Sunday afternoon, two of the best regular season teams of 2011 face off in what is unquestionably the NFL’s Game of the Week for Week 1.
The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, who went a combined 28-4 in the regular season last year (but only 2-2 in the playoffs) will be facing off on the not-yet-close-to-frozen-tundra of Lambeau Field.
So naturally, Packers fans (and part-owners!) Chris Callaway and Amanda Lawson and 49ers fan Jerod Morris had to have an epic smack talk battle. Fortunately, their battle also serves as a pretty well-rounded preview of what should be a great game.
JEROD MORRIS: So…Week 1 and the best team in the NFC from 2011 gets to face the team that let its fans down the most in 2011.
I know 49ers fans are feeling good: 13-3 regular season followed up by a sterling playoff performance that came only a backup punt returner away from making the Super Bowl. It was something be proud of.
Unlike the Packers, who teased their fans with meaningless regular season victories before dropping a smelly deuce right there at the 50-yard line in Lambeau once the playoffs started.
I mean, do we really need to preview this game? The Packers are better than the 49ers in one area: quarterback. Granted, that’s a big area, but Aaron Rodgers himself has said that Alex Smith is a very good player.
San Francisco wins 52 out of 53 positions. You win one. Whoop-di-do.
Good luck keeping it within 10 points.
CHRIS CALLAWAY: Hold on there just a second there, skippy.
While the Packers’ quarterback,who was essentially Mr. Irrelevant in the 2005 draft, is leaps and bounds better than the Niners’ #1 overall pick that season, there’s no chance that San Fran has the edge in the other 52 positions.
How dare you forget about Green Bay’s long snapper extraordinaire, Brett Goode? Easily one of the top four long snappers in the division.
So unless Joe Montaña himself walks through the tunnel onto the (not yet) Frozen Tundra, the 49ers won’t be leaving Lambeau with a win.
The Packers’ first team offense had no problems over the last two preseason games, and if they are clicking, we (and I can say we, as I am a part-owner) should have no problems.
I understand that San Fran might have a slightly better defense than some preseason schmucks, but with Aaron Rodgers I don’t think that will matter come Sunday.
I lay down inarguable points about the 49ers being better than Green Bay, and all you can come at me with is something about the long snapper? That’s it?
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2012 Green Bay Packers!
And seriously, I realize Aaron Rodgers racked up video game numbers against a bunch of subpar defenses in the regular season last year, but he didn’t face the 49ers’ indomitable D.
Green Bay certainly won’t be able to run on Patrick Willis and Co., and once the Packers are in obvious passing situations Aldon Smith will do what he does best and harass the living Favre out of your boy Rodgers.
For your all’s sake – since you are part owners and all – I just hope Rodgers makes it out of this game alive.
CHRIS: The thing with the running game is that we don’t need to actually rack up yardage in order to win.
What I’ve seen from Cedric Benson so far is enough. Just the threat of having a competent running back behind Rodgers does wonders. A half step from a linebacker or a d-back leaning the wrong way out of respect of a potential run is all that our quarterback needs to hit Jordy Nelson down the seam for a long gain.
If Benson can pick up 50 yards on 10 well-timed carries, including a few first downs, that will be all the Packers need.
And for what it’s worth, the Niners still need to score points too.
Frank Gore isn’t striking the fear of God into anyone anymore. Brandon Jacobs is just big. Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James could be something, but they’re not just yet.
And by the way, it’s the 2012 Randy Moss that will be starting on Sunday, not the 2007.
And it’s Alex Smith throwing him the ball in his general direction, not Tom Brady.
JEROD: Our coach is Jim Harbaugh.
Therefore, your argument is invalid.
CHRIS: The same Jim Harbaugh that has one less Super Bowl ring than Mike McCarthy?
JEROD: Mike McCarthy has been head coach in Green Bay for 6 seasons. And he has that one measly ring. Once Jim Harbaugh is in his sixth season, how many rings will he have? 2? 3?
That’s an unfair comparison.
Instead, compare their first seasons: Harbaugh went 13-3 with a team that was awful the year before and without the benefit of training camp. McCarthy went 8-8 with a 1st-ballot Hall of Famer at QB.
CHRIS: We’ll talk when Harbaugh gets that first one.
And for your first season argument, I believe the phrase to be used was that McCarthy was stuck with “just” a 1st-ballot Hall of Famer at QB, while potentially the greatest quarterback in the history of the world toiled on the bench.
And if you’re going to make the argument that the Packers went 6-10 in Rodgers’ first season, I’ll concede that it is a good argument. But we’re not talking history or Super Bowls or even bowls of soup. We’re talking one game, this Sunday, and the Packers have the advantage.
In the battle of offense vs. defense, give me the offense. It will be the aggressor, the team than can put the game away with the decisive score; that will be the team that wins.
And Sunday, which is all that matters, that team will be Green Bay.
JEROD: You’re right. None of the past stuff matters. All that matters is the 60 minutes on the field on Sunday.
Here is the deal: Green Bay’s offense is better than San Francisco’s offense. That isn’t debatable. And San Francisco’s defense is better than Green Bay’s defense. That also isn’t debatable.
But which team’s weaker side of the ball is better? Is San Francisco’s offense better than Green Bay’s defense?
With the addition of Randy Moss – whose mere presence whether it’s 2007, 2012, or 2025 will open up the field for guys like Crabtree and Davis – San Fran’s offense is going to be better than last year.
Plus, who cares about Frank Gore? He’ll still be good enough in the 12-15 touches he gets to make a difference. The guy to watch out for is Kendall Hunter. He has the explosiveness Gore has lost, and he’ll be key all season.
And that’s what is great about San Fran’s offense now. Look at all the play-making options: Moss, Crabtree, Manningham, Davis, Delanie Walker, Gore, Hunter, LaMichael James…it’s crazy.
Granted, it may take some time to get everyone on the same page, which won’t help out Sunday, but the personnel is far better than last year; and in the NFL, personnel usually wins out in the end.
Green Bay’s D, on the other hand, is relying more on rookies to make an impact. The 49ers are relying on proven players. I think San Fran’s O is better than Green Bay’s D.
And just in case you need a tie-breaker, no team has better specialists than the 49ers. Andy Lee, David Akers, and Ted Ginn are all among the NFL’s best at their respective kicking and returning roles.
(And a healthy Ginn would have meant a Super Bowl appearance for San Fran last year. But I digress…)
CHRIS: I’ll take your argument for the Niners offense and use it for the Packers defense.
Look at all of their playmakers: Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, BJ Raji, Sam Shields, plus guys like Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and Jerron McMillian. Whether or not you agree that the defense is a cohesive unit, that’s a lot of raw talent.
I don’t necessarily agree that the 49ers’ offense has better personnel based on name value alone. I do wholeheartedly agree with the fact that it will take some time for everyone to get on the same page. That applies for the San Fran offense just as much as it does for the Green Bay defense.
And to say that all those players are “proven” is a stretch. If they were, there wouldn’t be that many questions about the Niners’ O.
And as for special teams, it’s not like the Packers have a bunch of schmucks their either. I of course don’t need to remind you about the aforementioned long snapper Brett Goode.
And the trio of Tim Masthay at punter, Mason Crosby at kicker, and Randall Cobb at returner aren’t too shabby themselves.
JEROD: We’re straying off topic here though.
It’s a given that the Packers and the 49ers have two of the five best overall rosters in the NFL. There is no question. The Packers’ roster is perhaps better because they are superior at the most important position, but the 49ers are absolutely loaded with former #1 draft picks and guys who have made Pro Bowls.
This is going to be an epic battle. We can agree that the talent is plentiful, and it’s splitting hairs almost every position (save QB) for who is better.
But I’m expecting big things from Alex Smith this year – as in a Pro Bowl appearance. And no, I’m not joking. I’m on record already saying it. The way he played against the Saints in the playoffs last year showed me that he’s got some of the “It” that people have long thought he doesn’t have. So I don’t think the gap between Rodgers and Smith is QUITE as large as it is perhaps generally accepted to be.
I don’t think anyone would be surprised by anything other than a blowout between these two evenly matched teams.
So perhaps that should suggest an edge to Green Bay since San Fran is visiting Lambeau. But…Jim Harbaugh is a motivation master.
Remember the road trip last year when they didn’t even come back to San Fran and stayed out east for over a week? They won both games, which was a launching pad for the season.
I bet Harbaugh has viewed this game as a huge early-season statement possibility for his team, a good way to immediately resume last year’s positive mojo. And I trust Harbaugh.
So even though I can see the plausibility of arguments FOR Green Bay (despite my snark earlier), I’m going with gut feeling here and saying that the motivational genius of Jim Harbaugh provides the difference…because the two teams are close enough that silly stuff like that just might tip the scales.
CHRIS: I understand your point, but I’m not budging off my standpoint either.
I agree that the only surprising result would be a blowout. With the playoffs notwithstanding, the Packers are certainly much tougher to beat at Lambeau Field.
Remember Week 1 last year, where the Packers defense came up with a huge stop late to beat the New Orleans Saints 42-34? I see the same thing happening here, just not as high a scoring game.
CHRIS’ PREDICTION: Packers 31, 49ers 24
JEROD’S PREDICTION: 49ers 24, Packers 21
But wait! It’s time for PACKERS CO-OWNER Amanda’s thoughts!
AMANDA LAWSON: I don’t know where to interject so I will just add my final thoughts.
Jerod, you approach this game assuming the Packers have done nothing to improve their horrendous defense from last year. But that is not true.
After their weakness was revealed last winter, the Packers were forced to make changes. The addition of Nick Perry and moving Charles Woodson to safety will make a huge difference when the Pack is on the defensive side of the ball.
The Niners’ defense was fantastic last year. No one can or will deny it. But remember that the 2010 Packers defense helped win some of the crucial games that led the Packers to a Super Bowl Championship. One year or a few months can change a lot on a team.
Randy Moss was added to the Niners offense. Bite me. San Francisco’s offense isn’t nearly as versatile as the Packers. And even with the 49ers defense trying to get a crack at Rodgers’ thought process, he has more options than they can handle.
I haven’t bought into this “glorious” San Francisco team quite yet.
Lastly, it’s a home opener at Lambeau. Plus the Packers have all the frustration built up after failing to perform in the post season. They are hungry for a win.
So you know who Chris, Amanda, and Jerod think will win. And no surprises from any of them.
But who cares? They’re just idiot bloggers.
Who do you think will win?
Who will win the Week 1 NFC Championship Game preview?
- Green Bay Packers (56%, 22 Votes)
- San Francisco 49ers (44%, 17 Votes)
Total Voters: 39
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
- 49ers-Packers Date: Sunday, September 9
- 49ers-Packers Kickoff Time: 4:25 PM
- 49ers-Packers TV Network: FOX
- 49ers-Packers Point Spread: Packers -5.5
- 49ers-Packers Over-Under Odds: 45
- 49ers-Packers Pick by Steve (see all his Week 1 picks here): The 49ers were just a few mistakes away from being in the Super Bowl last season, and they did make it further than the Packers in the playoffs. This game should be a low-scoring affair, even though many would suspect the Packers to be able to score at least 24 points weekly. Usually they will, but not against San Fran’s D. It may be a stretch, but I have the 49ers taking this game. 49ers-Packers Pick: 49ers +5.5