The Green Bay offensive juggernaut rolls west Sunday to see if it can continue to bedevil opposing defenses. Despite a spate of injuries that has claimed starters at wideout and right tackle, the Pack has kept piling up the points, thanks in large part to QB Aaron Rodgers, who continues to make his case as the best player in the NFL. While the arguments rage about whether it is he or Tom Brady who enjoys that distinction, Green Bay keeps winning.
Meanwhile, San Francisco appears to be in big trouble. Last week’s 47-7 blowout loss to Arizona was a humiliation from the kickoff, and after surrendering 90 points in their last two games, the Niners appear to be headed for the NFC West basement, not to mention a high first-round draft pick next year. Both sides of the ball are floundering, and it appears that any momentum from the success of the past few years has been erased.
Green Bay at San Francisco
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Green Bay -9.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Epic Fail
Colin Kaepernick hasn’t had the smoothest tenure during his time as a starting quarterback for the Niners, but he hasn’t yet had a game like he did in the loss to the Cards. Two of his first four passes were intercepted and returned for touchdowns, and he managed just a 16.7 rating on 9-of-19 passing for 67 yards and four picks. Wednesday, Kaepernick said, “I have confidence in myself.” But it’s hard to imagine San Francisco fans do. Kaepernick remains a threat to run and pass under center, but he isn’t so reliable when throwing these days, and opponents appear to have figured out his tendencies. Unless he gets sharp quickly, the 49ers have no chance to compete in the NFC West.
2. Mr. MVP (Again)
Presenting the opposing QB argument is Rodgers, who has been borderline remarkable this season. He’s completing 73.6 percent of his throws and has thrown 10 TD passes and no picks. When WR Jordy Nelson went down with a knee injury during the preseason, many wondered whether Rodgers’ production would suffer. Through three games, nothing has changed for the reigning NFL MVP. Monday night against Kansas City, he threw five touchdown passes and looked as if he were playing against his little brother’s friends. “I mean to me, it’s like watching [Michael] Jordan in his prime,” backup Packer quarterback Scott Tolzien said. “He’s at the top of his game. He makes it all go.”
Green Bay’s defense isn’t stifling enemy attacks completely, but when it comes to the passing game, the Packers are doing a great job. Opposing QBs are completing a pedestrian 57.5 percent of their throws, and the Pack has registered 11 sacks in three games so far. Julius Peppers and Mike Daniels have 2.5 sacks each, and Clay Matthews has two. Matthews is particularly impressive, since he is alternating between his middle linebacker spot on traditional run downs and a stand-up end position when opponents pass. His versatility makes the Packer D a lot more dangerous.
This one just doesn’t look close. The Packers are firing at full capacity, while the Niners are coming off a significant spanking in the desert. People can talk about pride and rebounding from a tough situation, but when a team has been outscored 90-25 over two weeks, it would appear as if something is terribly wrong. The Niners have not looked very good this season, and Green Bay appears to be auditioning for a Super Bowl spot right now.
Perhaps the Packers are due for a downer. Maybe Rodgers throws a couple of picks because he is emboldened by his early success and takes some chances. Kaepernick could rebound at home and be the dual-threat dynamo he was at times earlier in his career. It could happen, but it most likely won’t.
Prediction: Packers 30, 49ers 16
— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.