The Green Bay Packers spoiled the Seattle Seahawks chance at getting a rubber match with the San Francisco 49ers by beating them 28-23 in the Divisional Round. Aaron Rodgers and company will visit the 49ers for the NFC title game next Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET. on FOX.
Although Green Bay finished the regular season first in the NFC North and secured a first-round bye, there has been a ton of doubt surrounding the team this year. It entered this year having missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons with a new head coach in Matt LeFleur. People also questioned whether Rodgers still had the skill to will a team with poor wide receiver depth to a deep playoff run. The Packers’ signal caller didn’t put up the eye-popping numbers we’re sed to seeing from him in the postseason, but did demonstrate that he still has the clutch factor that makes him so special against Seattle by throwing for 243 yards and two scores. He made some big-time throws down the stretch to keep the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hands and seal the deal for his team.
Davante Adams is the Packers’ clear-cut top receiver, but things get shaky after him. Allen Lazard, Jimmy Graham, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling jockeyed for a place as Rodgers’ second best pass catcher. But running back Aaron Jones was just as effective as any of them as a receiver out of the backfield while eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his young career. This group has been good enough to get this far, and now they’ll test their luck against one of the best defensive units in the league.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers will rely on Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith to boost their pass rush. In the Divisional round win over the Seahawks, the Smiths combined for four sacks of Russell Wilson. Kenny Clark added one more official sacks and Jaire Alexander had a key sack on a two-point conversion. They will look to make life difficult for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The 49ers underwent an extreme transformation over the offseason following last year’s 4-12 finish. It got quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo back from injury, strengthened its pass rush, and added some offensive firepower at wide receiver. Somehow, San Fransisco managed to have one of the NFL’s best scoring offenses with only tight end George Kittle as the team’s lone offensive star. The 49ers don’t have a feature back, standout wide receiver, or top-tier quarterback. But their grit-and-grind mentality gets the job done every week.
San Francisco has overcome plenty of adversity while developing into the powerhouse it is today. Both Garoppolo and its preferred star running back Jerick McKinnon suffered ACL tears last year. The receiving corps has also been riddled with injuries that limited the team’s potential. But hitting on draft picks like Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa while adding impactful veterans through free agency and trades have allowed the 49ers to ascend to another level.
One side has a quarterback who has always been considered a perennial MVP candidate while the other side’s signal caller is still trying build his legacy from the ground up. The winner of the contest will take on the victor of the AFC Championship Game featuring the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54.