FOX 25/48 Football Insider
By Marty Hendricks
Sept. 7, 2012
Green Bay - It may well be a prelude to the NFC Championship Game in January.
For now, it's the season opener for the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers.
The atmosphere at Lambeau Field will be electric for this match-up of NFC powers at 3:25 p.m. on FOX 25/48. While the hype reaches its zenith this weekend, the reality is it is just one of 16 games.
The winner gets
the moniker of favorite in the NFC race; the loser flies under the radar until
later in the season.
The 49ers and Packers have participated in the last two NFC conference championship games, with much different results in contrasting fashions.
After the 2010 postseason, Green Bay defeated rival Chicago in a lower-scoring slugfest to earn a berth in Super Bowl XLV. It was not a game that will go down in league postseason history for stellar play.
In last season's NFC championship contest, San Francisco and New York engaged in a shootout with a dramatic finish that propelled the Giants to the Super Bowl. It was a duel that rightfully ranks among the best playoff finishes of all time.
The opener between the Packers and 49ers should feature plenty of offense at Lambeau Field, but like the Green Bay-New Orleans game to kick off the 2011 season, it may come down to which defense can make a final stop.
For more than a decade, the Packers have had the 49ers' number. Green Bay has won eight consecutive games and not lost to San Francisco since 1999 in the NFC Wild Card game.
San Francisco would relish starting out their 2012 season by defeating Green Bay on their home turf and ending Green Bay's win streak in their series.
The Packers' success will depend on Aaron Rodgers continuing his stellar and mistake-free play and the revamped defense stopping San Francisco's revamped receiving corps.
Remember Randy "Moon" Moss?
He'll be back in a 49ers uniform at Lambeau Field Sunday. The aging receiver is not the player he was in Minnesota, but he's still a force and trying to revive his career after a season out of football.
It all adds up to a great match-up of teams and coaches. It will be interesting to see how head coach Mike McCarthy utilizes running back Cedric Benson and versatile receiver Randall Cobb against the 49ers defense, one of NFL's best.
Dom Capers' maligned defense received an infusion of youth through six draft picks and must improve if the Packers expect to make a run at the Super Bowl. An improved pass rush and tackling—along with a bookend for Clay Matthews—are keys to success.
Improvement on defense may take some time as the unit jells in the first month of the season; don't be surprised if Green Bay is 3-1 or 2-2 after a brutal first month featuring games with the 49ers, Bears, Seahawks, and Saints.
The good news is three of those four games are at home. Much will be learned about the 2012 Packers team in that mix of NFC and AFC opponents.
As former Bears icon and current ESPN analyst Mike Ditka told me recently: "I'm going with Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers gets it and is a class act. And the Packers are well-coached. Their defense will be better. They just have to make sure they protect Rodgers. My Bears will be improved and challenge them in the division. The Lions may be there too, but they have to stay disciplined and keep their players out of jail."
Super Bowl XLVII Prediction
Packers 34, Texans 24 in New Orleans
Week 1 Predictions
Aaron Rodgers' will always have a chip on his shoulder for any game against San Francisco. Can revamped Green Bay defense stop revamped San Francisco passing game? Match-up of NFC powers comes down to which defense makes the big stop.