Green Bay Packers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. San Francisco 49ers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date and Time: Sunday, September 8, 4:25pm ET
Where: Candlestick Park
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB +4.5/SF -4.5
Over/Under Total: 48.5
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The NFL season is here and with all due respect to the Thursday Night Football opener, Im most looking forward to the Sunday matchup between the Packers and 49ers. Aaron Rodgers leads the Pack into Candlestick Park to face the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick in what will certainly be a revenge game for Green Bay after the Niners bounced the Green and Gold out of last years playoffs. This could easily be an NFC Championship preview and it will be interesting to see which contender puts a good foot forward to start the 2013 campaign.
Nearly all online sportsbooks opened this game with San Francisco as a 4.5 point favorite and that line hasnt moved although you may be able to find a 5 point line out there depending on where you bet. The Packers are on the money line at +180 with the Niners at -220 and the over/under total for the game is running anywhere from 48 to 49.
There hasnt been a ton of turnover on these teams from last year but there are some injury issues, so lets get those out right up front. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are both listed as probable on the Packers report. Green Bay will need its full complement on offense throughout the season and it looks as if it will have it in Week 1. The Packers are without Bryan Bulaga on the offensive line for the season and CB Tramon Williams is currently questionable for the game and has not practiced through the summer. The 49ers are without Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and LaMichael James on the offensive side but are good to go on defense with Patrick Willis reported as probable for Sunday.
This game really boils down to Green Bays defense versus San Frans offense. Kaepernick scorched the Packers D in the last meeting as he threw for 263 yards, added 181 on the ground and accounted for four scores. The 45-31 final score didnt really tell the story of how bad the Niners made the Packers defense look as there were several occasions where Packer defenders were simply caught completely unaware of where the ball was. Dom Capers will need to earn his paycheck this week and come up with something to slow the read-option portion of the Niner offense as Im sure San Fran will start right where it left off in the last game just to see if it will work again.
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The 49ers also dropped the Pack in Week 1 last year by a 30-22 margin and did so with Alex Smith at the helm. Smith was efficient and the run game was more than the Packers could handle so, again, the Green Bay defense is on notice for Sunday. The Packers will need to force turnovers and pressure Kaepernick into bad throws as well as find a leadership component as Charles Woodson is no longer in the secondary. Clay Matthews is healthy and should find some success in getting into the backfield, just as he did while racking up 13 sacks in just 12 games last year.
Of course, Green Bay is all about Rodgers and Co. and they will always be a serious threat to put up huge numbers with the skill players on offense. The anemic rush offense was bolstered by the addition of Eddie Lacy in the draft and the Packers return their four best receiving options with James Jones and Jermichael Finley lining up with Cobb and Nelson. That quartet combined for 31 receiving touchdowns in 2012 and San Franciscos defense will have its hands full trying to hold down one of the best QBs in the game. Aldon Smith recorded 19.5 sacks a year ago and now faces a patchwork O-line trying to keep Rodgers upright. Watch that matchup as an early determining factor on how this game plays out.
I dont see Green Bay holding this offense under 30, even with the Niners lack of reliable targets behind Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, so the question is, can the Packers get to that 28-30 point range? On paper, the answer is yes but in reality, the Green Bay offense is not set up to score like the 2000 Rams did and they need their defense to get stops or they simply do not beat teams that are better than they are. I think the Pack keeps Kaepernick under better wraps than in the playoff meeting but they will still surrender yards to Frank Gore and their secondary was routinely burned in the preseason by second teamers so watch out for the Niners to gain big chunks over the middle with the pass as well. The Packers are good, probably very good but this one ends badly for them against an offense that they do not have an answer for at this time. Take the over and the Niners. SF 33 GB 24
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: San Francisco