Sunday, December 05, 2010

Packers - 49ers Preview

It's less than two hours to kickoff at a nippy (that's Wisconsin-ese for cold) Lambeau Field. It's the first game the Green Bay Packers have played back home since whupping the Cowboys back on Nov. 7. The weather has changed a bit since then. Today the forecast is for temps in the mid-20s and windy.

December, as we all know -- or are at least told -- is when the running game is supposed to carry the day in these bad weather games. Now, for folks outside of the Midwest, let's just say upfront that temperatures in the mid-20s is not exactly bad weather. At least for these parts. But cold and wind can affect the passing game. Given the fact that the weak spot of the Packers' offense is its running game, or more appropriately, lack thereof, this could be a concern. It shouldn't be today, however,

The 49ers have a decent run defense. But that's a bit moot when you're playing a team like the Packers who don't count on much from their running game anyway, right? Of course right. So, given that Aaron Rodgers doesn't seem to be bothered by the cold, expect the Pack to continue to do what they do, which is to spread out the defense and attack through the air. There should be plenty of opportunities to do just that today. Yes, it will be to the Packers' advantage for the rest of the season if they at least can muster a token rushing attack. But, the Packers are who they are and, perhaps more specifically, head coach Mike McCarthy is who he is, and the Pack's offense is centered around the passing game. It will either work or not like it is for the rest of the season. You just have to hope, however, they figure out how to rush for a yard or two at the goal line or to convert first downs on 3rd-and-one.

As for the Packers defense, they should have a good day going against the 49ers QB, Troy Smith. He's led the Niners to three wins in the last four games since replacing Alex Smith. He's more of a scrambler than a passer, which can cause some problems for a team like the Pack. But he's no Michael Vick. TE Vernon Davis is the 49ers version of Jermichael Finley. He can cause problems. And it's possible that LB A. J. Hawk might be matched up on coverage of Davis. Hawk has done a better job in coverage this year than last, but this is one of the times that the absence of Brandon Chillar might be very evident. The Packers should be able to handle the 49ers running game, although last week Brian Westbrook looked like the player of old, replacing Frank Gore and rushing for more than 100 yards. Westbrook always seemed to cause the Pack headaches when he was with Philadelphia. Let's hope those days are long gone.

There are many other aspects of this game which we could break down, including special teams which is always an adventure with the Packers. We don't, for example, know how Sam Shields will field kickoffs for the first time in cold weather. Nor do we know how punter Tim Masthay will punt in these conditions. Keep your fingers crossed that special teams do not cost the Packers a win again. Honestly, though, if it comes down to the special teams deciding the outcome of this game in yet another 3-point situation, there were bigger problems in the game than just special teams. That's not going to happen today.

The Packers are favored by 9-1/2 points. For our part, we're calling this game Packers 31 - 49ers 17.

Go Pack Go!!!

BTW...the Packers will be wearing their throwback uniforms today. Brown helmets (an homage to the original leather helmet days) and blue jerseys honoring the 1929 championship team. Some are referring to the look as the "Powerball" uniforms. You'll see why when you watch the game or see the highlights.