The 2012 season opened with the San Francisco 49ers making another trip to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers. This year, the Packers will be taking the trip to Candlestick Park to open the season. These two teams have undergone a few changes since the start of last season.
The Packers still have the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers. They also have a nice group of receivers for him to throw to. They did lose two veteran receivers in Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, but the passing game will remain intact with James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb set to be the top three wideouts.
Offensively, this team is very similar to what they were last year. The Packers did make it a focus to find a running back in the draft, and they drafted two of the better running backs in Eddie Lacy from Alabama and Jonathan Franklin from UCLA. This team is notorious for not being able to run the ball, but some feel that the addition of Eddie Lacy will allow them to improve in that category.
There’s not too much of a change on defense with the Packers either. The biggest difference is the departure of Charles Woodson. He was the heart and soul of the defense but could not contribute the same as an aged player. His deteriorating skills were really evident when Colin Kaepernick simply outran him despite Woodson having the angle to stop him from scoring.
It is no secret that the Packers’ coaching staff has gone to colleges such as Texas A & M to seek help when it comes to stopping the read option. They were stubborn last year and stayed in their Cover 2 man defense which caused their defenders to run with their assignments, thus turning their back to Colin Kaepernick. This will not happen often, if at all against the 49ers this year.
The 49ers will have a new look to their receiving corps as Anquan Boldin comes in to temporarily replace the injured Michael Crabtree. Delanie Walker was another one of the top pass catchers for Kaepernick last year. He has moved on to the Tennessee Titans. Vance McDonald was selected to replace him.
One of the key match ups in both games last year was Chris Culliver against James Jones. Culliver was the biggest corner for the 49ers until Nnamdi Asomugha came along. He did a good job of playing both of the Packers’ receivers in the down field passing game. Culliver suffered a season ending knee injury which will place him on injured reserve.
There are two big differences on defense. One would be the addition of Eric Reid as a replacement for Dashon Goldson. Reid is a safety that is similar to Goldson but has been said to be an even more rangy player. He will come up and lay a thump on receivers.
Another difference is the influx of pass rushing ability that Corey Lemonier brings. He will give the 49ers a new pass rusher who will help spell Ahmad Brooks or Aldon Smith. Depth at the outside linebacker position was a weak point last year.
There have been some interesting comments by both teams as they get set for their clash. Clay Matthews called the 49ers’ offense “fake.” That is very funny, considering how they accumulated over five hundred yards of total offense as they steamrolled the Packers in the divisional round.
These teams are very similar to the teams that opened the season last year. There are a few personnel changes but both of these teams are still legitimate contenders for the NFC Conference Championship.