The start of the NFL season can’t get any better for fans of the Green Bay Packers or San Francisco 49ers. It’s the league’s premier offense (Green Bay, 35.0 points per game in 2011) up against the league’s premier defense (San Francisco, 14.3 points per game given up in 2011).
At Lambeau Field, the Packers have won their last eight games against the 49ers, can they make it nine straight?
San Francisco 49ers (0-0) Analysis: The 49ers had a breakout year under new Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, going 13-3 and earning the second overall seed in the playoffs. If not for some costly fumbles in the NFC Championship game, San Francisco would have been matched up against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Surprisingly, the 49ers bring back pretty much the same team as last season, including the entire defense which is super-rare in the NFL. On the offense, there are a few new faces: former New York Giants WR Mario Manningham and RB Brandon Jacobs as well as Packers-killer WR Randy Moss. Moss has scored 13 touchdowns against Green Bay, the most by any player in NFL history.
I would love to talk about the 49ers offense, but everyone knows this game will be about their defense and the Packers high-octane offense led by MVP QB Aaron Rodgers. Defensive Player of the Year candidates DT Justin Smith and LB Patrick Willis will be the key to containing Rodgers because he really hasn’t been stopped in his young career. When these two teams last met in 2010, Rodgers scorched the secondary for 298 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-16 win.
Green Bay Packers (0-0) Analysis: The Packers are coming off a historic 15-1 season where they were ousted in the second round of the playoffs by the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. You would be hard-pressed to find many people who won’t admit that the Packers were the best team for the majority of the regular season in 2011. However, it’s not how you start the season, but rather how you finish.
Green Bay’s offense shouldn’t miss a beat, but it’s the defense looking to make the biggest jump in 2012. Last season, they were absolutely atrocious with some of the worst ranks in the league, most notably dead last in total defense (411.6 ypg) and passing defense (299.8). All-Pro DB Charles Woodson will be playing in his 200th game on Sunday and moving back to the hybrid safety position. Woodson’s most important role this season will be helping impact rookies such as DE Nick Perry, DE Jerel Worthy and S Jeron McMillian.
On offense, the Packers newest addition is RB Cedric Benson who has a certain propensity to fumble the ball. Green Bay shouldn’t look to run the ball much, but when they do, Benson has to make it a priority to hold on to the rock with his life.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers 30 San Francisco 49ers 20
The 49ers and their “fearsome four” have the best run defense in the NFL, but that won’t matter much against the Packers who prefer to use Rodgers and the passing game anyways. The Packers have the luxury of spreading any team in the league out with their plethora of weapons through the air, including the 49ers. The Packers defense won’t look satisfactory out of the gate, but San Francisco’s signal-caller, Alex Smith, will throw an interception, something he did a superb job of avoiding last year. Expect the 49ers run-game to have a good day, but costly turnovers will be the difference at Lambeau Field.
TV Coverage: Fox at 3:35 CT
Betting Lines: Packers favored by 5 points and over/under set at 46.5 points.
2012 Record straight up: 0-0
2012 Record against the spread: 0-0
2012 Record in over/under: 0-0
Who do you think wins the battle between the Packers and 49ers at Lambeau Field? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.
Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith (orlandopolitics.net)
Patrick Willis (myspace.com)Follow paulmbanks