Closing in on 48 hours before their Wild Card playoff opener on Sunday in Green Bay, the 49ers and Packers have been responding to questions all week.
Now it's our turn. 49ers.com senior reporter Taylor Price and contributor Andrew Pentis provide answers to four key queries about Sunday's game.
Voice your opinions in the comment section below.
First Down: No player is more key than...
Andrew: It's hard to argue against Crabtree, but because the 49ers are deeper in the pass-catcher category these days, the responsibility falls more on Kaepernick. If the 49ers signal-caller doesn't play up to his standard, Crabtree won't have the opportunity to make Crabtree-like plays. That goes too for tight end
Second Down: The most intriguing storyline is...
Andrew: How will the weather affect 49ers play-callers Greg Roman and Vic Fangio? Yes, I'd hate to make too much of the weather, the topic most of the media has globbed onto this week. And, as Jim Harbaugh has said, "football weather is any weather." But below-zero temps will have an affect on this game and not for the reasons you might expect. No, it doesn't matter if players wear sleeves. It does matter, as Roman and Fangio said, whether players have footing on the field and whether the wind bats the ball down. If either of the latter two scenarios is a reality come Sunday, it will change the style of game that is played. Maybe Kaepernick's wideouts can't get separation from Packers coverage? Maybe Kaepernick's dart-like throws can't pierce the wind? This isn't just an interesting storyline; it's an important one.
Taylor: How healthy will
Third Down: The 49ers will win if...
Taylor: Sometime in the first quarter, Aaron Rodgers must go down and he must go down hard. Channeling my inner Al Davis, the key this week is getting pressure on the Packers elite quarterback. Green Bay’s signal-caller is one of the most talented players in the NFL at any position. His return from a mid-season shoulder injury instantly restored the Packers as Super Bowl contenders. Rodgers was sacked three times last week in the Week 17 victory over Chicago that clinched the NFC North. Rodgers completed 25 of 39 passes for 318 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Although the Bears were able to pressure Rodgers, he still created plays with his arm from all over the pocket. The play is never over with Rodgers and the 49ers will need to keep that in mind by staying in their rushing lanes. San Francisco has not been able to record a high number of sacks in recent weeks, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t affected the opponent’s passing attack. A collapsed pocket causes a quarterback to throw early or move off his launch point. With that in mind and Rodgers’ play-making ability being one of his best attributes, the key for the 49ers is to sack Rodgers early and often. Putting Green Bay in long down-and-distance situations will go a long way for San Francisco to advance in its “Quest for Six.”
Andrew: I can't disagree with you there, Taylor. You're pointing out the importance of field position, keeping Rodgers and Co. on their side of the field. But I'll go about this a different way. The 49ers will win if... they play impeccable special teams, flipping the field when they need to and, ideally, causing a turnover or pulling off a big return. As we've seen in past postseasons, football's third unit can often be its most impactful. Imagine how much a
Fourth Down: Who should trade jerseys...
Andrew: If only because they likely have the same number of "Xs" in their size, 49ers nose tackle
Taylor: I think two of the top rookies from the SEC should swap unis. Maybe it should take place in the locker rooms and not on the field in the blistering cold.
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