Packers-49ers positional preview

Week 11 is upon us and it’s impossible to believe that we are that far into the 2019 season, yet here we are. This week brings us perhaps the best matchup of the season in the entire league. The 8-2 Green Bay Packers are headed to California to face the 9-1 San Francisco 49ers. I’m willing to bet that nobody before the season thought these teams would have three total losses between them when they would meet in November. But, again, here we are. The NFC is wide open, but the Packers and 49ers have established themselves as two of the favorites to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. So, let’s preview this matchup by going over each position group.

Quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers

49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo

Do I have to write anything? Garoppolo has proven he’s a legitimate starter, but he’s also on his way to proving that he is quite overpaid. Rodgers is the clear winner here.

Big Edge: Packers

Running Backs

Packers: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Danny Vitale

49ers: Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida

With Breida’s status up in the air, this becomes a bit easier to determine, though it’s still close. Coleman hasn’t been able to provide a lot of consistency; he has surpassed 90 rushing yards just twice and has been held to under 50 yards on the ground five times. He has split carries with Mostert and Breida, though, and he is capable of exploding at any time. If Breida is ruled out, so you can expect Coleman to get a bigger workload. Meanwhile, Jones and Williams have provided outstanding consistency for the Packers. Both backs have been huge weapons in the pass game as well, something that head coach Matt LeFleur has brought to light. However they will be going up against an elite San Francisco front seven. Meanwhile, the Packers have not been able to stop the run at all. Nonetheless, I think Jones and Williams take the slight edge.

Slight Edge: Packers

Receivers

Packers: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Jimmy Graham, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow

49ers: George Kittle, Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Marquise Goodwin, Ross Dewlley

The Packers have been able to put up great offensive numbers despite a largely unknown receiving corps. Outside of Adams, the depth chart is manned by late-round picks, undrafted ‘nobodies’, and one post-prime tight end. Still, guys like Lazard, Kumerow, and Valdes-Scantling have been able to make plays, even if they are few and far between. The 49ers may be without the best (or second best) tight end in the game, though head coach Kyle Shanahan is hopeful that Kittle will play. If he does, it could be a long day for a Packers defense that is notorious for struggling against tight ends. Samuel and Bourne have had solid seasons and Sanders gives the corps more depth, though his status, too, is in question. This matchup is as close to a push as you can really get, but I’m worried about the damage Kittle could do.

Very Slight Edge: 49ers

Offensive Line

Packers: David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Corey Linsley, Billy Turner, Bryan Bulaga

49ers: Justin Skule, Laken Tomlinson, Weston Richburg, Mike Pearson, Mike McGlinchey

As you know, there aren’t many stats to look at when talking or writing about offensive linemen. The Packers have provided Rodgers with sub-par protection and the running game’s success is largely due to the blocking up front. Jenkins should absolutely get consideration for Offensive Rookie of the Year and Bakhtiari continues to be the trusty blind-side protector despite his struggles this season. 49ers All-Pro left tackle Joe Staley is out and that’s a significant blow. Watch for one of or both of the Smiths to feast Sunday night. Because of Staley’s injury, this would-be-push becomes advantage Packers.

Edge: Packers

Front Seven

Packers: Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Kenny Clark, Blake Martinez, Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, Kyler Fackrell

49ers: Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, Fred Warner, D.J. Jones, Dre Greenlaw

There is no denying that Green Bay’s Smith brothers have been essential to the team’s success; they have combined for 18.5 sacks while nobody else on the team has recorded more than 1.5. Martinez is a tackling machine but is not known for his play in coverage. Bosa will be the unanimous Defensive Rookie of the Year and he could wreak havoc in the Green Bay backfield. Buckner and Ford have provided complementary troubles for offenses, though Ford’s status is unclear for Sunday night. At least five Niners have three or more sacks. San Francisco has the second best scoring defense and second best total defense in the league, so as good as the Smiths have been at hitting QBs, this one is fairly easy to decide.

Edge: 49ers

Secondary

Packers: Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Tramon Williams

49ers: Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, K’Waun Williams

San Francisco’s injury report is almost overwhelmingly long and it includes Witherspoon who is listed as questionable. If he is unable to go, Emmanuel Moseley and D.J. Reed Jr. will see more snaps. The Packers secondary has been very healthy aside from Savage’s few-week hiatus. Sherman is still one of the best in the league and Alexander looked to be the same early on but he has had his share of struggles lately. Amos and Savage have been very solid, but the defense has given up too many big plays and that has to partly fall on the safeties. The Niners have allowed the fewest passing yards in the league while the Packers rank 22nd in that realm. For that reason alone, San Fran wins this battle.

Big Edge: 49ers

Special Teams

Packers: Mason Crosby, J.K. Scott, Hunter Bradley, Tremon Smith

49ers: Chase McLaughlin, Mitch Wishnowsky, Kyle, Nelson, Richie James Jr.

In an era of the NFL where kick returns are non-existent and every punt return has a penalty, it can be hard to judge special team units outside of their kickers. Mason Crosby is still one of the best, and the 49ers could have one of the best in Robbie Gould but his status is still in question. If Gould misses another week, it will be the rookie McLaughlin who has been up and down during his first stint in the league. Scott has been booming punts all season for Green Bay, but the team’s punt and kick coverage teams still can’t seem to get it together. Still, I’ll give the Packers the edge because I’m tired of writing at this point.

Slight Edge: Packers

Recap

QB: Packers

RB: Packers

WR/TE: 49ers

OL: Packers

DL/LB: 49ers

CB/S: 49ers

ST: Packers

As you might have expected, the Packers appear to be more suited on offense while the 49ers clearly have the better defense. Sunday night’s game could be the most important of the regular season for both teams. It could determine whether the NFC Championship will be played near palm trees or on the frozen tundra.

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