It’s Packers Week, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it as it had a couple of years ago.
Currently, the San Francisco 49ers are reeling and many have already thrown in the towel for the 2015 season. It is still to early for that, but there are serious concerns as to whether or not the Niners can right the ship and still be competitive.
When the Packers have the ball
The 49ers have had their share of problems on defense, but they’ll be put to an even bigger test this week as they face Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers do have injury problems. Right Tackle Bryan Bulaga is out and his replacement, Don Barclay, is average at best.
Receivers Jordy Nelson (torn ACL – out) and Devante Adams (ankle – doubtful) will likely both be missing.
In order to compensate for the receivers and the issues on the offensive line, nearly all of Aaron Rodgers throws have been at a depth of 5 yards or under. He is also getting the ball out in UNDER a half a second.
This helps in a couple of ways. Number one, it slows the pass rush as it’s almost impossible to get any pressure on the quarterback if the ball is coming out in under a second. When there’s no time to get pressure, it sure helps the offensive line when they don’t have to sustain blocks for very long.
The other benefit is defenses have difficulty with patterns that free up receivers for five, six and yards at a time and once an offense is able to get a few of those in a row and move the chains, the defense will tire out.
The Packers are also good at bending the rule that states that receivers cannot begin blocking while the ball is in the air. As you can see in the screenshots below and by reading this article, the Packers and many other teams are bending and breaking this rule in order gain another advantage over defenses.
The short pass is going to be a real challenge for the 49ers, but Aaron Rodgers does something else that will be difficult to defend: The Hard Count.
Rodgers is one of the few quarterbacks in the game that not only has a great hard count, but he always takes the free shot downfield whenever someone jumps offsides or doesn’t get off the field fast enough and causes a 12-men-on-the-field penalty, like we saw Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the last 5 years, Rodgers is 14-28 for over 400 yards and 9 touchdowns on free plays. It will be imperative to remain disciplined at the line because as of now, it’s pretty much the only time Rodgers goes downfield with the ball.
When the 49ers have the ball:
It’s no secret the 49ers have trouble on the offensive line. Marcus Martin, Jordan Devey, and Erik Pears have all received negative Pro Football Focus ratings in all three games this year, allowing Colin Kaepernick to be pressured over 42% of all dropbacks, by far the highest in the league.
They will have to play better Sunday to allow the Niners’ running game to take some pressure off Kaepernick.
If the 49ers can limit mistakes on their end and big plays from the Packers early in the game, it will give the offense a chance to utilize a lot more of their playbook and give Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, and (hopefully) Vernon Davis opportunities to go against the smaller Packer defensive backs, who will also likely be without Morgan Burnett. I would also expect Reggie Bush to line up in the slot a couple of times to create a mismatch.
The bottom line….
The Packers are definitely favored to win this game, but if the 49ers can keep the game close in the first half and give their playmakers a chance to make plays, this could end up being a good game.
We’re probably going to find out a lot about the Niners this weekend.