San Francisco 49ers (11-7, 10-8 ATS) at Green Bay Packers (13-4, 12-5), 8:15 p.m., Saturday
Brolley’s 49ers Stats and Trends
San Francisco scored the Wild Card Round’s only upset victory with a 23-17 win as 3.5-point road underdogs against the Cowboys.
San Francisco had Green Bay’s number during the 2019 season, scoring two lopsided victories in their march to the Super Bowl, including a 17-point victory in the NFC Championship. The Packers have responded with victories in the last two regular seasons, including their 30-28 victory in Week 3 as 3.5-point road underdogs in a game totaled at 50.5 points.
The 49ers are 5-1 toward unders in their last six games.
The 49ers are 5-1 outright and ATS over their last six games and they’re 8-2 outright and ATS if you stretch the sample out to 10 contests
Elijah Mitchell controlled their Wild Card victory with 27/96/1 rushing against the Cowboys, which gives him six straight games with 21+ carries. San Francisco’s run-centric profile should play well in freezing conditions in Green Bay, and the Packers have allowed a generous 4.3 YPC to RBs. Mitchell missed this matchup in late September and fellow rookie Trey Sermon could muster only 10/31/1 rushing.
Jimmy Garoppolo operated as a full-blown game manager in the Wild Card Round with the 49ers jumping out to a 16-point lead, completing 16/25 passes for 172 scoreless yards (6.9 YPA). He let the Cowboys back into the game with a near-back-breaking INT in the early fourth quarter. Green Bay’s defense forced two Jimmy G turnovers when these teams met in Week 3, and it was one of just three contests in which he attempted 40+ passes. He completed 25/40 passes for 257 yards (6.4 YPA) and two TDs in that contest, and the Packers hope to get top pass rusher Za’Darius Smith (back) to return this week.
Deebo Samuel paced San Francisco’s offense last week with 10/72/1 rushing and 3/38 receiving, which was his fifth straight game with 80+ scrimmage yards. He’s scored in eight of his last nine games with 10 total TDs in that stretch, eight of which have come on the ground. Deebo didn’t have his full-blown running back role when these teams met in Week 3. He finished with 5/52 receiving on 10 targets and he had two carries for no yardage.
Brandon Aiyuk has posted 11+ FP and 4+ catches in four straight games after posting 5/66 receiving on six targets against the Cowboys. Aiyuk struggled throughout the first half of the season but his lone standout performance came against the Packers when he posted 4/37/1 receiving on six targets. The Packers are hoping to get top CB Jaire Alexander (shoulder) back in the lineup this week.
Jauan Jennings has been fairly active as the team’s third receiver with 2+ catches in six straight games, including 3/29 receiving on five targets last week. Slot CB Chandon Sullivan is allowing only 1.03 yards per slot coverage snap this season.
George Kittle has managed just 9/78 receiving on 15 targets over the last four weeks despite averaging the second-most routes per game (27.3) on the team in that span. Kittle had 6+ catches and 90+ yards in three straight games before that with three total touchdowns in Weeks 13-15. Kittle accounted for 101 scrimmage yards in this contest back in Week 3, which included 7/92 receiving on nine targets.
Brolley’s Packers Stats and Trends
Green Bay finished with just the 10th-best point differential at +79, but they entered the postseason with the NFL’s second-best ATS record at 12-5.
They’ve cleaned up at Lambeau Field with a perfect 8-0 outright record (7-1 ATS) this season.
The Packers have played over the total in six of their last seven games heading into the playoffs and their defense allowed 28+ points in five of those contests.
Aaron Rodgers enters the postseason with multiple TD passes in 14 of his 17 games this season, and he ended the season with 19+ FP in his last six full games. He finished the 2021 season with the best TD rate (7.0%), INT rate (.8%), and QB rating (111.9), which is the second straight year he’s led the league in all three categories. Rodgers posted 261/2 passing while averaging 7.9 YPA against the 49ers in Week 3. The 49ers have some defensive concerns with DE Nick Bosa (concussion) and LB Fred Warner (ankle) picking up injuries last week. San Francisco held the NFL’s top total offense to 307 yards and Dak Prescott mustered only 5.9 YPA while getting sacked five times.
The Packers averaged 1.4 yards per play more than the 49ers (6.0 to 4.6) in late September thanks to a dominant performance from Davante Adams, who posted 12/132/1 receiving on 18 targets. Adams is having a special season after breaking his old teammate Jordy Nelson’s single-season franchise record with 1553 receiving yards. Adams enters the postseason with 6+ catches in 10 straight games and he’s scored six TDs in his last four full games.
Randall Cobb (groin) could return to the lineup this week and the Packers played just two games from November on when Cobb, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Allen Lazard were all available for entire games. Lazard led these secondary receivers with 58 routes for 2/26/1 receiving on five targets in Weeks 9-10. Cobb finished second with 55 routes and 6/71 receiving on nine targets while MVS posted 49 routes and 3/60 receiving on four targets. Lazard finished the season with four TDs in his final three games with 13/192/4 receiving in Weeks 16-18. Cobb had 4/95/1 receiving against the Rams in Week 12 before he left early with his core-muscle injury. MVS, who is coming back from a back injury, led these secondary WRs with 3/59/1 receiving against the 49ers back in Week 3.
The Packers have been rolling with a split backfield between Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon since Week 12. Jones averaged 9.6/51.6 rushing and 3.0/18.6 receiving per game with three TDs in five contests in Weeks 12-17 while Dillion averaged 13.0/53.2 rushing and 2.2/13.8 receiving per game with four TDs in that five-game span. Green Bay’s line has been the weakest link for this offense, but they could be rounding into form with All-Pro LT David Bakhtiari and second-round center Josh Myers returning to action in Week 18. The 49ers held opposing RBs to 3.6 YPC in the regular season and Ezekiel Elliott managed just 2.6 YPC (12/31 rushing) last week. Jones saw a season-high 19 carries in this matchup back in Week 3, finishing with 19/82/1 rushing and 2/14 receiving. Dillon didn’t have much of a role at that time, posting just 6/18 rushing and 2/8 receiving on a 29% snap share.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 30.6 (30th)
Plays per game: 64.1 (25th)
Pass: 54.5% (29th) | Run: 45.5% (4th)
Pace: 31.9 (32nd)
Plays per game: 65.5 (17th)
Pass: 60.3% (19th) | Run: 39.7% (14th)
49ers-Packers is one of 3 regular season rematches this weekend – these two teams met back in Week 3 for a fun one on SNF. The 49ers were missing Eli Mitchell in that game and struggled mightily to run the ball, but they still managed to hang around and eventually take the lead in the closing seconds before Aaron Rodgers drove down the field with 30 seconds left to go and set them up for a game winning 51-yard FG. Despite dominating the first-half, Green Bay won by two in a game that scored 58 total points.
The biggest difference between this meeting and the last is the 49ers run game is hitting its stride after Mitchell and Deebo Samuel are fresh off of whipping Dallas for 168 yards and 2 TDs. Obviously, the 49ers would love a repeat of last week where Jimmy Garoppolo only threw it 25 times and they certainly have a great matchup here – the Packers ended the regular season 28th in FootballOutsiders Run Defense DVOA metrics. Green Bay wasn’t really tested on the ground in four of their final 5 games (vs. Bears, Ravens, Vikings – without Cousins, and Lions), but this defense came unglued in Week 16 as Nick Chubb and D’Ernest Johnson ripped them for 184 yards on just 21 carries.
Tendency wise, the Packers are pretty much the same team now as they were back in Week 3. They are balanced on early-downs (52% pass | 48% run) and absolutely dominate time-of-possession with Aaron Rodgers repeating as MVP and a ground game that has gotten better as the year has gone on. Green Bay ended the season as the league leaders in time of possession (3:18 per drive) over their AFC counterparts (Chiefs – 3:08 and Titans – 3:04).
Overall, this game is the slowest matchup – by far – in combined pace / plays between these two offenses that were bottom-3 in seconds per play this season. Between the Packers clock-killing offense and the 49ers wanting Jimmy G to just manage the game, this matchup is deserving of the lowest total on the board (46.5 O/U as of Thursday morning) but there are some pathways for this game to shootout if the 49ers rip off explosive plays on the ground. The weather at Lambeau on Saturday looks good and each of the last four playoff games in Green Bay have gone off for at least 50 combined points.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
The game-time temperature on Lambeau Field will be around 8℉ and feel like -6℉. In the last 14 games played on Lambeau Field with below freezing temperatures, the Packers are 14-2, and Aaron Rodgers has completed 71% of his attempts for 32 TDs vs. two INTs. It just so happens that both of Rodgers’ two defeats in sub-freezing Green Bay temps concluded his 2020 and 2019 postseasons. And that ‘19 defeat came at the hands of San Francisco (20-37), when the 49ers went on to lose to Kansas City (20-31) in Super Bowl LIV.
Another commodity that will be in Rodgers’ pocket will be his favorite weapon, Davante Adams. During those last 14 below-freezing games at home, Tae has averaged 8.8 receptions, 111.9 yards, 1.5 TDs, and 29.0 FPG. During his last three games against SF, dating back to that defeat in the ‘19 Conference Championship, Adams has averaged a 10/148/0.7 line (29.1 FPG).
While he may have missed six games this season, Kyle Shanahan and Mike McDaniel have zero reservations riding Elijah Mitchell as their bell-cow property. When he’s been active, he’s carried 83.9% of the RB carry share. And, in the 49ers’ Wildcard victory over the Cowboys, Mitchell took 100% of the RB carries. While searching for every possible weakness in the Green Bay defense, one of the only two vulnerabilities I was able to locate is against the run. The Packers have allotted 4.7 YPC (third-most), 1.88 goal-to-go (GTG) carries/game (14th-most), a 30.4% rushing first down rate (the highest), and 10.0 FPG through the air to RBs (13th-most).
Dolan’s Vantage Points
I like these playoff games and these small slates because it really gives some talented writers the chance to spread their wings. I liked this extremely thorough piece from The Athletic on both sides of the ball here.
Aggressive Aaron Rodgers, run-game momentum: What film and analytics reveal about 49ers-Packers matchup— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) January 20, 2022
How both teams have evolved since their week 3 matchup and what it means for Shanahan and Lefleur’s fifth head-to-head https://t.co/sykY3woCIa
The Packers are 28th in run defense DVOA, and given the fact that the Niners are throwing QB Jimmy Garoppolo out there with injuries to both his throwing hand and shoulder — along with some questionable decisions he tends to make — you would have to think the Niners are going to try to put this game on the shoulders of Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel.
As the duo points out in the above article, the run game and throws over the middle — which should benefit TE George Kittle — will be critical in attacking these Packers. The Niners run it better now than they did back in Week 3, when Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, and Raheem Mostert were all hurt — Trey Sermon was their top back that week and posted just 10/31/1 rushing.
In addition to Garoppolo’s injuries, the 49ers’ run game will be so important because of some of the key defensive players the Packers could be getting back — namely top CB Jaire Alexander and EDGE Za’Darius Smith. Alexander would make things tough on Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
Billy Turner is “good to go.”— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) January 20, 2022
Jaire Alexander is questionable.
Za’Darius Smith will be activated off IR tomorrow if he’s going to play. https://t.co/0G1s4f68eu
The Packers are expected to activate Pro Bowl pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith for Saturday’s playoff game against 49ers, per sources. Smith has been gearing up to be available for this game and the plan has been for him to play barring late change. First action since Week 1 for Smith— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 21, 2022
Obviously, the Packers’ offense will benefit from LT David Bakhtiari playing (he’s expected to as he played in Week 18), but don’t discount the importance of losing Marquez Valdes-Scantling (back), as he can stretch this 49er secondary. Without him, Randall Cobb will be back manning the slot, but Allen Lazard is likely to be the biggest beneficiary of Aaron Rodgers’ attention against this undermanned cornerback group. Rodgers would obviously love to see Bakhtiari back in the lineup, and if Nick Bosa (concussion) can’t play, that’s another boon for the Packer offense.
And while rookie CB Ambry Thomas has struggled for the 49ers this year, he’s played better of late. His potential absence with a knee injury is good news for Rodgers.
Shanahan on Ambry Thomas’ bone bruise (in knee): “I’m hoping he’ll go… I think he’ll be all right, but we’ll see how he is on game day."— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) January 20, 2022
The Niners did get some good defensive news, though — star LB Fred Warner (ankle) will play, despite his injury looking serious at the time he suffered it against Dallas last week. That will be a big factor in defending the Packers’ top-10 run game.