Yesterday, my esteemed colleague David Fucillo over at Niners Nation invited me to give my opinion on a few under-the-radar players who will be important in this Sunday's game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers. In turn, Fooch agreed to return the favor for another preview, this time looking at specific reasons why his team will emerge victorious on Sunday. Of course, the Packers are no slouches, and I provided reasons of my own for the Packers' impending victory.
Let us know what you think in the comments and welcome in the 49ers fans who choose to join us from Niners Nation as we discuss Sunday's game.
Why the Packers Will Win
Balance. For the first time in a long time, the Packers have a true running threat, and that threat is named Eddie Lacy. With a dynamic running back behind Aaron Rodgers, teams will have to mix up their pass coverages and will not be able to sit back in a passive two-deep zone to take away the long ball. Lacy's running will also make play-fakes more effective, giving Rodgers more time to find his receivers and move the ball down the field. Finally, the short-yardage plays that gave the Packers' offense fits should be more easily converted with Lacy running the ball instead of John Kuhn, and he gives the offense a better rushing option in the red zone.
The depth along the defensive line will be the key for the Packers on that side of the ball. Gap integrity is the name of the game for the Packers' line, and based on the personnel available, they seem ready to use the base defense with a 3-man line much more frequently than they did in 2012. Johnny Jolly's return, Mike Daniels' development, and the addition of Datone Jones will make the line better-equipped to handle the gaps and allow the linebackers to flow to the ball. I think the Packers' secondary matches up very well with the receivers for the 49ers; but the linemen need to each fulfill their two-gap responsibilities and let the linebackers get the glory. If they can do so, the Packers will be better able to control the Niners' rushing attack, both on conventional runs and read-option plays, and will therefore earn the Packers a victory.
Why the 49ers Will Win
The 49ers will win this game because their offensive line controls the line of scrimmage throughout. There has been a lot of talk about the Packers defense getting a hand on Colin Kaepernick when he runs the read option. That is all well and good, but the 49ers do not use the read option nearly as often as people might like to think. I do think we will see some read option on Sunday, but I think the Packers can more fully expect a healthy dose of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. The 49ers have the best run-blocking line in the NFL. If they bring their A-game on Sunday, the 49ers will be in a position to dominate time of possession. They will be in a position where they can wear down the Packers, and Colin Kaepernick can then operate in a more traditional passing attack as needed. This game is as much about the 49ers overall rushing attack as it is about Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers will win this game on defense because their pass rush will show the improvement 49ers fans have been hoping for all offseason. The 49ers defense ran out of gas in January and February in large part because Justin Smith and Aldon Smith got hurt. The pass rush struggled, which in turn made it easier for quarterbacks to have their way with the 49ers secondary. The 49ers loaded up on defensive depth. If they bring a consistent pass rush on Sunday, they can win this game.
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