When these teams clashed in Week 3, Green Bay took the cake, but it was close with a 30-28 final tally. A lot has changed since then. Will the result?
$FML's 49ers @ Packers Combo Pick - 1/22
SF +13.5 / UNDER 53.5 TEASER @ -127
San Francisco 49ers (10-7)
Before Week 1, oddsmakers gave this hard-nosed, well-coached team from California a 6.7% chance at taking the crown (+1400 odds). Interestingly, San Francisco’s next opponent, the Green Bay Packers, had the exact same pre-season odds.
Fast-forward to today, the 49ers odds have improved to +1000, while Green Bay emerged as the outright favorite to win at +300. The gap obviously reflects the fact Green Bay’s favored to win their head-to-head elimination game on Saturday by almost a touchdown. But that raises questions. Why is Green Bay favored, and what’s the likelihood of an upset? Let’s break it down starting with the Underdog.
From the ground up, this 49ers squad is balanced, disciplined and gritty. All traits I like to back when evaluating an Underdog pick.
When healthy, San Francisco’s defense is elite and frankly tough to pierce. They apply immense pressure on quarterbacks, force mistakes, create turnovers and tilt the field in a way that allows them to control pace of play. Their capacity to dominate games shined in their most recent playoff game vs. Dallas, who struggled mightily to move the ball from start to finish.
On the offensive side, the 49ers feature a balanced, efficient attack that thrives in run-heavy game scripts. When San Francisco builds a lead, their elite rushing attack makes it difficult for opponents to get stops and preserve clock. When Veteran Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is healthy, their offense is about as well-rounded as it gets.
While San Francisco ranks in the top half of the league in most metrics, its pass defense can be vulnerable. The 49ers ranked 25th in average passer rating allowed, for example, which could prove problematic vs. a potent passing attack like the Packers’. Normally, this risk is abated by the strength of San Francisco’s pass rush, which pressures quarterbacks and prevents them capitalizing on mistakes in the secondary. However, four key defensive starters are listed as questionable including lead pass-rusher Joey Bosa, which would remove that cushion of protection for their mediocre secondary.
On a related note, while this is more circumstance than a weakness, it’s important to note that Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sustained yet another injury on Sunday – this time in his shoulder, which is on top of an already lingering hand injury. If the 49ers leader can’t play, it means rookie QB Trey Lance would get the start, which just screams trouble. San Francisco will do everything in its power for Jimmy to play, but in the event he can’t (or is not 100%), the 49ers chances at an upset will all but evaporate.
Green Bay Packers (13-4, NFC North Champions)
NFL seasons are a marathon, not a sprint. There are highs, lows, ebbs and flows. That’s usually how it works. Just not for this Packers team. They’ve been brilliantly consistent all year, with MVP-caliber play from Quarterback Aaron Rodgers earning their rightful spot at the top as the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl at time of writing.
Green Bay’s offense is elite. I don’t know how else to describe it. Every time I watch, it feels like they can score at will. The chemistry between Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and superstar receiver Davante Adams is unmatched – I’m hard-pressed to think of comparably effective duo in modern football.
On the defensive side, Green Bay allowed the 10th fewest pass yards (219.1/game) and 11th fewest rush yards (109.1/game). They also finished with the eighth-most takeaways (26) and third-best turnover differential (+13) in the league.
While this is more circumstance, I’ll also mention that home-field advantage is likely meaningful in this game, as the Packers are both experienced and effective playing in cold weather. Having the Lambeau Field faithful behind them certainly doesn’t hurt, either, and likely drives at least 2-3 points of the 6-point game spread.
If I had to pinpoint one weakness, it’s Green Bay’s rush defense. Looking at regular season stats, the Packers rank below average across almost every metric in that category – highlighting a potentially significant edge for the 49ers rushing attack.
When these teams played in Week 3, Green Bay limited the 49ers to 67 rushing yards (3.2 yards per carry). However, that was a long time ago. Since then, San Francisco’s rushing attack has gotten even more explosive, thanks to the emergence of running back Eli Mitchell (didn’t play Week 3 vs. Packers) and dual-threat Deebo Samuel (wide receiver who’s been increasingly involved in the run game of late).
On paper, this matchup shakes out as fairly balanced with a lot hinging on injury reports. At time of writing, the 6-point spread feels a little high to me, but I’m hesitant to take it given uncertainty around 49ers Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Defensive End Joey Bosa’s status.
- If neither player can go, I expect a dominating win from Green Bay
- If Garoppolo plays but Bosa doesn’t, I’d back the Packers spread down to -6.5
- If Garoppolo doesn’t play and Trey Lance starts (rookie QB), I’d probably back the Packers all the way down to -9.5
If Garoppolo AND Bosa both play, which I view as the most likely scenario, my best bet is a same-game teaser that brings SF Spread to +13.5 (from +6) and the Game Total to 53.5 (from 46.5). On the Game Total, I would back the Under, reflecting the relative strength of both defenses and expected weather conditions (near-zero temps expected on Saturday night).
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