San Francisco 49ers (12-4 SU, 11-5 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1 SU, 6-9-1 ATS)
NFC Wildcard Weekend
Date and Time: Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 4:40 p.m. EST
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
by Vesper Abadon, Pro Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SF -2.5/GB +2.5
Over/Under Total: 48
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Way back in Week 1 the Green Bay Packers traveled west
to take on the San Francisco 49ers. They ultimately lost
that game 34-28 as Colin Kaepernick passed for 412 yards, of which 208 went
to wide receiver Anquan Boldin. This weekend the Pack will have a shot at
revenge as they host the 49ers in the fourth and final game of Wildcard
There were plenty of seeding scenarios in Week 17, put things panned out with the 49ers in the No. 5 seed while the Packers beat out the Chicago Bears in a nail biter to win the NFC North for the third consecutive year (fifth year in a row theyve made the postseason) and capture the No. 4 seed. That said, their respective journeys to the Playoffs couldnt have been more different.
For the 49ers, they seemed destined for the postseason early on thanks in no small part to their staunch defense, which finished fifth in the league allowing an average of 316.9 yards per game (YPG). That includes 221 passing YPG and 95.9 rushing YPG.
Speaking of rushing yards, Frank Gore led the 49ers to the third-best running game with 137.6 YPG. All told Gore carried 276 times for 1,128 yards (4.1 Avg) and nine touchdowns. Unfortunately the passing game wasnt quite as strong at 30th in the league with an average of 186.2 YPG. That number is quite surprising as Kaepernick went 243 of 416 for 3,197 yards, 21 touchdowns, and eight interceptions good for a tenth-best QB rating of 91.6. His top receivers? They would be Anquan Boldin (85 receptions for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns) and Vernon Davis (52 receptions for 850 yards and 13 touchdowns).
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Oppositely, the Packers have a strong aerial attack led by Aaron Rodgers, who returned from a collarbone injury in Week 17 after missing seven games (during which time their Playoff hopes seemed to slip further and further away). Rodgers went 25 of 39 for 318 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions in his return, which brought his season stats to 193 of 290 for 2,536, 17 touchdowns, and six interceptions good for a fifth-best QB rating of 104.9.
His top receiver has been the ever-reliable Jordy Nelson, who has caught 85 passes for 1,314 yards (15.5 Avg) and eight touchdowns. Whats more, Randall Cobb returned to the lineup in Week 17 and caught two passes, both of which were touchdowns including the game winning 48-yarder in the final minute. With Rodgers and Cobb back in the mix, the Packers have a revamped passing attack.
Making it even more potent in the fact that the Packers yes, the Packers have a strong running game. Theyre ranked seventh in the league with an average of 133.5 rushing YPG, which is due to the emergence of rookie Eddie Lacy, who has carried 284 times for 1,178 yards (4.1 Avg) and 11 touchdowns eighth best in the NFL. Toss in James Starks 89 carries for 493 yards (5.5 Avg) and three touchdowns, and the Packers are about as balanced as they come.
If the Packers are lacking anywhere, its on the defensive side of the ball. They finished the season 25th in the league after allowing an average of 372.2 YPG (247.2 passing YPG and 125 rushing YPG).
Vespers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The 49ers are coming off a six-game winning streak, and based upon the latter half of the season theyre the clear favorites. However, its not quite so simple with the return of Rodgers. He is the unquestioned leader in Green Bay, and with him under center theyre a whole different team.
Last year the 49ers embarrassed the Packers 45-31 in the Divisional Round as Kaepernick ran 16 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns. I dont think Kaepernick will be able to run rampant this year, but I do think the Packers defense will have trouble trying to contend with him, Gore, and the receiving corps. Equally, the Packers high-powered offense will give the 49ers defense all they can handle.
The cold Wisconsin weather is another factor in Green Bays favor, but all other signs history, health, and momentum point to a 49ers victory. Its going to be a great game, and I think Kaepernick and company will punch their ticket to the NFC Divisional round.