SANTA CLARA, Cal. (WBAY) - As the Green Bay Packers (8-2) get set for their game at the San Francisco 49ers (9-1), it’s time to get ready for kick with Dave Schroeder’s ‘Fast 5 Pack Facts.’
#1 Homefield implications: If the Packers win Sunday night, they will be on top of the NFC pack with 5 games to play. Green Bay can be in the drivers’ seat for the #1 seed with a win, but could be 1 slipup from the 6 seed with a loss. That’s because the NFC boasts 5 teams with 8 wins already, including the 8-3 Vikings, who are the current 6 seed. If the Packers post a 12-4 record with losses to the 49ers and Vikings, Green Bay could very likely end up as a wild card team. The Packers must keep winning.
#2 LaFleur’s connections: Packers coach Matt LaFleur has connections everywhere you look on the opposing sideline. His brother, Mike, is the 49ers offensive pass game coordinator. Matt tried to hire his brother to coach with him in Green Bay, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan rebuffed that attempt.
Shanahan himself coached with Matt LaFleur for 8 years at multiple NFL stops. The 49ers play caller taught LaFleur a lot of the offensive tactics he has utilized to start 8-2 as a head coach.
In this game, LaFleur will call offensive plays to attack the 49ers defense, which is guided by LaFleur’s old roommate as a graduate assistant at Central Michigan, Robert Saleh.
Shanahan, Saleh, and Mike LaFleur are some of Matt LaFleur’s closest friends in the entire game.
#3 Winning with variety: Green Bay isn’t exactly setting the world on fire in many statistical categories, but the Packers have achieved their 8-2 record by being good in different areas each week. The Packers are good at tailoring game plans to opponents’ weaknesses. Green Bay does, however, rank top-10 in the NFL in turnover margin, red zone offense, and red zone defense. Those are 3 key categories towards achieving the only goal that matters; winning.
#4 49ers defense: San Francisco boasts the NFC’s top defense in 5 categories: total defense, scoring defense, red zone defense, third down defense, and pass defense. The group is led by rookie Nick Bosa up front. The 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft has 7 sacks. Aaron Rodgers told me this week that the biggest difference for the 49ers defense this year has been its pass rush.
Last year San Francisco had the fewest takeaways (7) in NFL history. This year the pass rush is providing pressure, and the 49ers defense ranks 3rd in the league with 22 takeaways already.
#5 Tight end trouble: The Packers defense has struggled to defend tight ends all year. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine says is has not been one weakness week to week that is causing the breakdowns. Sunday the Packers may have to contend with arguably the NFL’s best tight end in George Kittle. Last year Kittle set the NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377.
Kittle has missed the 49ers’ last 2 games with ankle and knee injuries. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this morning that Kittle has been dealing with a broken bone in his ankle, but intends to play Sunday night.
As crazy as that sounds, Kittle is questionable to play on the 49ers official injury report. WR’s Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel are also listed as questionable and game-time decisions.
Prediction: Packers 32, 49ers 29
Tune in to Action 2 News at 5:30 pm for pregame reports as flip over after the game for Sunday Sports Night Cover 2 at 10:45 pm this week, as we will bring you live postgame coverage with press conferences by Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers after the game.