(WFRV) – Twenty-eight NFL teams are on vacation, their season over. Four are left standing: Kansas City, Tennessee, San Francisco, and Green Bay.
The Packers face a formidable roadblock to a Super Bowl berth in Miami on February 2nd, as they return to the scene of their worst performances of the season: the West Coast.
Green Bay takes on the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers Sunday at 5:40 p.m. CT in the NFC Championship Game in Santa Clara, Calif., the low point of the Packers 13-3 regular season.
The 49ers blew them out, 37-8, at Levi Stadium on November 24. It was an abysmal performance by Green Bay and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose fumble on the first series foreshadowed the rout to come.
“No one likes to get blown out, but it happens,” NFL analyst Mike Ditka told Local 5. “Sometimes you start off on the wrong foot and it snowballs on you. It happens in the NFL.”
But a positive can be drawn from a negative in a rematch in the postseason.
“The Packers should be extra motivated,” Ditka said. “They know they whipped your butt. You know they whipped your butt. There had better be extra motivation or find another profession. You’d better be able to adjust and do something about it the next time.”
Nose guard Kenny Clark said it best in the Packers locker room Sunday after Green Bay’s thrilling 28-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson at Lambeau Field in a NFC Divisional Playoff game.
“I’m excited for the championship game and the 49ers,” said Clark, who starred at UCLA and grew up in Los Angeles. “We have a chance to do something special here. I’m not focused on what happened last time.”
“We have to go out there and play our best game in a hostile environment in order to get to the Super Bowl.”
To win, Green Bay will first have to eliminate the turnovers and penalties that plagued them in the first meeting. “We’re the underdogs,” Aaron Jones said. “We just need to be worried about ourselves.” The Packers will also have to sustain drives against arguably the NFL’s best defense, which allowed just one third-down conversion in 15 attempts in their last meeting.
Second, they must protect Rodgers and open holes for Jones—no easy task against the talented San Francisco defensive front of Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Sheldon Day, and Arik Armstead.
Third, the Packers defense must pressure 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and contain Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle, who torched the Green Bay defense with six receptions for 129 yards and a back-breaking long touchdown.
“Kittle is like a power forward in the NBA—so big, so strong, so fast,” Ditka said. “That’s a tough matchup for any defense. Green Bay will have to figure out how to contain him and not let Kittle make big plays like last time.”
Green Bay has elevated its overall play in winning six straights games, but is a decided underdog against a balanced San Francisco team on its home field.
“The 49ers have it all, great defense, strong running game, solid quarterback, great receivers,” the former NFL head coach said. “They really don’t have any weaknesses. They are going to be really tough to beat at home. But Aaron Rodgers can elevate his game and his team with his play. Don’t count the Packers out.”
Championship Weekend Picks
- 49ers. SF’s overall depth and stellar defense are too much for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers to overcome. 49ers 30, Packers 24.