Despite nearly every media outlet, analyst, and opinion piece counting the San Francisco 49ers out the entire season, the team has stubbornly defied the odds and is now preparing to host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

In a remarkable turnaround from last season's 4-12 record, San Francisco has met every challenge and won several different ways en route to an NFC-best 13-3 record with home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Each week, much of the media presented a scenario where the 49ers would finally lose, finally meet their match, and not be able to compete. Each week, San Francisco responded, winning nearly every game or losing at the buzzer.

Heading into the postseason, the narrative did not change. Jimmy Garoppolo and the young 49ers were apparently "not ready" for the Minnesota Vikings. Garoppolo answered the critics on the first drive that was finished with a touchdown. After that, Minnesota was dialed in to the passing attack. It did not matter. The ground game took over.

Garoppolo may not put up Madden or top 3 Fantasy Football numbers each week, though he has at times. He doesn't have to. This 49ers team is a complete team that can beat teams several ways. The media pundits will continue to throw shade at Jimmy G and the 49ers and for another week, they will probably be wrong. This team is loose, focused, and now most importantly, healthy.

The Green Bay Packers played perhaps their best game of the season against Seattle. Seattle may have been shorthanded but it didn't matter. The Packers looked better, were more balanced, and got after Russell Wilson. Green Bay held off a Seattle comeback and held off the Seahawks 28-23.

When and Where: Sunday January 19, 2020 - 3:30 PM PST - Levi's Stadium

Here are the keys to the game:

1) Ensure Aaron Jones Does Not Take Over the Game


When Aaron Jones has a big day, the Packers win. Against the 49ers in November, he was limited to 13 carries, 38 yards, and a low 2.9 yards per carry.

Jones has been a scoring machine this year, finding the end zone a total of 21 times, including last week. While there has not been a steady statistical pattern of the Packers' success when Aaron Jones scores or has a good day, Green Bay is much better when he plays well.

Similar to Dalvin Cook, San Francisco needs to limit Aaron Jones and force Aaron Rodgers to throw, hopefully while behind in the score.

If the 49ers stop Jones like they did last time, the pass rush will have a great chance to do what it does best and make life miserable for Aaron Rodgers. It starts with the ground game and the 49ers will be up for the challenge.

2) Commit Zero Turnovers on Offense



Jimmy Garoppolo made a mistake and threw an interception last week. Fortunately, the Vikings only turned it into three points, but the 49ers cannot afford to give the Packers opportunities to keep the game close and hang around.

While the 49ers have committed turnovers at various times during the season, by and large they have not prevented the team from collecting wins. However, turnovers have turned several games into the nail-biters that bring all of our heart rates and blood pressures way up.

In this game for the right to go to the Super Bowl, the offense has to play better and ensure it doesn't give Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay anything that could allow them to steal this game.

If the offense remains turnover-free, mark my words: San Francisco will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in February.

3) Control Davante Adams



It is no secret that Davante Adams is the favorite target of Aaron Rodgers. He is the guy who Rodgers will look to in a critical moment time and time again. The 49ers must not allow him to be Rodgers' security blanket.

Richard Sherman will likely resume his normal role as the left corner and simply shut down that side of the field like normal. Adams will be moved around in an attempt to get him free. The 49ers should try to double team Adams as often as possible to make it even harder for him to be productive.

If San Francisco takes Adams away from the offense, Sherman will handle anyone who lines up on him. Aaron Rodgers has a limited trust factor with his other receivers and limiting Adams will make Rodgers hold onto the ball too long and will result in throwaways and hopefully sacks.

4) Build a Lead and Protect Jimmy Garoppolo


The Packers also have a fine pass rush led by the "Smith Brothers", Za'Darius and Preston. In Week 12, Joe Staley missed the game and Mike McGlinchey was fresh off his injury.

Rookie Justin Skule struggled early on against the Green Bay pass rush, but once he was replaced by Daniel Brunskill, Jimmy Garoppolo was barely touched the rest of the game.

Now Staley is back and playing at a very elite level, giving up virtually no pressures the last few games.

The offensive line is playing well as a unit and it is getting help from George Kittle, who is capable of blocking defensive ends one on one.

If the line keeps this up, Jimmy Garoppolo will have a clean pocket and time to pick apart a Green Bay defense that struggles against the run, as well as an efficient passing attack that utilizes the tight end.

The 49ers have been effective at building early leads and if that trend continues, Green Bay is in trouble if the offensive line enables the offense to control the line of scrimmage and the clock.

5) Bring the Heat



The 49ers are much healthier on defense now and are looking very similar to how they looked early in the season. The pass rush looks unstoppable.

If the defense can force Green Bay into third and long situations consistently, expect the Niner pass rush to get to Rodgers consistently and get off the field.

Don't expect interceptions but a fumble off a quarterback sack is possible. The pass rush is very capable of forcing turnovers and at the very least, wreaking so much havoc that it will stifle the Green Bay offense. Expect a few blitzes as well to force Rodgers to throw before he is ready.

Score Prediction



Aaron Rodgers has not looked like the kind of quarterback most are used to in that he hasn't looked like he can take over games anymore. The Packers offense has limited targets and if the 49ers take them away, Green Bay will not score much.

The 49ers will contain Aaron Jones and Davante Adams, protect Jimmy Garoppolo and have a productive offensive day. Rodgers will go no-huddle early, but it won't matter. San Francisco will take over the second half and control the game.

49ers 31, Packers 20