The San Francisco 49ers picked up a hard-fought victory over their long-time rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, during Super Wild Card Weekend. San Francisco went into AT&T Stadium and won 23-17 in a game they controlled pretty much from the opening drive.
The 49ers scored a touchdown to start the game off and the only thing that kept the Cowboys in it was the fact that they had to settle for field goals in the first half. But, San Francisco led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, which proved to be too much for Dallas to overcome.
Now, their attention is turning to the No. 1 seed Green Bay Packers. Coming off of a bye, they could be getting a ton of reinforcements this week. Jaire Alexander, Whitney Mercilus, Randall Cobb and Za’Darius Smith, who have all been sidelined for extended periods of time, could all be back for this Divisional Round matchup.
Defeating the Packers at Lambeau Field is a tall task, but it is something the 49ers could very well pull off. Here are four reasons that San Francisco might just upset the Packers this weekend.
4. Improved Secondary
The biggest advantage that the Packers will have over the 49ers is with Davante Adams. Adams is an All-Pro wide receiver, so it is difficult to slow him down even when you have an elite pass defense.
San Francisco doesn’t have an elite pass defense, but they have improved from when these teams met back in Week 3. The 49ers have gotten things settled down with Emmanuel Mosley and Ambry Thomas taking over as the starting cornerbacks.
While Adams will likely still make some plays, San Francisco has to be more confident about their secondary holding up this time around than they were earlier in the season when it was still a question mark. In the first matchup in September, Adams caught 12 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. If they can keep him under the 100-yard mark, the 49ers will be in business.
3. Quick Passing Game
You never really know what you are going to get from the 49ers passing offense on any given week. Jimmy Garopppol has had some inconsistent performances, as he looks like a franchise quarterback one week and another he looks like he shouldn’t be on the field.
Sometimes, he even looks like that from quarter to quarter. He needs to keep his performance elevated for the 49ers to win the game, as it will come down to execution against Green Bay.
San Francisco has a great game plan in the passing game to take advantage of a Packers’ weakness. The Packers aren’t strong at the second level in pass coverage. For a team that runs as many slants as the 49ers do and with a weapon in George Kittle, they will take full advantage.
As long as Garoppolo is accurate with the ball, something he was unable to consistently do against the Cowboys, the 49ers’ offense will be humming.
2. Have Mental Advantage
To succeed at sports, you need to be physically prepared. However, it is just as important, and sometimes more important, to be mentally prepared as well.
There is a lot that goes into being mentally prepared. Knowing the playbook inside and out. Picking up on little things the opponents do that could present you a chance to take advantage of something. Or, sometimes, just knowing you have had success against a team can give you a mental edge.
For the 49er, they have that against the Packers, as they are 3-0 all-time against Aaron Rodgers in the postseason. The most recent matchup was in 2020 when the 49ers destroyed the Packers in the NFC Championship game en route to the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco knows they can beat Green Bay, which should give them confidence heading into the game.
1. Dynamic Rushing Game
The biggest advantage that the 49ers could hold over the Packers is in their run game. Green Bay has struggled against the run throughout the season, but taking a deeper dive, you will find that it is one specific area they struggle in.
If teams try running between the tackles, the Packers have some success slowing them down. It is when teams run to the edge that they struggle. As a team whose run game is predicated on outside zone run plays, the 49ers have a distinct advantage.
Elijah Mitchell was not in the lineup during the first matchup in the regular season, but will be this time and is coming off a strong performance against the Cowboys. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel has also emerged as an option at running back, presenting even more athleticism for the Packers to combat coming out of the backfield.
If the 49ers are going to leave Lambeau Field with a victory, getting the run game going is their best chance of doing so. That will help them control the flow of the game and keep Rodgers on the sidelines.
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