By Gabe Schapiro
As the now famous song goes, are you ready for some football? The games that count are finally upon us. Football fans everywhere officially have plans for at least the next 17 Sundays, Mondays, and the occasional Thursday. For the San Francisco 49ers (0-0), the hopeful journey back to another Super Bowl run begins this Sunday at 1:25 PM at Candlestick Park, where they will be taking on the Green Bay Packers (0-0). The matchup is a rematch of last year’s divisional playoff round, where, in a game featuring almost nothing but offense, the 49ers eliminated the Packers on the back of a record-breaking 181 rushing yard performance from QB Colin Kaepernick.
Green Bay, the reigning NFC North Champions, went 11-5 last season, but lost some veteran leadership this offseason. Most notably, WR Greg Jennings and S Charles Woodson were lost to free agency, and WR Donald Driver retired. They still feature a high-powered offense, however, led by the newly anointed highest paid player in the NFL, QB Aaron Rodgers. His receiving corps of Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb remains strong, TE Jermichael Finley is a coverage headache, and new second round draft pick Eddie Lacy from Alabama should give the team a better running threat then they’ve had in years. On the defensive side of the ball they aren’t elite but they have talent, headlined by OLB Clay Matthews, DE B.J. Raji, and their first round pick from this years draft, DE Datone Jones out of UCLA.
They present a very tough opening week for San Francisco, but it’s one that they matched up well against last season. The 49ers have their stout defense returning, one that allowed just two touchdowns in four preseason games. The Packers weak link on offense is their offensive line, one that the likes of Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Justin Smith and company hope to take advantage of to give Rodgers some trouble. The San Francisco offensive attack, especially with Kaepernick leading the read-option, was one that Green Bay simply had no answers for. They’ve had an offseason to learn and adjust, but whether they will be able to slow down the dual-threat that Kaepernick brings to the table remains to be seen.
Beyond Kaepernick, the 49ers final 53-man roster consists of several weapons that the Green Bay defense will have to account for. At receiver, hoping to pick up the slack for the injured Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, they have the new additions of Anquan Boldin through free agency and their fourth round pick Quinton Patton. Boldin is a battle-tested veteran who already appears to have an established chemistry with Kaepernick. Patton, who due to a finger injury only played in two preseason games, has already shown flashes of his explosiveness and potential. Of course, the immensely talented Vernon Davis is back at tight end, as well as the workhorse Frank Gore in the backfield. Davis had a down year last season, but flourished in the playoffs, and Gore has been the definition of consistency through his career.
These two historic franchises both appear to have the pieces in place to be strong contenders again this season. One way or another, it should prove to be an awfully entertaining game as this rivalry intensifies.
Game Notes: This week the Packers added two recently cut 49er quarterbacks, Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace…The 49ers traded LB Cam Johnson to the Colts for a future seventh round draft choice, and signed WR Chris Harper, a fourth round pick this year, from the Seahawks practice squad.