Primetime is appointment viewing in the NFL this week. Sunday night should be one hell of a game between two NFC title contenders as Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers into the San Francisco. This is a nightmare matchup for the Packers defense, but how confident can you be in fading Rodgers in primetime? Let’s find out.
49ers Offense vs. Packers Defense
The Packers have one of the worst run defenses in football. Green Bay is allowing 126.9 rushing yards per game, good for 25th in the NFL. They’re also ranked 28th in rushing D efficiency. And unfortunately for the Packers, the Niners love nothing more than shoving the run game down the opposition’s throat. San Francisco is averaging 149 rushing yards per game, second only to the Baltimore Ravens.
The 49ers have also amassed those numbers without their starting offensive tackles for half the season, and without their starting fullback for a handful of games. All three key blockers are now back and healthy for San Francisco.
Surprisingly, the 49ers ditched their normal run-first game plan last week, but that was likely matchup related as Arizona is a bottom-five team defending the pass. Jimmy Garoppolo had his way with the Cardinals secondary, going 34-45 for 445 yards with 4 TD to 2 INT. Instead of his normal role as a lead blocker in the power run game, fullback Kyle Juszczyk was a primary receiving option, catching seven of seven targets for 63 yards. Overall, Garoppolo found 10 different targets during the game, and none of them were named George Kittle.
Kittle is the 49ers best receiving threat, and his availability on Sunday night will be a massive factor to keep track of. The Packers are one of the worst teams in the league at defending opposing tight ends, and if Kittle can play, the 49ers offense should have little problem moving up and down the field. Kittle is expected to be a game-time decision as he tries to come back from a helmet hit to the knee in Week 9.
The Green Bay pass defense is middle of the pack and considering how well Garoppolo spread the ball around last week, he’ll likely find success through the air regardless of Kittle’s status. Jimmy G ranks 5th in the league in on-target percentage and ranks 13th overall in QBR, one spot ahead of Aaron Rodgers.
Packers Offense vs. 49ers Defense
The Packers are one of the best, and one of the most balanced offenses in the NFL. They rank 4th overall in passing efficiency and 4th overall in rushing efficiency. To combat that, the Niners have the 2nd ranked pass defense, and the 19th ranked rushing defense.
What’s even more impressive about Green Bay’s numbers is that the Packers offense was operating without their #1 receiver Davante Adams for the month of October. Adams returned for the team’s last two games but is still dealing with a toe injury. Despite having the bye week to rest, Adams was a limited participant on Wednesday and has not reached the endzone yet in 2019.
Even though he’s missed four games, Adams leads the Packers in receiving yards with 537. Second is Marquez Valdes-Scantling with 420, followed by Aaron Jones with 354, and Jimmy Graham with 310.
The 49ers have been top two in passing defense all year, behind just the Patriots, but their rush defense has also improved in recent weeks. The key for the Packers on offense will be establishing the run game to open passing lanes. Ultimately, Aaron Rodgers' ability to beat the 49ers pass defense will likely determine the outcome of the game.
The Spread and Total
The look-ahead line here was San Francisco -3.5 points. The opening number was adjusted down to San Fran -3, most likely due to their shaky performance hosting the Cardinals in Week 11. The line has held steady at -3 throughout the week with action evenly split between both teams. The Packers have gained slightly more support in ticket count, with 56% of the bets on Green Bay. The money though remains evenly divided with 51% of the dollars wagered on San Francisco.
I would not expect this number to move off the key number of 3 anytime soon. The only thing that would move the number at this point is if George Kittle is active, and we likely won’t know his status until late afternoon on Sunday. If you want to bet on the 49ers, do it now while the number is still -3 as it’s very unlikely that this number will come down to -2.5.
The total opened at 46 points and has been bet up to 47.5 or 48 depending on the outlet. Both teams should be focused on running the ball, which could keep the number under the total. But both teams also have ways to exploit the other team’s defense, so it’s easy to see the total going either way.