Packers -vs- 49ers September 09, 2012

Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers Sunday Sept 9th

What a fantastic pairing to open the regular season for both teams.  Two elite teams from last year squaring off to establish early NFC supremacy in a game that many experts are calling a preview to the NFC Championship game.

While both had similar records last season, Green Bay at 15-1 and San Francisco at 13-3 during the regular season, how they attained those records were starkly different.  One thing both teams did extremely well was creating turnovers and protecting the ball.  San Francisco led the NFL in this category with a +28 margin, Green Bay was a close second with a +24 margin.

Where these teams differ greatly is on their offensive and defensive abilities. Green Bay relied heavily on their offense to outscore their opponents and outscore them they did, leading the league with an average of 35.0 points per game.

San Fransisco was more reliant on their defense to create low scoring games.  San Francisco’s scoring defense finished 2nd in 2011 giving up 229 total points for an average of just 14.3 per game.  Second only to the Steelers who gave up just 14.2 points per game.  By contrast, the Green Bay defense gave up 22.4 points per game.

If you look closer at the 2011 San Francisco’s defensive stats see yards allowed was very middle of the road.  In fact they finished 16th in yards allowed.  But in looking closer you will see stats put up to what amounts to an attacking, opportunistic defense that could also be shred if it failed to get a sack or interception.

Pass completion rate = 57.5 (6th best in 2011)
Interceptions = 23 (3rd best in 2011)
Pass completions against 40+ yards = 12 (10th worst in 2011)
Sacks = 42 (7th best in 2011)

Certainly these are impressive statistics.  At the same time I can’t help but question just how much the opposing offenses in their division help to create these defensive stats.

Arizona Cardinals – 2011 Offensive ranking #19
Seattle Seahawks – 2011 Offensive ranking #28
St Louis Rams – 2011 Offensive ranking #31

To get a better perspective when playing against a quality offense we can look at the 2011 postseason.  In the postseason San Francisco played the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants.  New Orleans ranked #1 offensively during the regular season, the Giants ranked #8.  Against these two teams they gave up an average of 412.0 yards per game, ranking 7th of the 12 teams in the playoffs.

I just don’t see the 49ers defense dominating the Packers offense.  Certainly they will slow them down because the 49ers ultimately have a solid if not very good defense with an above average defensive line and excellent linebackers.  Green Bay is able to counter with the best receiving corps in the league taking, nothing away from New Orleans, and an above average tight end that will engage a linebacker and safety on almost every passing play.

Bottom line, I see the Packers winning by seven, 24-17.