NFC Division Round: Packers vs. Niners; Spread and Predictions

Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

Don’t think for a second that Saturday night’s division round playoff matchup between the San Francisco 49ers (-3) and the Green Bay Packers (+3) warrant the same result as the Week 1 at Lambeau Field, a result that favored the Niners.

For one, Saturday’s game has a whole lot more at stake, a chance to advance to the NFC Championship Game (a place both teams are recently familiar with).

Injuries could be a vital concern in the divisional round playoff matchup. First, the Packers have a slew of starters questionable for Saturday’s game, including WR Jordy Nelson (knee), WR Jarrett Boykin (ankle), DB Davon House (shoulder), RB Alex Green (concussion), RB James Starks (knee).

Meanwhile, the Niners are a bit more healthy. The big injuries come in their wide receiver core, where the team will be without Kyle Williams (knee) and Mario Manningham (knee). DE Justin Smith (tricep) is still listed as probable for the game, which is a positive sign for San Francisco’s defense.

If he plays, the Niners are a completely different defense, one that leads the league in points and yards allowed. Without him, offenses like the upstart Seattle Seahawks and the more polished New England Patriots have torched them for more than 80 points in just six quarters.

The key matchup in Saturday’s contest is Aaron Rodgers against the San Francisco defense pass rush. The Pro Bowl quarterback has once again put up exceptional numbers this season with a slightly improved offensive line from last season. Unfortunately, they could still remain vulnerable with DE Aldon Smith (league leader in sacks) becoming a force on the outside. He usually works a lot better with (Justin) Smith healthy to take up double teams on the line. Nonetheless, the matchup between Rodgers’ aerial assault and the Smiths’ blitz-happy defensive will be the deciding factor in Saturday’s game.

Prediction: The Packers have the more dynamic offense with Rodgers calling the shots. But the Niners boast an elite defense with six (defensive) players named to the Pro Bowl this season. Moreover, they have an improved offense with Colin Kaepernick under center. Though he is no Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck, he can still sling it downfield with plenty of accuracy and extend plays with his feet to keep drives alive. Niners 31, Packers 27

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