Green Bay giving him extra help then San Francisco’s defensive game plan will take a huge blow. This will certainly be an exciting competition to watch as both team’s fate rest on the shoulders of these two players.

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2. James Jones, Randall Cobb vs. Third, Fourth Defensive Backs

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As good as the 49ers have been against the pass this season, the Packers definitely had plenty of success through the air in Week 1. Now that Green Bay’s receivers are at full strength for the most part, expect the Packers to spread the field with three and four wide receiver sets.

This means pinning James Jones, who led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions, and the multi-talented Randall Cobb against San Francisco’s third and fourth defensive backs. The Packers will take this matchup all week while the 49ers are hoping their front four can get to Rodgers before he shreds the secondary.

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1. Colin Kaepernick vs. Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night’s game will come down to Kaepernick being able to go throw-for-throw with Rodgers, something that has to make 49ers’ fans nervous. Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers is going to do everything in his power to get in the head of Kaepernick and force the young quarterback to make mistakes so he can get the ball back into Rodgers’ hands.

To do this, Capers will use complicated schemes that will bait Kaepernick to make throws that simply are not there. He will also line Clay Matthews up at different positions along the defensive front to confuse San Francisco’s blockers. Veteran defensive back Charles Woodson, who is considered to be the all-time greatest at baiting quarterbacks to make a bad throw, will show no mercy as he unleashes all of his talents on Kaepernick. A mix of Matthews breathing down the 25-year-old’s neck and Woodson soaring across the field might simply be too much for the second-year quarterback.