If you read many NFL previews this year there tend to be two teams that float to the top of NFC favorites, the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers.The two franchises are an interesting parallel of each other with a deeply intertwined history over the past two decades. Recently, the two teams each represent the two differing schools of thought on how to build a football team. The Niners show the classic strong defense and strong running game approach. The Packers have the high powered passing game and aggressive secondary approach that has been growing in popularity the last few years and which has tended to be favored in the rule changes. As it happens this game focuses strength versus strength, and as such a bit more of my attention on who to focus on will probably be slighted towards one side of the ball. These are the players I'm watching for this week:
1. Aaron Rodgers. I know, I know.....it's a cop out to some degree. Every week I could start with Rodgers and every week I would be right. Despite that, it's important to highlight Rodgers this week because this week is going to be a unique challenge. I think Shaun O'Hara over at NFL Network said it well, the Packers have to wear down the 49er defense. The problem O'Hara has is that he is still thinking like an offensive lineman as he is only talking about screens and draws. They are important, but he's forgetting about a great way to control the tempo of the game and gas the opposing team's defense....the no huddle. Rodgers runs the no huddle as well as anyone in this league right now. This ability to go in and out of the no huddle at will can cause stress for the defense, shrink their playbook, and minimize substitutions. This puts Rodgers in a unique position to control the flow game more than any other player on either team.
2. Jordy Nelson. In that same video from NFL Network you hear the Packers described as a fineness team. I get where that label comes from given the style of offense played and the team we are playing this week, but people who really believe that have never see Nelson truck dudes down with a stiff arm on a screen pass. He's more than just deep routes and is well able to push around DB's and break tackles. That sort of tough play and running is going to be needed this week.
3. B.J. Raji. Raji has something to prove this year. If he can hold down the middle of the field and cause havoc for the interior line than SF is going to have troubles all day. He has the ability, let's see if he can get the execution.
4. Nick Perry. I know what Clay Matthews can do when everything is counting on him, but what can Perry bring to the table? If he can bring pressure and draw attention away from Matthews than the Niners and rest of the league is in serious trouble.
5. Jermichael Finley. It's time to put your money where your mouth is J-Mike. I know he can do it and I know he can play big. Watching what Jimmy Graham was able to do against this defense last year makes me believe that this is game for Finley to show what a big time player he can be.
Previous game coverage
Game Preview | Five Niners To Watch On Sunday | Series History | Key Matchup - Newhouse vs. A. Smith | Key Matchup - A. Smith vs. Woodson | Key Matchup - Moss vs. Williams | Injury update | Fantasy outlook | Start/Sit advice | Week 1 picks | Biggest absence - Davon House |
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