Free NFL Pick: San Francisco at Green Bay 12-05-2010

December 4, 2010


San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers

Sunday December 5th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Green Bay -10


The 4-7 San Francisco 49ers have somehow crept back into relevancy after a dominating Monday Night performance against the Arizona Cardinals. Now one game out of first place, the 49ers still face three division opponents this season. Their two non-division games will be against San Diego and their opponent on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers are one of the best teams in the NFL. They are 7-4, with all four of their losses being three point deficits, two of them in overtime. The Packers have been banged up beyond recognition, but the team has rallied around their strengths and though they are one game behind the 8-3 Bears, it is safe to say they will be able to slip into a Wild Card slot, should they finish the season second in the NFC North.

Keys to the Game:

  • Greg Jennings has become one of the most dangerous targets in the NFL. It seems as though he catches everything thrown his way and he has breakaway speed. Having Aaron Rodgers on your team means the passing game is going to be prolific, but Jennings has proven to be one of the most dominating forces on the Packers. With back to back 100 yard games, Jennings will look to extend his streak to three against the 49ers.
  • Patrick Willis is playing the best football of his career. A few weeks ago, it looked like Willis was out of sorts, making tackles five yards down field and struggling in pass coverage. In eight games with only one sack, Willis has four in his last three games. The 49ers are getting pressure with Willis and should continue to send him when they face Rodgers. Putting pressure on Rodgers leaves pass coverage vulnerable. Failing to do so makes the Packers unstoppable.
  • Aaron Rodgers probably loves playing the 49ers. The 49ers passed on Rodgers and went with Alex Smith at number one, a decision they have payed for dearly. Rodgers is one of the best in the game. He gives the Packers stability, even when it seems the entire team is falling apart with injuries. Rodgers hasn’t thrown a pick since Week 7. In his last three games, his QB rating has been at least 114.5. Rodgers is playing lights out with playoffs on the line. He won’t need his best performance to knock off the 49ers, but San Francisco is likely to see it.
  • Frank Gore is out on the IR, but don’t expect the 49ers to change the way they operate. The 49ers will continue to run power offense with Brian Westbrook at running back. It is unclear how many carries rookie Anthony Dixon will get, but Westbrook looks like he will get the vast majority of touches, due to his experience and versatility.
  • The Packers have an experienced secondary led by Charles Woodson. Troy Smith is still raw at quarterback, and while he has limited his interceptions to one this season, if there is a secondary that can confuse him and take advantage of his decisions, it’s the Green Bay Packers. While the interception he threw was Michael Crabtree’s fault and Smith does an excellent job of playing smart football, we will see how he responds to the combination of covered receivers and a ton of pressure off the edge.
  • The 49er receivers need to be the difference in this game. With a young quarterback, a banged up young offensive line, and their biggest offensive threat sidelined with a broken hip, the receiving corp needs to be at their very best to compete against the Packers. Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Josh Morgan, and Brian Westbrook give Smith a wide range of targets at his disposal. The 49ers like to put hte ball on the ground, but if the Packers shut them down, changing the game plan and getting the ball into the hands of playmakers down the field is a necessity.

Key Matchup:

Anthony Davis Vs. Clay Matthews

  • Anthony Davis has had a season full of growing pains. It isn’t his fault, as he was expected to come in as a rookie and completely turn around the right tackle position in his rookie season. With line coach Mike Solari, the 49ers have given Davis the tools to improve week to week. Last week, Davis had one of his strongest outings of his rookie season. This week, he will face his most difficult challenge of the season.
  • Clay Matthews is the new standard for outside linebackers in the 3-4. He can attack from both sides of the field, making it difficult for offenses to key on him. Matthews has 11.5 sacks and has not been held without a sack in back to back games he has played in this season. Rookie Anthony Davis will not be expected to handle Matthews alone, so look for Matthews to be hit by Vernon Davis, Anthony Davis, and possibly Brian Westbrook before he has a shot at Troy Smith. Smith loves to get outside the pocket to extend plays. The 49ers could use this to their advantage, as long as they roll away from Clay Matthews.

Wrap Up:

The 49ers and Packers are both one game out of first place, but neither team is in must win mode. While it seems likely that the 49ers will lose, it seems impossible they will lose by more than one score. Since Troy Smith has gone under center, the team is 3-1. Their loss to Tampa Bay at home displayed their inability to change the game plan during the game.

With no Gore, if the 49ers can’t move the ball on the ground it is safe to say they will look down the field. The Packers and 49ers have been involved in close games all season. It appears this one will shake out in a similar fashion.

Free NFL Pick: San Francisco +10

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