All eyes will be on Levi's® Stadium Sunday night as the 9-1 San Francisco 49ers host the 8-2 Green Bay Packers on primetime. This Week 12 clash could have major seeding implications down the road as both teams are fighting to stay on top of the NFC and their respective divisions.
49ers.com is bringing in the big guns to break down this must-win matchup. Sunday Night Football game analyst and color commentator Cris Collinsworth joins this week's Four Downs to discuss key topics as the 49ers look to stay ahead in the NFC race. Collinsworth is in his 11th season alongside Al Michaels in the Sunday Night Football booth.
Here's this week's Four Downs:
1. Biggest concern facing this Packers team?
@CollinsworthPFF: 49ers Offensive Line
The Packers have two really good pass rushers in Preston and Za'Darius Smith on the outside, and obviously that's where the 49ers are still injured or coming back from injuries. But it's so hard to know how much of the change in San Francisco's running game as of late had to do with teams trying to take it away, making the 49ers have to throw the ball. Was it because George Kittle was out of the line up? To me, that sort of edge of the offensive line for San Francisco is where I'll be watching.
@KeianaMartinTV: Aaron Rodgers, of course.
Just as scary as the Packers are on defense, the same can be said about their 15-year signal caller. Rodgers hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, completing 225 passes for 2,718 yards and 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions through 10 games. As dangerous as Rodgers is, so are his weapons. Wide receiver Davante Adams, who missed Weeks 5-8 with a toe injury, leads the team with 538 receiving yards. Meanwhile, running back Aaron Jones has amassed 936 yards from scrimmage and league-leading 14 total touchdowns. There's no shortage of talent on both sides of the ball for Green Bay.
2. Which offensive player do you expect to play the biggest role on SNF?
I can't imagine that this doesn't turn into a little bit of a shootout. I think that the 49ers are going to have to run it well enough to be who they are with the passing game. I'm not sure San Francisco can survive just dropping back and throwing the ball without being able to run it. That's why I say Kittle, because he's such a two-sided player. He's got to impact the run game if he's healthy enough. He's got to impact the passing game. I think he has a chance to open things up for Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel and the running backs for that matter.
San Francisco's quarterback is coming off of a career game against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11 where he completed 75.6 percent of his passes for 424 yards and four touchdowns. Those gaudy numbers also came with their share of costly mistakes. In the last two weeks, Garoppolo has thrown six touchdowns to three interceptions. While he has responded well to those game-changing scenarios (three touchdown drives following last three interceptions), San Francisco's signal caller will need to clean up those inopportune mistakes especially in a crucial Week 12 NFC matchup that has the potential to be a down-to-the-wire shootout.
3. Position group that must step up in Week 12?
@CollinsworthPFF: Defensive Line
The defensive line has to dominate. I mean that's how they built this franchise - those four monsters or five monsters the 49ers have. They're built that way. They'll need to put pressure on Green Bay's offensive line, because it's hard. Even if you beat your guy, it doesn't mean you're going to get Aaron Rodgers on the ground. That's the key. If he sits back there and can move around and buy time and take five seconds to throw the ball, you're dead. You know he's gonna find some spots down the field. But this pass rush is legit and this offensive line is legit. So it's a great matchup. It's strength against strength, which makes it a fun game to watch.
@KeianaMartinTV: Running Backs
A rushing attack that at one point averaged 181.1 yards per game from Weeks 1-8, has put up an average of just 74 yards and zero rushing touchdowns for a mere 2.8 yards per carry over the last three weeks. San Francisco can't rely on Jimmy Garoppolo's arm alone to get by against Green Bay. The 49ers will need to get back to what worked in the first half of the season to take some of the pressure off of their quarterback. They'll have an opportunity on Sunday against a Packers defense that's giving up 126.9 rushing yards per game, ranked 25th in the league.
4. Key statistic for 49ers to pull out a win?
@CollinsworthPFF: Pass Blocking Efficiency
Opposing teams are pressuring Jimmy at about a 40 percent clip, which is really high in this league. And I'm sure a little bit of it has to do with trying to come up to the run game. But I also think that a lot of Garoppolo's interceptions have come when teams blitz them or been able to get close to him. I can't imagine Green Bay's not going to take their shot. Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, that's how he's built. So, I'm thinking this is going to be a high pressure game on Green Bay's part.
@KeianaMartinTV: Explosive Plays
Rodgers likes to get his receivers down field, and he's efficient at it. The Packers offense is currently tied for third in the league with 27 completions of 25-plus yards. The 49ers own a top-ranked passing defense. San Francisco's secondary will need to limit opportunities for those big plays which this Green Bay offense is more than capable of.