Week 8 is in the history books and it’s one the Green Bay Packers would like to forget. An uninspired effort on a windy day put the Packers on the wrong end of a 28-22 defeat to the Minnesota Vikings. Moving on to Week 9 is a Thursday night West Coast visit to San Francisco that has been circled on the calendar when the schedule came out, . The foe 49ers are also coming off a division loss. They got beat up against the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday. With little time to prepare both teams will be looking to right the ship and get a big W. How will the Packers fare against the 49ers Week 9 roster?
Ground and Pound Style
When things are rolling, coach Kyle Shanahan likes to impose his team’s will and run the ball in his zone scheme. Last season the San Francisco 49ers ran the ball down the Packers throats with little resistance. Unless Green Bay takes notes on what the Seahawks did Sunday, expect San Francisco to try and do the same.
This style all starts with the blocking and the men on the offensive line. Tackles Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey make a solid duo. They could be the best bookends the Packers have played this season. While the interior guys (Laken Tomlinson, Hroniss Grasu, Dan Brunskill) aren’t household names, they are physical and can get out in space to make this scheme work.
The running back room has been hammered by injury. However, with enough depth, the group remains a committee without having to rely on one sole player. Last week rookie JaMycal Hasty got the most touches. Tevin Coleman just came back from the IR but hurt his knee again in the first quarter and didn’t return. Jerick McKinnon who started the season with a heavy workload has become a non-factor. The 49ers also have fullback Kyle Juszczyk who is a threat in the passing game.
Passing the Time
The 49ers air attack starts with the best tight end in the league George Kittle. Kittle also went down last week and has missed a lot of time this season. When healthy there isn’t anything this guy can’t do. However, the Packers will not have to deal with Kittle as he is expected to miss multiple weeks. In his place, Ross Dwelley assumes the starting tight end spot.
The wide receivers are a young group with some big-play potential. Deebo Samuel leads this unit but is injured. That leaves fourth-year player Kendrick Bourne as the veteran and rookie talent Brandon Aiyuk. Those two have combined for close to seven hundred yards receiving and three scores.
The biggest question mark on the offense is at quarterback. The 49ers have played musical chairs this season with three different quarterbacks getting action. Jimmy Garoppolo is supposed to be the guy but has struggled both on the field and with a high ankle sprain. If he can’t go Nick Mullens will get the start. Mullins came in late and jump-started this team against Seattle but the game was well out of hand. Mullins has four touchdowns with three interceptions on the season. The Packers will need to attack whoever is at QB to slow this offense.
The San Francisco 49ers defense has taken a lot of hits this season due to injury. Even with key players missing time, the unit has been stingy. While they are top 10 in the league in yardage allowed, they have been much better at keeping opponents out of the end zone. They are a top three in both passing and rushing touchdowns allowed. This is a very sound and disciplined defensive unit.
In spite of the fact that Nick Bosa is out for the season and Dee Ford is not playing, the front for ours is still excellent. Arik Armstead remains a force off the left edge. He hasn’t racked up the sack numbers but he is ultra-athletic and strong against the run. On the other side, Kerry Hyder has been respectable filling in for Bosa and Ford. Inside, D.J. Jones is a gap shooter and penetrator. While Javon Kinlaw has miles to go to fill former 49ers DeForest Buckner shoes, he has shown why they took him in the first round.
At linebacker, Fred Warner is the leader in the middle of this defense and plays with his hair on fire. He attacks the line of scrimmage and is also strong against the pass with two interceptions. Next to him is Kwon Alexander who is more of a tone-setter type but has been banged up. On the other side is second-year pro Dre Greenlaw who has also played well. San Francisco is not afraid to blitz these guys as they all have sacks on the season.
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In the secondary, the 49ers will be without Richard Sherman in this game. However, they should have Jason Verrett going who has been lights out this season. Though Verrett has been battling an ankle injury along with injuries most of his career when healthy there is no denying this guy’s talent. He is a true lockdown corner who is in the running for Comeback Player of the Year. Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt make a really solid safety duo but both of them are question marks of playing. Backups Tarvarius Moore in Marcell Harris are big downgrades. If Green Bay wants to seal a West Coast when they need to jump on this beat-up defense.
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