|NFC Preview: San Fran vs. Green Bay
|Written by Chris Coleman.
Aaron Rodgers is one of the most compelling players in the NFL. Not only because he is one of the league’s best three quarterbacks, a former MVP and a Super Bowl champ. Yes, those things make him great. But what makes him such good copy for writers is the incredible chip he carries on his shoulder.
60 Minutes revealed it earlier this season when his teammates talked about his sensitivity and when Rodgers opened up about everything from being passed over by several teams in the 2005 draft to, surprisingly, his height. Whoa. Dude IS sensitive.
As everyone knows by now, the 49ers passed over on the Cal graduate in the draft, opting for Alex Smith. You know him. He’s the guy sitting on the Niners bench. That’s gotta sting. You may also remember Rodgers telling a reporter on draft night that the Niners would regret their decision. This is where the rubber meats the road. Like a great revenge movie, Rodgers time has come.
And it has been building. People wrote the Packers off early in the season when they got off to a terrible start. Then they opened a can of whoop-ass against the Houston Texans on a Sunday night and silenced critics. Rodgers even went so far as to give a “ssshhhh …” when an ESPN sideline reporter asked what he had to say to those who doubted his team.
Yep … chip. Big chip.
While Rodgers has looked great of late, and I expect nothing short of perfection from him on Saturday night, he won’t be able to beat a team as solid all the way around as the Niners without some serious help. The Niners certainly want to pressure Rodgers, and though having DE Justin Smith banged up puts a damper on that pass attack, it must be remembered that the Niners are as good as it gets at stopping the run. So Rodgers may not be getting much help on the ground, even though DuJuan Harris has impressed at times this season. But the Packers only picked up 45 yards on the ground earlier this season when they lost, so don’t expect much to change there. Rodgers hit 10 different receivers last week, and NFL playoff record, so he is in sync with just about everyone on his offense.
That means all-Rodgers, all day. Luckily for him, unlike earlier in the season, his wide receivers are in excellent form. Rodgers favorite targer Greg Jennings is healthy again, James Jones is a burner and Randall Cobb can confuse defenses by lining up all over the place.
Ahmad Brooks and especially Aldon Smith should be able to get penetration up front, forcing Rodgers to move around. If they can get some sacks and win the field position game, the Niners will be able to grind some clock with Frank Gore pounding the ball.
But this game is probably going to come down to the X-factor of Colin Kaepernick. He is starting his first playoff game against a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But he’s not playing Rodgers, he’s playing a wicked Packers secondary that includes Tramon Williams, who will be blanketing Michael Crabtree, and Hall of Famer Charles Woodson, a cagey vet who will likely give the playoff rookie fits.
The Packers will try and blitz Kaepernick early and often to disrupt his timing and force a turnover. If the Packers can get one early and take a double-digit lead, admittedly tough, the Niners could be in big trouble.
This is where it gets fun. The Niners made a questionable move years ago in passing on Rodgers, but they made an even gutsier move earlier this year, benching a starting quarterback on a first place team. But that’s how Niners coach Jim Harbaugh likes to get down.
Rodgers may have a vendetta, but Harbaugh has a flare for the dramatic. It would be just like him to figure out a way to turn the revenge-story on its head and sprint into the NFC title game after sprinting out to console Rodgers.
The Line: Niners – 3
The Pick: Niners
Last updated on January 12, 2013.