The Packers host the 49ers in a battle of NFC powers
The top two seeds in the NFC in last year's postseason open the season against one another when the Packers host the 49ers.
The Niners' offense will be a bit more aggressive this season, as they added big-play weapons in wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and running backs Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James but the key to this game will be San Francisco’s elite defense going head-to-head with Green Bay’s explosive offense.
The 49ers went 14-4 last season, they reached the NFC Championship game and posted a 12-5-1 ATS record, second-best in the league behind the Saints (13-5 ATS). Quarterback Alex Smith did a great job protecting the ball, throwing just five interceptions in 445 pass attempts and leading the team to a league-best +28 turnover margin. His top two targets were wide receiver Michael Crabtree and tigh end Vernon Davis. Both will have more room to operate with the offseason additions to the receiving corps but the 49ers are still a run-first offense, they threw 28.2 passes per game (second-fewest in the league), while rushing for 127.8 yards per game last season, which ranked eighth in the NFL.
Defensively, San Francisco ranked second in the league in scoring defense (14.3 points per game) and fourth in total defense (308.2 yards per game), including a league-best run-stop unit both in terms of rushing yards (77.2 yards per game) and yards per carry (3.5 yard per carry). Linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman anchor this unit in the middle, while defensive end Justin Smith is the pass-rushing threat up front. The one big injury concern for the 49ers for Week 1 is star kick returner Ted Ginn Jr., who is questionable with an ankle injury.
Aaron Rodgers is coming off a record-setting season in terms of quarterback rating (122.5) as he threw for 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns and just six interceptions in his 502 pass attempts. Wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings combined for 2,212 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns last year, while tight end Jermichael Finley caught eight touchdown passes. The Packers rushed for just 97.3 yards per game last year (27th in NFL) but they hope that free agent Cedric Benson can chew up yards.
Defensively, Green Bay loves to try to take the football away, they led the NFL with 31 interceptions last year, a big part of their +24 turnover margin, which ranked second in the league behind the 49ers. However, they allowed a league-high 411.6 total yards per game. The Packers finished 15-1 (11-5 ATS) last year and they will start the season relatively healthy with the exceptions of linebacker Desmond Bishop (IR, hamstring) and running back James Starks (turf toe injury).
The Packers are favored by 5 points at America's Bookie and the total is set at 46½. I like the 49ers in this game because of their staunch defense and improved offense. It will be a close game and even if the Packers win, I don't see them covering the spread against the 49ers' defense.
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