There are two playoff rematches on the Week 1 schedule for the 2013 NFL season, and with all due respect to the NFL Kickoff opener in Denver between the Ravens and Broncos, the marquee game is easily Green Bay at San Francisco. It will be the third game in almost exactly a year (364 days to be exact) between the two, which is pretty unusual between non-division rivals. I don't think it would surprise anyone if they meet again in the NFC Championship Game. Packers-Niners could become this decade's rivalry like Cowboys-49ers used to be.
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Packers at 49ers Betting Story Lines
Even when the Packers won the Super Bowl in the 2010 season, they didn't have a good running game (No. 24). That has been the case in the following two seasons as well, which makes it all the more remarkable about how good Aaron Rodgers has been in leading the NFL in quarterback rating the past two seasons. Last year the Pack averaged just 3.9-yards-per-carry. The team rarely makes a big splash in free agency -- it didn't add a single impact player that way this offseason -- so it doubled up in the draft in running backs on Alabama's Eddie Lacy and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin. Those guys should share carries, although I'm guessing Lacy will be the starter.
Anything the backs can provide will only help Rodgers, not that he needs much. The Packers do have to replace receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, but they were on the downside of their careers. Look for a truly monster season from Randall Cobb, one of the most electrifying players in the NFL. The Pack also said goodbye to cornerback Charles Woodson, but he was way past his prime.
The 49ers, remember, will not have No. 1 receiver Michael Crabtree for most of the 2013 season after he injured his knee in OTAs. That's a big blow after Crabtree came into his own last year. He clearly had developed a rapport with Colin Kaepernick. It's a good thing the Niners traded for Anquan Boldin. They are still pretty thin at receiver, however. Otherwise, the team's biggest loss was all-pro safety Dashon Goldson, but the Niners believe they found his replacement with first-round pick Eric Reid out of LSU. San Francisco better hope Kaepernick doesn't get hurt with Alex Smith gone and Colt McCoy the backup.
The 49ers showed they were going to be a powerhouse last year by going into Green Bay in Week 1 and pushing around the Packers, 30-22. Green Bay had been a six-point favorite. Smith was excellent in that one, going 20-for-26 with two touchdowns and no picks. Frank Gore had one of his best games of the year with 112 yards and a TD on 16 carries. Rodgers threw for 303 yards and two scores, and Cobb had a 75-yard punt return for a score, but the running game was non-existent with 45 yards. San Francisco kicker David Akers tied the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in the game -- he's now in Detroit.
In the divisional round in San Francisco, Kaepernick went wild on Green Bay, rushing for an NFL quarterback-record 181 yards and two scores while passing for 263 and two more TDs. Sure, Kaepernick had been good since taking over from Smith in the regular season, but that effort made him a superstar and household name. Crabtree caught nine passes for 119 yards and two scores. San Francisco's 579 total yards were a team record for a playoff game. The game was actually close in the first half, with the Niners taking the lead for good on Akers' 36-yard field goal on the final play before intermission. Green Bay actually was solid on the ground with 104 yards on 16 carries. Rodgers threw for 257 yards and two scores, but the Packers had the ball 16 minutes less than the Niners as they simply ran over the Green Bay defense. The Niners were three-point favorites in that one.
Packers at 49ers NFL Week 1 Betting Odds and Trends
At WagerWeb, the 49ers opened as five-point favorites with the total set at 50.5. Green Bay was 9-7 ATS last season (4-4 on road) and 8-8 “over/under” (4-4 on road). San Francisco was 9-7 ATS (4-4 at home) and 9-6-1 O/U (5-2-1 at home). The Niners were not between 4-6 point favorites once last regular season. Five is an unusual number, and this is the only Week 1 game at five. The Packers were dogs twice in the 2012 regular season: they won outright at Houston at +4 and were blown out at +1 at the Giants.
NFL Picks: Packers at 49ers Betting Predictions
I realize Kaepernick is in his third season but obviously only second as a starter. Will a sophomore slump hit him like it did Cam Newton for a large chunk of 2012? I also don't think the loss of Crabtree can be overstated. The Packers are a proud team, and it's just not easy to beat the same good club three times in a year. With weeks to prepare for Kaepernick, I expect Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers to have some answers. Not saying the Packers will win, but I do like them to cover. Take the under.
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