Key Matchups: Packers vs. 49ers- NFC Championship Game Showdown

Matchups and predictions for the NFC Championship Game showdown.  

The Packers travel to San Francisco with a 14-3 record, coming off of a big win at home against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday and none of that seems to matter.  Most people outside of the Packers locker room has the team labeled dead on arrival prior to even walking out of the tunnel at Levi Stadium.  A big part of the doubt surrounding this team is based off of their 37-8 drubbing earlier this season at the hands of San Francisco.  

Many think this 49er team is stronger now than it was back then; they are probably right.  What they are forgetting to remember is that the Packers have not lost a game since that November 24th showdown.  Yes, they’ve won ugly, but they have continued to win, continued to improve, and began to embrace their identity (as overrated, under the radar, and as some have said, the worst 13-3 team to make the NFC Championship game).  

At 3:40 pacific standard time on Sunday afternoon, all of the talk will be swept away and the Packers will be focused on their eight quarter quest to emerge as Super Bowl Champions.  “Win ugly all the way to the Super Bowl” right? I think that’s the phrase Erin Andrews was looking for from Aaron Rodgers in their post-game interview last Sunday Night.  

In order for the Packers to “Win Ugly” this Sunday, they will need to win the majority of these five Key Matchups:

1. The Packers Offensive and Defensive Lines vs. San Francisco’s Offensive and Defensive Lines:

This game starts and ends with this key matchup, the point of attack.  The Packers offensive line will be the positional group most in the spotlight as they will have to contain the likes of Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, and Kwon Alexander among others.  This is no doubt, the biggest challenge for Green Bay’s offensive line to date.  I would personally line up with extra protection all game and in some cases, steal Seattle’s blueprint of going with a sixth lineman/ extra tight end in the backfield (Jared Veldheer, Marcedes Lewis) in certain situations just to give Rodgers an extra second to make a good throw or escape the pocket.  Likewise, the extra blockers will need to provide running lanes and screen lanes for Aaron Jones.  An effective Aaron Jones will force the 49ers to pull back the pass rush a bit. 

On the other side of the ball, the Packers need their front seven to come out of the tunnel on a rampage, looking to bring Jimmy G down.  Preston and Za’Darius Smith need to have their best games as Packers and make Jimmy G uncomfortable all game long. Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry need to disrupt the Niners up front and find a way to attack the A gap so that the Niners rushing attack does not bludgeon them.

2. The Special Teams Battle:

The Packers are going to need a few big plays from their special teams unit in order to come away with an upset win.  For me, it’s going to have to be more of the Mason Crosby, Swerving Ervin, and JK Scott show.  Scott needs to eliminate the 49ers punt return game with his high, booming kicks, Crosby needs to continue to do his thing in the playoffs (steady and reliable), and Tyler Ervin is going to need to get a few big returns in order to flip field position.  

3. Davante Adams vs. Ahkello Witherspoon and (Richard Sherman):

I will be looking for the Packers to find a way to scheme Davante Adams against Witherspoon in key situations where they need a big play.  I think that scheming this matchup as much as possible will be the key to the Packers opening up all opportunities in the passing game.  Undoubtedly San Fran will adjust, and we know that in order for the Packers to win Davante Adams will need to win a matchup or two against Richard Sherman in crunch time. 

4. Jaire Alexander and Kevin King vs. Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders: 

Last week, Tyler Lockett was able to run free in the second half and it nearly cost the Packers the game.  This week, Alexander and King will need to secure the 49ers two main wide receivers in order to eliminate big plays down the field.  I think the tandem of King and Alexander will each get their shot at both Samuel and Sanders and will have to make the most of their opportunities on the ball.  A big interception always goes a long way in changing the momentum of a big game and the Packers will likely need a big interception to end a drive.  

5. The Safeties (Amos and Savage) vs. Kittle: 

Realistically Kittle will probably have soft spots in the coverage underneath, but the hope is that Amos and Savage can pick him up over the top so that he does not break contain and run through the open secondary multiple times throughout the game.  The Packers can survive the 7 to occasional 15 yard pick-ups, what they cannot survive, is multiple 25+ yard gains on blown coverage which will lead to Kittle high stepping it into the end zone.  Savage and Amos need to send a message to Kittle early on to remind him they will be there to stay for sixty minutes. 

Prediction: 

This really is a tall order because so many things have to go right on the road.  My heart tells me to go with Rodgers and Jones leading the Packers to the promised land, but my head tells me the Niners are too damn good.  You know what, screw it, this is a total homer pick (which I rarely do), but give me the Packers 28-21 in a monumental upset. Go Pack Go! 

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David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

5 points

Comments (39)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Cubbygold's picture

January 18, 2020 at 12:52 pm

Key Matchup: Me trying to be grateful for this awesome season that exceeded expectations vs. me saying f*ck that let's win this thing.

I just hope everyone has fun. But also make Kittle cry.

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Tarynfor12's picture

January 18, 2020 at 01:10 pm

Mix and Match

A) SF beats itself.
B) GB beats itself.
C) SF beats GB.
D) GB beats SF.

I'll take a dash of A, two dashes of B, three dashes of C and a smidgen of D.

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CAG123's picture

January 18, 2020 at 07:13 pm

double post deleted

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CAG123's picture

January 18, 2020 at 07:05 pm

No such thing as beating yourself unless the 49ers purposely fumble every ball or run out of the endzone for safeties if they lose it will be because the Packers beat them on that particular day the Packers were better same holds true if the Packers lose. "We beat ourselves" is a backhanded way to not give the other team credit for outplaying you and capitalizing on your mistakes which is what every team is supposed to do.

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Tarynfor12's picture

January 19, 2020 at 12:05 am

What total bs.

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CAG123's picture

January 19, 2020 at 12:27 am

Nah Im just a believer in any given Sunday that "we beat ourselves" crap is for folks that like excuses. If one team comes in locked in and ready to play and the other doesn't who's fault is that? I get it though you're looking for any possible way to not give the Pack credit if they win that's cool.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 19, 2020 at 05:50 pm

Most football games are not won, they are lost. Turnovers, penalties, mistakes, missed blocks, missed tackles, dropped passes, blown coverages......

If you did a poll of coaches, 99% would agree with that. You practice to avoid/minimize mistakes. Fewest mistakes wins.

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CAG123's picture

January 18, 2020 at 07:12 pm

triple post

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Norm's picture

January 18, 2020 at 08:16 pm

F*ck it CAG123, go for the quadruple!

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4thand1's picture

January 19, 2020 at 06:39 am

Sounds like someone's been waiting 19 weeks to say, "I told you so"

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porupack's picture

January 19, 2020 at 06:39 am

what does that even mean, IDK.

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Bearmeat's picture

January 18, 2020 at 02:11 pm

I've thought a lot about this game..for the first time since @ MIN, and only the 4th time all year, this is a game (according to Vegas) that we're not "supposed" to win.

There's a good reason for it: We're on the road, and SF is straight-up better on the whole. That doesn't mean we can't win. We need to pressure/sack/turn over Grop 1-2x, play a clean TO game ourselves, get a contribution from the ST unit, and get at least 100 yards of team rushing. This will lead to the play-action kill-shot.

We do that, we win. We don't, and we lose. It's that simple. Earlier in the week, I was thinking we'd have a 15% shot. Now, I'd say 33% shot to win outright, and another 33% shot to cover. I don't even want to think about the other 34%...

But it's good to remember that even if we get embarrassed tomorrow, we've had a great season. Think about that, we've been favored (and come through) in 14 out of our 18 games! NO ONE (and I mean literally NO ONE) picked GB to be 13-3, win the division, get the 2nd seed, and make it to the NFC CG in MLF's first year. There are still plenty of holes on this team. The rebuild was geared towards 2020-2022. We're ahead of schedule.

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BradHTX's picture

January 18, 2020 at 07:46 pm

“But it's good to remember that even if we get embarrassed tomorrow, we've had a great season.”

I’m with you, Bearmeat. I hope the Pack ekes out a victory, and it’s certainly possible. But even if this is a bloodletting on the order of the Atlanta debacle a few years back, it won’t stick in my craw at all. I never dreamed this team would make it this far in MaLF’s first season, everything beyond the ninth win has been gravy to me.

I’d love to see this wind up being a storybook season for the ages, with a fifth Lombardi coming home and another SB MVP for Rodgers, but even if that doesn’t happen it’s still been an incredible story and how MaLF and Gute don’t win Coach/GM of the year, I don’t know.

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Lphill's picture

January 18, 2020 at 01:57 pm

Za Darius Smith getting on the plane wearing # 92. He is a true Packer , hope Reggie sees it and sends him some spiritual luck!

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 18, 2020 at 06:34 pm

It didn't take Z long to become my favorite Packer. He's awesome.

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BradHTX's picture

January 18, 2020 at 07:48 pm

I’ll be wearing my treasured 92 jersey myself tomorrow, in solidarity. And amen to Reggie smiling down from above, hopefully helping force a fumble!

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bjkdad44's picture

January 18, 2020 at 09:08 pm

I’ll be wearing my new #33!!!

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EdsLaces's picture

January 18, 2020 at 02:19 pm

I just hope we show up. Last time around was so damn embarrassing. Let's hang in this game somehow and maybe steal it late. Pack by 1.

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PatreonBob's picture

January 18, 2020 at 03:23 pm

30-21 GB! As Nags says”mark it zero”.

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stockholder's picture

January 18, 2020 at 04:07 pm

Break their spirit! The best way to predict Future is to Create it. - Abe Lincoln. FOCUS!!!! The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.-- Vince Lombardi - Enthusiasm. Do or do not. There is no try.- Yoda. This team was built to win! Gute?

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albert999's picture

January 18, 2020 at 04:44 pm

Is jk Scott going to play? I’ve heard he’s not on ESPN?
If not we’re screwed

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LeotisHarris's picture

January 18, 2020 at 08:44 pm

It's all good, albert. The game's televised on Fox so Scott won't have to play on ESPN.

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albert999's picture

January 18, 2020 at 10:36 pm

Many reports say he’s not playing
He also holds for Crosby so this could be a real problem

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MoreOpportunitiesToLove's picture

January 18, 2020 at 05:48 pm

Looking forward to the game but entering with great , great gratitude for how far we have gotten and fairly low expectations for moving forward. Just sharing the truth of where I am at. Maybe it is a way to deal with the agony of an expected defeat. I was wrong on the LSU/Clemson Championship thinking Clemson would win by a TD. Green Bay will need very strong O-line play. Very ,very strong run defense. Very, very strong positional punting . The tipping point above all will be an epic night of Jones running and Rodgers passing. I am hoping the ball comes out quickly. Quick tempo and getting it out of his hand fast. Additionally f we can continue the third down conversion rate of last week. All in all it will take an epic performance to bring home an epic win. Hard to believe we are where we are. I am a grateful Yellow Weasel.

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albert999's picture

January 18, 2020 at 06:18 pm

YW
Who’s gonna be punting?

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dobber's picture

January 18, 2020 at 06:59 pm

I'll make an early prediction: if the Packers don't need to punt, they win.

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BradHTX's picture

January 18, 2020 at 07:51 pm

All gas, no breaks, Dobber. All gas, no breaks.

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 18, 2020 at 09:12 pm

I was just watching some of the real gravedigger gil browns highlights. Imagine him next to kenny clark? And the smiths? One can dream. But in regards to this piece, if z smith tops his minnesota performance, we could win this one. Their center is on ir and their guards are weak. One of the few places we have an advantage.

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Difer's picture

January 18, 2020 at 11:58 pm

The only way the Packers beat the 49rs is if SF performs a pratfall on the level of Baltimore's. That said, whatever happens, congratulations to the Pack for an outstanding season. Talk about over-achieving!

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flackcatcher's picture

January 19, 2020 at 01:37 am

At this level the differences are so slight in the teams, it usually come down to game plan and execution. Do not read to much into the pounding the Packers took at 49ers last time they played. Beat up O line, and a bad game plan crippled this team from the get go. Bad two weeks for MLF. Good news is he fixed his offensive problems fast, and in fine fashion for the next 5 games. Like most of us fans, we are underrating our own team, and overrating the 49ers. The only real gap is in depth. And how that plays out in depends on how the special teams units perform. Outside of that, it's coin flip. This is were coaching counts. If I were a betting man (and I'm not) I put my money on MLF and Pettine. We'll see....

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LASVEGAS-TOM's picture

January 19, 2020 at 01:46 am

Hey Tarynfor12, Where are your posts? I can't find your last 3 or 4. I must be losing it I can't follow this new format.
LVT

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Leland's picture

January 19, 2020 at 05:46 am

AR hit the first open man no matter who it is. Don't become one dimensional. When they tighten up to stop the short stuff you'll get the chunks. The defense will keep us in the game. Score as often as possible and never stop.
Go Pack

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porupack's picture

January 19, 2020 at 06:57 am

I consider the merits to use alternate between max protect with 2 TEs, and heavy dose of 5 spread receivers (including at least 1 TE in that mix).

5 spread receivers would force SF to go light packages, and allow GB maximum turf to mix up receivers, run crossing routes and always have a quick timed target. Mix it up. Use this in hurry up offense. Fast. Tire out pass rushers.

Alternate with 2 and 3 TEs sets in max protect, then slip one or 2 out for pass.

Do the alternating in pre-snap. In this way, SF isn't sure whether it is a quick snap in a the first set, or a motion to the second set. Then, Rodgers' hard count can be more effective, as well.

Then start running AJones after a series or two, and increase the carries in 2nd quarter and 2nd half.

That is the extent of my couch coaching. As for Defense, I have no idea how to beat SF Offense; take some big chances, and hope for a lucky bounce and some mistakes. Eliminate Kittle with double coverage LB and Safety, and give the others cushion, but then take some risk, and play hope for an INT after Garappolo starts to 'play what the defense gives' to the other receivers. All depends on the pressure from the Dline.

Not sure whether to watch the game live, or wait and see the score first. I think I might enjoy it more if I know how it ends :-( and probably not too much even at that. I can't see a win, but still proud of the team. Would love another legacy game in Packer lore.

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NickPerry's picture

January 19, 2020 at 07:37 am

According to those who do the analytical thing the Packers O-Line played their worst game of the year week 12 against the 49ers. According to those same people the 49ers D-Line played their best or one of their top 3 IIRC. Now obviously the 49ers D-Line deserves credit, but GB has played several good D-Lines this year and didn't look anything like that. As long as the Packers O-Line plays closer to week 16 game vs the Vikings who also have a excellent defensive front 7, the Packers can ASOLUTELY win this game.

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davidrawence's picture

January 19, 2020 at 08:17 am

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davidrawence's picture

January 19, 2020 at 08:17 am

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mnbadger's picture

January 19, 2020 at 11:57 am

With stellar play from both lines, winning the turnover battle and special teams, we have a great chance. Referees CANNOT be a part of the storyline. Pack wins 23-20 on late Crosby chip shot.

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superbowllives's picture

January 19, 2020 at 02:12 pm

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Leatherhead's picture

January 19, 2020 at 05:25 pm

This is the 8th time in the last 25 years that we’ve been in the NFC Championship game and I’m not aware of anybody else in the NFC who has done better. It’s always a special day.

I think by now it’s more about heart and will than it is about 40 times in shorts. When it’s cold and you’re tired and hurting and the refs are screwing you.......you need character more than talent and that leadership will make the difference. The Packer organization has made these trips to the Championship game with different players, coaches, and GMs.

I also think this might be a Legacy game fo Aaron Rodgers. I’m hoping/expecting he’ll play real well, because there is no path to victory without him having a good day. We may need 30 points.

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