Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Previewing 49ers’ Matchups: Green Bay Packers

Sep 26, 2021 at 4:38 PM--

After an exciting 2-0 start to the 2021 season for the San Francisco 49ers, the team looks forward to a prime time Sunday night matchup against the Green Bay Packers. The Niners claimed victories in two closer-than-expected games against the Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles, but back-to-back road wins still warrant a reasonable cause for optimism. The Niners will play their first game at home in Levi's Stadium in over 20 months, something local fans are sure to enjoy.

Unfortunately for San Francisco, though, they will be facing a potent Packers team that is the toughest competition they have faced through the early season stretch. The Packers did have a humiliating loss against the Saints in Week 1 but bounced back in a considerable way in a matchup against the Detroit Lions that had a blowout score of 35-17. This Green Bay team looks to once again be an NFC powerhouse team during the 2021 season and the Niners finally have a real cause for concern.

Let's first start off by checking out the notable injuries the Packers are facing this weekend:

  • OT David Bakhtiari, Physically Unable to Perform (August 31)
  • LB Za'Darius Smith, Injured Reserve (September 17)
  • OG Elgton Jenkins, Out (September 27)

Now let's hop into the actual roster and its strengths and weaknesses


1. Offensive Playmaking
This should be the most obvious strong point of the Packers. Aaron Rodgers has been in the conversation for being the best and most talented quarterback in the league over the better part of the past decade, and it looks like he hasn't lost much juice even at the age of 37. Rodgers claimed MVP honors last season while throwing for 4,299 yards and 48 touchdowns, leading the Packers to a 13-3 record and the NFC Championship Game. Despite the turmoil around his future playing career with Green Bay, Rodgers proved his ability hasn't been affected in the Detroit Lions victory.

Then we get to skill positions of wide receivers and running backs. Both units have dominant superstars at their respective positions: Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. Both players balled out in the Lions bout with Jones starring with 4 total touchdowns and 115 yards from scrimmage. The position groups still possess depth behind the top 2 players. The wide receiver room may not feature another star, but it still gives defenses something to think about with the deep threat abilities of Allen Lazard and Marques Valding Scantling in unison with the short-range Randall Cobb option. Behind Jones is valuable 2020 second-round pick AJ Dillon, whose big body frame allows him to be an optimal power back to wrap up games.

The 49ers seemed to have a difficult time containing running backs during their Week 1 game but seemed to do a little better last week against the Eagles with the return of defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw from injury. The Packers will look to exploit a relatively weak Niners secondary that lacks depth behind Emmanuel Moseley and have a lot of questionable starting-caliber pieces in Josh Norman, Deommodore Lenoir, and more.

2. Secondary/Defensive Backs
One of the most underrated aspects of the Green Bay Packers roster is the quality of their secondary and how well they play against opposing wideouts and tight ends. The obvious star of this unit is perennial Pro-Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander, who has broken up 30 passes over his last two years in the league. The consensus is that he is a top 3 corner in the league and his simple presence disrupts the flow of an offense over the course of a game. Alexander might focus his services on rising wide receiver Deebo Samuel in this game, though Samuel has been successful in the past while being shadowed by superstar cornerbacks like Jalen Ramsey.

Behind Alexander is a solid duo of cornerbacks: Kevin King and Eric Stokes. King always seems to be part of the occasional big play highlight reel by wide receivers, for example, against the Buccaneers during the 2020 season. However, when you look past these plays, he is a very starting DB, as he has defended 20 passes and picked up 5 interceptions between the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

The safety tandem of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage also does a solid job in coverage and in special packages at the line of scrimmage. George Kittle may get the occasional assignment against these two.

The 49ers have had a solid history against this unit, though, as even Richie James Jr. had the best game of his career against the Packers, picking up over 180 receiving yards.


1. Offensive Line
This weakness often goes under the radar for this Green Bay Packers team. Historically, over the Aaron Rodgers era, the Packers front office has surrounded the quarterback with ample protection so that he has enough time to use that rocket arm of his. Unfortunately, the offensive line in 2021 isn't what it once was, especially this week against the 49ers. The unit lost star center Corey Lindsley to the Chargers and former starting offensive guard Lane Taylor to the Texans, and the team definitely missed their presence during the first two weeks. Both the Lions and the Saints put widespread pressure on Rodgers and successfully shut out the quarterback at times.

A recurring pattern with Aaron Rodgers is that he doesn't deal well with surging pressure. We saw it last year when they faced the Buccaneers and in 2019-2020 when they lost twice against the 49ers. The commonality between the two teams was historically dominant defensive lines that put up QB pressures against any offense, no matter how dynamic it is.

Now, with another key injury to Pro-Bowl Elgton Jenkins, expect a very strong 49ers defensive line to dominate the line of scrimmage and make the Packers' quarterback very uncomfortable in the pocket.

2. Front 7 (Run Defense)
This is the more evident weakness in the Packers defense, with most teams feeling that they can exploit this unit to get their offense clicking. The defensive line may do a solid job with pass defense, but against the run, their effectiveness is very subpar. Pro Bowl DT Frank Clark is definitely the piece of the line that helps out the most in guarding the run, but the overall front 7 allowed an absurd 113 rushing yards per game in 2020. The most notable run defense failures came in the Packers' playoff runs over the last two years. 49ers fans may remember when Raheem Mostert and the rest of the running back committee dominated the time of possession and the offensive showing during the 2020 Super Bowl run.

Even more, linebacker Za'Darious Smith is out for the game against San Francisco, which not only limits the pressure on Niners quarterback Jimmy Garapolo but also allows the run game to flourish even more with the whole offense opening up.

What's good for the Packers, however, is that the running back position for the 49ers is decimated health-wise at the moment. Raheem Mostert is out for the season, Elijah Mitchell is out with a shoulder injury, and Jamychal Hasty is on the Injured Reserve now. This leaves an inexperienced Trey Sermon to start the game with former Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson as his backup (elevated from the practice squad). This crop will be one of the 49ers' biggest holes in this matchup and the Packers should be fine against them this week.


In a close game with prominent injuries on both sides, I expect the 49ers to continue their winning streak against a Packers team that has a lot of questions surrounding it at the moment.
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