NFL 2019 (Week 12): Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 12): Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

It would be presumptuous to say that these teams are jockeying for playoff position in only Week 12, but 8-2 Green Bay and 9-1 San Francisco can each make an argument to be the NFC’s top seed come January. Neither team has earned a playoff berth to this point, although they would be the top seeds--thus earning a first-round bye--based on standings heading into Sunday’s games. Defense has been the key to success for both of these division leaders, with San Francisco leading the league in sacks (39) and ranking second in yards allowed (253.0 per game), while Green Bay is second in turnover margin (+9) and boasts the league’s second-leading tackler (linebacker Blake Martinez with 102). Because the defenses have been so stout, neither quarterback has been asked to put up video game numbers to win games, yet both Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Garoppolo are fully capable of carrying a team if necessary. Garoppolo’s 18 passing touchdowns are 11th-best in the NFL, while Rodgers is right behind him with 17, ranking 12th. In evenly-matched games like this, victories are often decided by one or two plays, a key turnover, or pure dumb luck.

Packers: Rodgers has been executing rookie head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense with aplomb, but the team MVP to this point may just be running back Aaron Jones. Jones has emerged as a dual-threat out of the backfield, supplementing his 11 rushing touchdowns with 35 catches and another three touchdowns through the air. He has earned 47 first downs and appears to be the ideal Robin to Rodgers’ Batman. Receiver Davante Adams is no slouch himself, leading the team with 39 receptions and 537 yards despite missing four of the Packers’ 10 games. While Martinez racks up the tackles, edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith (no relation) have combined for 18.5 sacks, and cornerbacks Kevin King and Jaire Alexander have snagged four interceptions and broken up 23 passes between the two of them. This team has few weaknesses on paper, but they got stomped by the Los Angeles Chargers in early November, whose physical run game and relentless pass rush mirror that of San Francisco. LaFleur will need to prove that he learned his lesson from that 26-11 blowout in order to put his team in the running for NFC supremacy.

49ers: To borrow a college football term, San Francisco has built their 9-1 record largely on the strength of a “cupcake schedule.” A home loss to Seattle two weeks ago revealed some warts that wins against Arizona, Washington, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Tampa Bay had kept hidden. This is not a bad team, mind you, but perhaps they were never as pristine as their 8-0 start would indicate. Their remaining schedule, featuring road trips to Baltimore and New Orleans after the Packers game, will reveal more of the 49ers’ true identity. Finishing against the Rams and Seahawks is nothing to take lightly, either. Nick Bosa has announced his presence with authority, but the health of running mate Dee Ford, tight end George Kittle, left tackle Joe Staley, receivers Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders, running back Matt Breida and even kicker Robbie Gould will do more to determine San Francisco’s final record than Bosa alone. They must get right in order to fulfill the promise of their early season success.

Prediction: Bosa struggles against David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, which allows Rodgers to make the requisite plays to leave town with a win.

Green Bay Packers 24, San Francisco 49ers 16

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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