The Green Bay Packers winning is not a bold prediction. What is bold is how they’ll do it.
Colin Kaepernick burned the Packers last year in the playoffs. He rushed for 181 yards, threw for 263 more and carried the 49ers offense. The Packers seemed completely unprepared for the zone-read and Kaepernick capitalized, rushing for 99 yards out of zone-read running plays, the most ever for an NFL game.
This time though, the Packers will be ready. Kaepernick had a great game, but most of his brilliance was running the ball. He did throw for 263 yards with a high completion percentage and an average 8.5 yards an attempt. Those are good numbers, but his main target, Michael Crabtree, is gone. Crabtree had 119 receiving yards that game, and no one else had more than 50.
Without Crabtree, Kaepernick will not have the same ability to throw downfield.
Kaepernick also will not be as effective running. Much of beating a zone read rests on understanding how to deal with it and practicing it. The Packers simply were not ready. As a team though, they have the right personnel. With fast, athletic linebackers like A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews, they have the talent to move from sideline-to-sideline with Kaepernick.
They were not mentally ready for the game, but now with a whole offseason to learn, they should be able to handle a relatively simple offensive scheme like the one the 49ers employ.
If Kaepernick struggles, it will be up to a strong 49ers defense to slow down Aaron Rodgers and company. While that is not out of the question, the Packers have so many weapons that they should be able to put up 20 plus points, even against a good defense.
The Niners can often rely on their defense to carry games, but against a powerhouse offense like the Packers, they will need something from Kaepernick and company to win. They won’t get much.
Prediction: Kaepernick has less than 50 yards rushing, under 200 yards passing and throws a pick. The Packers win by 10.