The San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers were the preeminent franchises in the NFC during the mid-to-late 1990s, squaring off in the postseason four consecutive years. Green Bay got the better of San Francisco in the first three games before the 49ers finally beat the Packers in the final matchup. Steve Young threw a 25-yard pass to Terrell Owens with three seconds left to give San Francisco a thrilling 30-27 win in the NFC wild card round, but that wasn’t the last time both teams would square off in the playoffs.
San Francisco and Green Bay have met in the postseason three times since (2001, 2012, 2013), with the 49ers winning the last two meetings. The 49ers and Packers have met in the postseason seven times since 1995, establishing a rivalry amongst the NFC’s elite.
Can San Francisco reach the Super Bowl for the first time in seven years, or will the Packers go to the championship game for the first time since the 2010 season? We’ll dive into that, but first, some details on how and when to tune into the game.
How to watch
The 49ers have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL, ranking second in the league with 144.1 yards per game. San Francisco’s run game was pivotal toward their offense averaging nearly 30 points a game, carrying the ball 31.1 times per contest. The 49ers led the NFL with 23 rushing touchdowns this season, despite converting just 53.7% of their trips in the red zone into touchdowns. The 49ers passing attack was potent as well, finishing third in completion rate (68.8%) and yards per pass (7.9). Overall, San Francisco finished fifth in yards per play (5.9) and fourth in third down conversion rate (44.8%). San Francisco finished tied for fifth in the league with 48 sacks on the year, while having the No. 1 pass defense in yards per pass (5.2) and pass yards per game (166.6).
The Packers don’t light up that stat sheet, but they won 13 games in the regular season by finishing 8-1 in one score games. That continued in the divisional round of the playoffs with a 28-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Green Bay was 14th in the NFL with 23.8 points a game and 17th with 345.4 yards a game, while finishing 19th in third down conversion rate (37.8%). The Packers were strong in the red zone, finishing second in scoring touchdowns at 66.0%. The Packers finished third in the NFL in turnover margin (+12), with their 13 giveaways the second fewest in the league. Green Bay’s 0.67% of passes thrown that are intercepted is first in the NFL.
This game is going to come down to the 49ers run offense vs. the Packers run defense. Green Bay is 24th in the NFL in yards per carry allowed (4.7) and 23rd in yards per game allowed (119.5). San Francisco had just 112 rushing yards in the first meeting, but the 49ers didn’t need the run game to dominate Green Bay. The 49ers defense held the Packers to just 1 of 15 on third down attempts as Green Bay had just 60 total yards through three quarters, punting on six of their first eight possessions with a fumble and a turnover on downs on the other two. Green Bay was coming off a bye, making the 37-8 loss even more stunning.
San Francisco will look to pound the ball and control the clock, taking the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’s hands for as long as possible. The 49ers defense allowing just 32.3% on third downs will play a role in keeping Green Bay’s offense off the field, just like the last meeting. Green bay played its worst game of the season in the first meeting and will give San Francisco a much better matchup this time around, but they’ll need a superb performance from Rodgers to win. They also need to force turnovers against a team that had 23 giveaways on the season to pull off the upset.
Pick: 49ers 27, Packers 23