Sunday’s matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers will showcase one of the NFL’s best defenses against the NFL’s highest scoring offense from last season. It’s the classic matchup of the hard-hitting defense vs the flashy and high-octane offense. This will be a real test for the Packers, who once again are one of the younger teams in the league.
The key matchup to watch for when these two NFC powerhouses collide is the 49ers defensive front seven vs the Packers offensive line. The game could rest on the shoulders of Marshall Newhouse, T.J. Lang, Jeff Saturday, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga.
With defensive stars like 2011 second team All-Pro Justin Smith, 2011 first team All-Pro NaVorro Bowman, and 2011 first team All-Pro Patrick Willis starting in the 49ers front seven, Packer’s guard T.J.Lang says the key is keeping Rodgers untouched and allowing him time to make plays.
Along with linebackers Bowman and Willis, defensive tackle Justin Smith will be the key players the Packers need to watch. Smith recorded 45 solo tackles, seven and a half sacks, and forced three fumbles last season. LT Marshall Newhouse gets that assignment and it won’t be easy. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers called Smith one of the best players in the NFL.
While the 49ers have an extremely strong defense, their “weakness” (if you have to assign one) falls in their secondary. The 49ers’ secondary gave up an average of 231 passing yards per game last season, which was 16th best in the league. If the Packers are able to withstand the pressure from the front seven, MVP Aaron Rodgers can sit back and try to recreate last season’s league-best 122.5 passer rating.
Only Sunday will tell who will reign supreme in this possible NFC championship preview when the Packers open up their season against the San Francisco 49ers.