Packers vs. 49ers: Preview, predictions, what to watch for

by 24USATVJan. 22, 2022, 2 p.m. 42
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An inside look at Saturday’s Packers-49ers NFC divisional matchup in Green Bay, Wis.:

Samuel is much more than a receiver who caught 77 passes this season. He also has become a running back and has produced eight rushing touchdowns.

So, yes, the Packers’ top cornerbacks — Jaire Alexander (questionable after not playing since Week 4), Rasul Douglas (five interceptions, two TDs in just 12 games), Eric Stokes (one INT) and Chandon Sullivan (three INTs) — have to deal with Samuel in pass patterns.

But Green Bay’s top LBs — DeVondre Campbell (146 tackles), Rashan Gary and Preston Smith — also must deal with him taking handoffs out of the backfield and try to contain him.

This has potential to be the best game of the weekend, and I expect a shootout. Aaron Rodgers will strike, because he always does. Jimmy Garoppolo will make some plays, mostly to Deebo Samuel, and keep it close. But Garoppolo is more susceptible to making the big mistake and he’ll make one more than Rodgers.

Giveth and taketh away: The Packers are plus-13 in turnover differential (26 takeaways and only 13 turnovers) and the 49ers are minus-4 (20 takeaways and 24 turnovers). That could be the difference in the game if regular-season form holds. Of the 49ers’ 24 turnovers this season, 17 came in their seven losses. And quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been responsible for 14 of the overall turnovers, with 12 picks and two lost fumbles. The Packers are 11-0 this season when forcing at least one turnover.

Catch me if you can: Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (123 receptions for 1,553 yards and 11 TDs this season) has historically dominated the 49ers. He has a combined 48 catches for 618 yards and five TDs in five career games against San Francisco. In his one playoff game against the 49ers (the 2019 NFC title game), Adams had nine catches for 138 yards. In the teams’ meeting earlier this season, Adams caught 12 passes for 132 yards and a TD in a 30-28 Packers victory.

Defending the run: The Packers’ defense ranked 11th in the league at stopping the run during the regular season. That, however, might be a misleading statistic considering so many teams have fallen behind the Packers and abandoned the run while in catch-up mode. The 49ers have no plans to abandon the run. The running game is the core of their offense, led by rookie back Elijah Mitchell, who rushed for 963 yards, a 4.7 yards-per-carry average and five TDs. He ran for 96 yards and a TD in last week’s wild-card win over the Cowboys.

Duck, Aaron: If linebacker Nick Bosa, coming off a concussion he suffered last weekend against Dallas, is fully recovered (he’s expected to play), the 49ers’ pass rush could be a handful for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Bosa has 15.5 sacks and 32 quarterback hits this season — remarkable numbers. He is complemented by defensive end Arik Armstead, who has six sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Disrupting Rodgers is the 49ers’ easiest path to victory.

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