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5 Questions with the Enemy: Packers and 49ers are familiar, yet unfamiliar, opponents

Both teams have changed quite a bit since their last playoff meeting two years ago.

Syndication: PackersNews Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The young Green Bay Packers are keeping it rolling.

They’re in final preparations for a divisional round matchup against the San Francisco 49ers with a trip to the NFC Championship game on the line. It’s a spot not many expected the Packers to be in, and after blowing out the Dallas Cowboys last week Green Bay has gotten the league’s attention.

Now they face a familiar face in the divisional round. It’s the third time in four playoff trips under Matt LaFleur that the Packers face the 49ers. Green Bay lost the previous two.

Will this time be different? APC sat down with our sister site Niners Nation to talk about the big divisional matchup in Five Questions with the Enemy.

1. The 49ers and the Packers meet again but both teams have changed drastically since their last playoff meeting. What’s the biggest improvement San Francisco has made since that last playoff matchup?

Quarterback is the obvious one. Purdy is an upgrade over Jimmy G in a lot of different ways. I could go on and on but I’ll save you all from that bloated answer. Instead, I would also say the level of playmakers. In barely any time they’ve added the best running back in football. Brandon Aiyuk has developed into a true number one receiver. Even on defense, Bosa is now playing next to guys like Chase Young and Javon Hargrave. The backend grabbed a true number one corner (and 2nd team all-pro) in Charvarius Ward. Talanoa Hufanga, who scored the lone touchdown on a blocked punt last time these teams met, hadn’t yet been a starter, let alone all-pro too (although he is still on IR and won’t be active in this contest). It’s just a roster full of guys that you can count on to do something special when it matters.

2. Brock Purdy has gone from Mr. Irrelevant to NFL MVP conversations. What are his biggest strengths and weaknesses since taking over as the starter?

Purdy’s biggest strengths are his confidence, creativity, and processing. He trusts what he sees and trusts his teammates. When plays break down he is capable of getting out of pressure and finding ways to keep the play alive and make something happen. And mentally he knows what to do pre and post snap to have the offense run at the highest level. He does have his weaknesses. I think people believe Niners fans are overhyping a guy that they see as a Jimmy G copycat (he is not). But we aren’t crazy. We aren’t blind. We can admit Purdy doesn’t have a strong arm when comparing him to the Mahomes and Allens of the world. But his arm isn’t as weak as people make it out to be. We also know he has a bit of a gunslinger mentality and since his arm strength isn’t elite it can get him in trouble. But man it is nice not being worried every time San Francisco drops back to pass.

3. George Kittle, Christian McCaffery, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel are quite the weapons who also excel at yards after the catch. What’s the key to slowing them down and minimize YAC?

Good tackling. Easier said than done. No one has really created the blueprint to slowing them down. Even in the Ravens game it felt like it was more a result of good defensive scheme and pressure that derailed the offense rather than preventing YAC for their skill players. But teams that are excellent in pursuit and fundamental in tackling have the best chance of stopping those guys.

4. Green Bay’s hot offense meets San Francisco’s stellar defense. Who’s one player Packers fans need to be aware of on defense they may not know and how can Matt LaFleur and Jordan Love successfully attack the 49er defense?

The Niners defense is full of household names. More lesser known would be a guy like Deommodore Lenoir who is the starting cornerback opposite Ward and will line up inside at nickel too. He’s been relied on at times this season in big moments and last year came up huge in the playoff win over Dallas. With the issues San Fran has had with slot receivers (which answers the second part to this question), Lenoir will have to bring his A-game if they get attacked inside. In addition to finding success from the slot, Green Bay might find some success on the ground. I think sticking to a rushing attack is important for teams looking to control the game against San Francisco and the 49ers have shown they are susceptible to teams with strong run blocking offensive lines and schemes.

5. The DraftKings Sportsbook has the 49ers as 9.5-point favorites. Do you think that’s a fair line and how do you predict the game will play out? Are there any prop bets you like?

I do think the line is fair. I know how good Green Bay has been the last 10 games of the year, but they still don’t seem like a finished product. The young receivers are playing much better and Jordan Love is playing efficiently, so I see the offense scoring points. But I have a hard time believing the Packers defense will find ways to consistently get stops against the Niners offense. The fact that the Packers have to travel to San Francisco, on a short week with the 49ers coming off a week of rest makes me think the home team wins and covers.