Week 1: Green Bay Packers Vs. San Francisco 49ers
- QuarterbackIn an era that has seen incredible quarterback play from Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers just may be the best in the business. He is athletic, accurate and has a strong arm that allows the Packers to light up the scoreboard.Alex Smith had the best year of his career in 2011 as he developed a great rapport with head coach Jim Harbaugh and made excellent decisions. However, Smith has not put together two good seasons in a row and he could struggle.
- OffenseThe Packers have the best group of receivers in the league and Rodgers spreads the ball around to Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley. The Packers merely use the running game to take pressure off of Rodgers.The 49ers are going to have a diverse ground game with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and former New York Giant Brandon Jacobs all seeing action. Vernon Davis is a powerful man who can get open and make big plays downfield.
- DefenseThe Packers can’t match the 49ers for defensive firepower, but they can perform much better than they did last year. Clay Matthews is smart, nasty and fast. B.J. Raji can shut down the running game if he does not get tired.The 49ers preach hard hitting and tackling better than any other team in the league. Justin Smith is a workhorse and a powerful tackler. Patrick Willis struggled with injuries last season but the 49ers got a lift from speedy NaVorro Bowman.
- Special TeamsThe Packers are fairly happy with Mason Crosby at the placekicker slot after making 24-of-28 field goals a year ago. Punter Tim Masthay has a big leg but he outkicks his coverage at times.The 49ers should have an edge over nearly every opponent on special teams. The duo of placekicker David Akers and punter Andy Lee is a superb combination. Ted Ginn Jr. is capable of returning any kick for a touchdown.
While this game should be relatively even because of the Niners’ edge on defense and special teams, the Packers open the season at home and that should provide an edge. Jim Harbaugh’s edgy personality helped the Niners play at a high level last season, but he could start to rub some of his players the wrong way if they don’t start well.