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Can The Packers Build Off Shock Upset Of Dallas?

Advancing Through Dallas

Last week, somebody wrote that Jordan Love was in the Matrix (Galaxy Brain Packers - Super Wild Card Weekend ( That dude obviously knew the score. Love continued his scintillating late-season run by eviscerating the Cowboys secondary. Many of his throws were layups against a secondary that didn't seem to have any idea how and who they were supposed to cover, but Love still hit them when they were there and made plenty of high-degree-of-difficulty throws, too.

Aaron Jones and the O-Line also deserve a ton of credit for the win. Jones had plenty of space to run and made the most of it, as he always does against his home-state team. Love wasn't sacked and generally had plenty of time to wait for the deeper over and crossing routes to come open.

The defense did exactly what they needed to do to let the offense carry the game. Jaire Alexander's interception allowed them to take a two-score lead and ratchet up the pressure on the Cowboys. Last week I said if the Packers could keep the pressure on Dallas late into the game they would fold under the weight of their expectations. That outcome was right, the time frame was wrong. Dak Prescott was underwater in the 2nd quarter and the pick-six he telegraphed to Darnell Savage was game-set-match.

Winning in Santa Clara

Point of fact, this is the best team the Packers will have played all year, and honestly, it's not close. That doesn't mean they can't win. While this is the best team they've played it's not the toughest scheduling spot. That was having to play on Thanksgiving in Detroit. This game will technically be on short rest, but this is the playoffs, so an extra day of rest doesn't matter when it's do-or-die.

The Packers will have a couple of potential structural advantages on Saturday night. One is the rest vs. rust debate for the 49ers. The Packers have been in playoff mode for a month, are white-hot, and were probably ready to play as soon as the gun fired on the Dallas game. The Niners haven't played a meaningful game, with their starters, against actual competition since Christmas night. This may provide an opportunity to get off to a fast start while San Francisco acclimates.

The second thing they can put into their bucket of advantages is the 49ers basically haven't won a game by less than 10 points this season. I say basically because the Rams kicked a meaningless field goal at the end of the game in Week 2 to turn a 10-point game into a 7-point final margin. The overriding point is that if the Packers keep the game close through, the Niners will be in uncharted territory.

So, how do they keep the game close? On offense, they won't be able to run into the middle of the 49ers defense. This is a game the Packers could not have won earlier in the season when Aaron Jones was injured. This is not a game AJ Dillon could thrive in. I expect the Packers will try to run at the edges of the San Francisco D-Line. I also think you'll see a lot of end-around/jet sweep type plays to Jayden Reed out of 12 personnel to keep the Niners off balance. You need to run at Nick Bosa and Chase Young to make them expend as much energy on non-pass rush situations as possible.

In the passing game, the 49ers are the exact opposite of the Cowboys. It's very difficult to throw into the middle of the field on them. Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw are too good in coverage. Where the Niners can be exposed is deep and to the sideline. If the Packers are going to win, it's going to have to be because they got a big game from Christian Watson. They will need some successful chunk plays to him to open up the middle of the field, where they want to play.

Narrow path, great sherpas.

The defensive side of the ball is where things may get sketchy. To his credit, Joe Barry has done what everyone with eyes knew he had to do to get the defense moving in the right direction after the Carolina game. He's mixing coverages, throwing in the occasional blitz, and letting his corners get up on receivers in short-yardage situations. The non-scheme issues have improved, as well. The defensive line is playing with more discipline and the communication errors that plagued the secondary have been minimized. All that said, the defense will have to play nearly perfectly just to keep the Packers in the game.

Christian McCaffery is a problem for literally every team. He's that much more of a problem for a team that has historically struggled to stop the run and frequently gets gashed by running backs on screens. They won't stop McCaffery, but they need to not let him dominate the game. If he's over 150 yards from scrimmage they're in trouble.

Selling out to stop McCaffery isn't an option because Brock Purdy will pick them apart if they do. The Packers will need to start with keeping McCaffery contained on early downs, then pressuring Purdy on obvious passing downs. If they're in between, they're in trouble.

In the passing game, the Niners' pass-game weapons are too good for the Packers' secondary to cover for too long. They must get early pressure on Purdy with four rushers.

We've been talking about Rashan Gary's positive matchups for the last few weeks and they've still been able to get wins without necessarily getting huge games from him. They MUST get a contract-justifying game from him this week. Trent Williams is a Final Boss-level left tackle but the rest of the San Fran O-Line can be beaten. Gary attacking the offensive right side is their only realistic path to keeping Kyle Shanahan's offense in check.

The reason I think the Packers can and will upset the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night is borderline unimaginable if you've watched them regularly this season. It's Special Teams. Rookie kicker Anders Carlson has given Packers fans heartburn all season, but San Francisco also has a rookie kicker in Jake Moody. A rookie kicker who happens to have struggled to get depth and touchbacks on his kickoffs. His kickoffs are averaging 66.5 yards and less than 4 seconds of hang time. This will put Keisean Nixon into play.

The forecast for Saturday night in Santa Clara calls for steady light rain throughout the late afternoon and early evening. In the heavy air of January in the Bay "Area" that's tough kicking weather. Teams have been frustrating Nixon all season by kicking the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs. If the 49ers can't do that, Nixon is the wild card that can lead them to an upset.


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