The Packers are as rested as they can be as they prepare to host the 49ers, who are hot off an exciting upset win in Dallas.
The Packers are 0-3 against the 49ers in the playoffs with Aaron Rodgers, but they’ve won the last two regular season matchups. It’s the playoffs, though, so none of that matters – this is a contest between two very good football teams.
Here are the 3 biggest questions that will determine the outcome of the game:
- How cold will it get? The 49ers are a west coast team, but they’re a physical team, and that usually trumps the cold. I don’t think the temperatures (even if they get to single digits) will freeze the 49ers out altogether, but it could severely impact their quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo (who has never thrown an NFL pass when the temperature was under 40 degrees) is battling a thumb injury that caused him to sail some easy throws against Dallas, including one that resulted in a late interception and got the Cowboys back in the game. Will the cold make San Francisco one dimensional?
- Will anyone be rusty? Jaire Alexander has been out for months. Same with Whitney Mercilus. And Randall Cobb. Za’Darius Smith hasn’t played since week 1. David Bakhtiari has only played about a quarter all year. Josh Myers is just getting back. These are all difference-makers. Big time difference-makers. Their returns are welcome and exciting, but with all their time away, will they be rusty? Will there be any disruption to the team chemistry that has evolved in their absence?
- Can Rodgers take over the game? Football is the ultimate team sport. No single player can actually take a game over by himself. Special players can tilt the field, though. Aaron Rodgers played his cards in the offseason to bring things to a head, to get the Packers to go all in. Here we are. With a cap disaster waiting to be sorted out in the offseason, the Packers face an elimination game. Aaron Rodgers put a lot of pressure on himself and the team to get to this spot. His play may be the difference in this game. How will he perform?
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