Week 9 of the NFL season gets kicked off on Thursday Night Football with an NFC Conference Championship rematch between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers. This one will look quite different from the NFC Championship game, as the 49ers have suffered injuries everywhere.
In this game, they will be without several key players. DE Nick Bosa, DE Solomon Thomas, CB Richard Sherman, RB Raheem Mostert, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, TE George Kittle. All of the players named were forceful impacts in the NFC Championship.
The 49ers are currently at the bottom of the NFC West with a record of 4-4. If they want to remain hopeful of making the playoffs, it starts with a win on Thursday.
On the other hand, the Packers are coming off of a bad loss to the Minnesota Vikings, in which they couldn’t contain Dalvin Cook. They weren’t physical enough and they should be blowing a sigh of relief as the 49ers’ backfield is all banged up.
If the Packers want any chance of remaining hopeful for the number one seed in the NFC, they need to pick up a victory over the 49ers.
Here are three X-Factors to keep your eye on for the Packers during this match-up.
TE Robert Tonyan
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan could have a lasting impact on this game. Make sure to keep your eye on him as the Packers’ offense is dealing with some injuries/COVID reserves themselves.
AJ Dillon, along with Jamal Williams, will miss this game due to COVID reasons.
With wide receiver Allen Lazard back on IR and running back Aaron Jones being banged up, it seems as if the Packers’ only offensive weapons are Davante Adams and Tonyan.
On the year, Tonyan has 309 receiving yards and five touchdowns. After Adams went down with an injury early in the year, Tonyan became Aaron Rodgers’ go-to-guy.
Even if Jones plays, he likely won’t be at 100 percent. Also, with the dominant performances that Adams has strung together in back-to-back weeks, expect the 49ers to be doubling him all night long. That leaves the door open for Tonyan to record another multiple scoring game.
DT Kenny Clark
Against the Vikings in Week 8, the Packers got manhandled up front. The Vikings constantly turned to their ground game and dared the Packers to stop them. The Packers’ defense folded as they were not physical enough.
Linebackers missed multiple tackles and the offensive line got great penetration, opening up big holes.
This week, the Green Bay front seven must set the tone early in this game. Cook was cooking all day long against the Packers, rushing for 163 yards, receiving for 63 yards, and scoring four total touchdowns. With all the injuries that San Francisco is dealing with, expect Kyle Shanahan to stick to his guns and pound the ball down the throats of the Packers.
Nose tackle Kenny Clark must be physical enough to avoid the offensive line in opening such big gaps. The 49ers run a lot of misdirection, with their offensive linemen moving, in what are called GAP plays. The physicality and tackling will start with Kenny Clark.
If he is able to slow down the 49ers’ run offense, then the Packers should have no problem beating this team.
CB Jaire Alexander
As it currently stands, Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander is the number one graded CB, according to PFF. The Packers are a middle of pack defense in terms of passing yards, currently allowing 227.6 yards per game. On Thursday night, they will be going up against a banged up 49ers team.
No Kittle, no Garoppolo, no Mostert, and no Samuel. The Niners are a west coast offense that like to run the ball down your throat, hit the quick plays with slants, ins, etc. They like to set up the play action and look for the big play down the field.
With all the injuries, Shanahan will be more conservative on the offensive side. But, Alexander needs to be ready to make some plays.
Although the 49ers’ offense is banged up, the Packers can still lockdown and apply pressure on the opposing quarterback. A turnover here or there can determine the outcome of this game.
Expect Alexander to have a big impact on this one. If Mullens decides to throw his way, he’ll make him pay and help lead his team victory.