On Sunday, the Packers and 49ers will battle for a spot in Super Bowl LIV. For the Packers, it would be their first trip to the Super Bowl in nine years, having reached this round twice in the time since but losing both NFC title games. For the 49ers, it would be their first trip to the Super Bowl in seven years and would give them a chance to be crowned NFL champions for the first time in 25 years.
The 49ers are in the playoffs for the first time since reaching the NFC title game three straight times in the 2011-13 seasons, and while those 49ers teams were better on the defensive side of the ball, this year’s team ranked second in points scored, their highest finish in that category since the Steve Young years and the first time they’ve cracked the top five since 2001.
The Packers, led by first-year coach Matt LaFleur, managed to post their best record (13-3) since 2011 to return to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus. Because of their relatively weak statistical resume, many experts were ready to write this team off before the postseason even started, but Aaron Rodgers has shown time and again he can never be counted out. The Packers defense finished in the top 10 of points allowed for the first time since 2010, their last Super Bowl-winning season.
Below, you’ll find info on how to watch the game along with what you need to know about the opening and current lines. Then, you’ll see our CBSSports.com expert picks, along with some analysis from some of our writers and SportsLine analysts. And be sure to check out the Pick Six Podcast (subscribe here!) as Pete Prisco, Will Brinson and I go deep into all the picks.
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Packers at 49ers
- Time: Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET (FOX), stream on fuboTV (Try for free)
- Open: 49ers -7, O/U 45
- Current: 49ers -7.5, O/U 46.5
49ers win and cover
“The 49ers pass rush is lethal, man. The Seahawks were able to loop rushers towards the interior right side of the Packers’ line and generate a ton of pressure. Suffice to say Robert Saleh probably noticed that. You can expect a heavy dose of Dee Ford and Nick Bosa there. How will the Packers counter that? Can they counter that? My concern here if I’m a Packers fan is that Green Bay gets down early and can’t mount a comeback. The 49ers are probably the most difficult team to chase in terms of losing. They crank up the pressure and they can suffocate you on the back end as well. That’s why I’ll lay the points here too. San Francisco is the better team and already beat Green Bay once. The Packers’ offense is impressive but the 49ers’ defense is better. And I don’t know if Green Bay can stop the run this week they way they did against Seattle. Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith were excellent additions in free agency and Brian Gutekunst deserves a world of credit for picking them up, but I expect the play-action pass and a better offensive line can neutralize them.” — Will Brinson on why the 49ers will win and cover
“The fact that the 49ers have their own LaFleur feels like an advantage for San Francisco, and the fact that Matt LaFleur took some of Kyle Shanahan’s concepts to design his own offense in Green Bay also feels like an advantage for the 49ers. The last time these two teams played, the 49ers were so familiar with Green Bay’s offense that it felt like the 49ers defense knew what the Packers were going to do before the Packers knew what they were going to do. Basically, unless the Packers completely revamp their offense before Sunday, the 49ers defense is going to know exactly what to look for, and that’s definitely not a good thing for the Packers. … Defensively, if the Packers had one weakness all season, it was stopping the run, which isn’t ideal, since they’ll be playing a team on Sunday that led the NFC in rushing and ranked second overall in the NFL in rushing yards behind only the Ravens.” — John Breech on why he’s taking the 49ers to win 27-19
“I don’t think Rodgers will submit a disastrous performance again. But I think he’s going to struggle to find openings against a defensive front four that can generate pressure without the help of extra rushers, which allows the 49ers to keep seven men back in coverage. One of those men? Richard Sherman, who continues to lock down one side of the field even at the age of 31. Last weekend, Kirk Cousins targeted him only once in the first half. When he did target him early in the third quarter, he got picked off. Rodgers, one of the most risk averse quarterbacks in football, will likely look elsewhere (it wouldn’t be the first time he ignored Sherman’s portion of the field). While Rodgers will likely find more success to his left, cutting the field in half is never good for an offense. I’ll take the 49ers to beat the Packers by more than seven points because I think their quarterback has the better matchup, their defense is far superior, and they’re playing at home. It won’t be a 29-point blowout again, but it also won’t be particularly close.” — Sean Wagner-McGough on why he thinks the 49ers win and cover
“San Fran’s defense, to me, will be too much for Aaron Rodgers to take down. He was sacked five times in their previous meeting this year and held to just 104 passing yards. When you combine their dominance against Rodgers and the Packers quarterback’s shaky history in the NFC Championship (1-2 record, 4:5 TD-INT), it makes one wonder if they’ll be able to keep up. Even leaning on Aaron Jones and the running game may be hard for the Packers as the 49ers just shut down Dalvin Cook and the Vikings run game last week. As for the 49ers offense, I like Jimmy Garoppolo to come up clutch in this game. He was able to complete 14 of his 20 throws against Green Bay earlier this season for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and I expect him to utilize his full complement of weapons in this game. I also like San Fran enough to lay the points in this one.” — Tyler Sullivan on why he’s taking the 49ers to win 33-20
Who wins Packers vs. 49ers? And what critical X-factor makes one side a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread you should be all over, all from the expert who’s 49-14 on picks involving Green Bay or San Francisco.
Packers win and cover
“Yes, the 49ers are coming off an impressive victory over the Vikings last week, a game where their defense dominated, but the Green Bay offense is much better now than it was in Week 12. Rodgers, who is 0-2 against the 49ers in the playoffs, looked good against Seattle last week. It will come down to the Packers offensive line against that dominant pass rush? Can it hold up? I think it can. The Green Bay defense is an aggressive group that loves to play with the lead. But they’ve had issues against the run all year and San Francisco is outstanding running the ball. If the 49ers win it, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could have an easy time of it against the Packers. The offense is keyed off that run game. I think both offenses will have success here, but in the end I think it will come down to the better quarterback. I am going with Rodgers and the Packers.” — Pete Prisco on why he has the Packers winning 27-26
Legendary NFL handicapper Hammerin’ Hank Goldberg is on an 18-6 run with his best bets, and he’s back with more for the conference title games. One pick he loves is Over 53 in Titans-Chiefs, and you can get his ATS picks for both games over at SportsLine.
49ers win, Packers cover
“Keeping Rodgers protected against the Seahawks’ pass rush is a far different task than doing the same against San Francisco’s fearsome rush. Nick Bosa finished the season sixth in the NFL in total pressures, per Pro Football Focus. Arik Armstead ranked 17th. DeForest Buckner ranked seventh among interior defenders. Dee Ford sat out several games so he doesn’t rank as highly, but his Pass Rushing Productivity rate at PFF was sixth-best among the 195 defenders who rushed the passer on at least 100 snaps. Rodgers does have an occasional tendency to hold onto the ball for too long, and he has to be careful not to indulge that impulse too often against this front. The better way to beat the Niners this season, though, has been on the ground. The degree to which that’s true has been a bit exaggerated by a couple of big games when several important pieces were missing and you don’t have to look much further than the way they bottled up Dalvin Cook last week for evidence, but it’s still the case.” — Jared Dubin, who has the 49ers winning 24-20, in his in-depth preview of the game
“While the Packers’ 28-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks last week didn’t exactly get fans excited since Green Bay was outscored 20-7 in the second half, I think there was some good we can take away from the win. Rodgers looked great while throwing for 243 yards and two touchdowns, Aaron Jones was effective on the ground with 62 yards and two touchdowns, and star wideout Davante Adams was unstoppable — reeling in eight catches for 160 yards and two scores. On the defensive side of the ball, Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith combined for four sacks and the Packers did a decent job trying to contain Russell Wilson on the ground. This will be the first time Garoppolo and the 49ers are tested in the postseason, since the Minnesota Vikings didn’t exactly give them much of a game. Still, it’s hard not to love this defense. Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead make up what I think is the best defensive line in the NFL, and Richard Sherman has been great in leading this secondary as well. Even though Garoppolo is inexperienced in the postseason, he has great talent around him on offense and a great defense to back him up. He has to feel confident with the supporting cast he has.” — Jordan Dajani on why he has the 49ers winning 27-21
“The 49ers are the rightful favorites here. For weeks and weeks, we all wondered whether Garoppolo was actually the real deal at quarterback, and while he’s mostly proven he is, he also hasn’t always had to. That’s because Kyle Shanahan’s shown he’s the real deal, scheming up exactly what San Francisco needs offensively. Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle — they’re all made better by Shanahan’s space-creating strategies. And that’s not even mentioning Robert Saleh’s defense, which has the elite talent (Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman) to make life hard for Rodgers. For whatever reason, it’s hard to completely shake the feeling the Packers could stun us all (maybe it’s just the Rodgers vs. Garoppolo component), but even so, the Niners are built to go the distance.” — Cody Benjamin on why he thinks the 49ers win but Packers cover
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Finally, here are the arguments for each side of the spread from my Wednesday betting tips column:
Why to take Packers
- Well-rounded offense tougher to shut down, 49ers have struggled vs. run at times
- Huge mismatch in red zone: Packers have two top-eight units and 49ers have two in bottom 12
- Packers have huge advantage at quarterback as Jimmy Garoppolo is largely untested
Why to take 49ers
- Massive edge in yards per play differential and weighted DVOA hints at blowout potential
- Second-most rush attempts in regular season plays into Packers defensive weakness
- Dominated regular-season matchup, which could hint at scheme advantage