NFL Playoffs Preview: Green Bay and the Mobile Quarterbacks

The Green Bay Packers did what they had to do in the final week of the season, really the final play of the season, in order to secure the NFC North and book their ticket to the playoffs. Now that an up-and-down season is behind them, they look ahead to the San Francisco 49ers who they host this weekend at Lambeau Field.

The 49ers have been a team who has had the Packers number as of late. They’ve met three times in the past two seasons, with the 49ers going a perfect 3-0.  In each of the previous two week one’s of the NFL season, Green Bay has opened with a loss to the 49ers. They lost 30-22 last season at Lambeau and 34-28 this season at Candlestick.  In the other match-up, San Francisco knocked Green Bay out of the playoffs last season in the second round 45-31.  The 49ers have outscored Green Bay in the last three meetings by a total of 28 points.

The challenge that Green Bay will have to deal with in addition to San Francisco’s defense is the mobile quarterback.  Colin Kaepernick rushed for a game-deciding 181 yards against the Packers last year in the playoffs and while the mobility was not as big as a factor in his game this season, one only needs to look as far as RGIII to see why a team would try to emphasize that style of offense less.  However, in the playoffs all bets are off and you turn to what is going to give you the best chance to win.  Against an inconsistent defense in Green Bay, who will also be without their best player on the defensive side of the ball and best chance to put pressure on Kaepernick as Clay Matthews has been ruled out of the game with a broken thumb, allowing Kaepernick to run the ball makes a lot of sense.  From Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin, even if the Packers are able to contain the speedy quarterback, they still have their hands full with a talented 49ers offense.

But if the Packers are going to have any success in this year’s playoffs, this is exactly what they’re going to have to figure out.  This week it is Colin Kaepernick and if they win, it really doesn’t matter what happens in the Philadelphia-New Orleans game, another mobile quarterback is waiting.  If Philadelphia wins, Green Bay will travel to Seattle to take on Russell Wilson.  If New Orleans wins, Green Bay will travel to Carolina to take on Cam Newton.  So between Green Bay and the Super Bowl at this point is three mobile quarterbacks who stand a great chance to shred their mediocre defense with their arms and legs, Drew Brees one of the best quarterbacks in the league and Nick Foles, a guy who challenged Aaron Rodgers for the greatest single-season passer rating this year.  With a strong defense, the challenge in front of Green Bay is a tall order.  With the defense the Packers call their own, it just might be too much.

With that said, despite all of the reasons I can come up with that Green Bay is likely a one-and-done team in this year’s playoffs, I remain optimistic.  I would be no more surprised to see Green Bay lose this weekend than I would be to see them make a run to the Super Bowl.  Their defense is what it is, everybody knows that. However, in an offense-first league and having Aaron Rodgers back in the line-up and healthy at the right time, the upside of this team’s offense remains to be seen.  The Packers put up 33 points against the Bears defense, admittedly a bad one, but the Green Bay offense was rusty throughout and nowhere near the same page.  Pass after pass from Rodgers was being thrown behind the passer, resulting in incompletions, interceptions and yards after the catch took a hit as the receivers had to keep adjusting in order to make the completion.  None of that matters at this point though, the game-winning reception to Randall Cobb late in the game cancels out any of this rust and gives the team and their quarterback more time to prepare and get back on the same page.

With Rodgers in the line-up this season, Green Bay is an impressive 6-2.  Both losses could have arguably been wins to give them a perfect 8-0 record.  Their first loss of the season to San Francisco was an absolute shootout that felt like whoever scored last would win the game.  The second loss to the Bengals was just a painful one with a bad fumble late in the game.  The point here is that the difference between what the Packers are with Rodgers in the line-up and them being perfect this year with him, it isn’t very much.

If there is any quarterback in the league that is good enough to overcome a bad defense, it’s the one in Green Bay.

 

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