Green Bay (+9.5) @ San Francisco
Power rankings: Green Bay 11, San Fran 1
When Green Bay has the ball: The Packers offense is 6th in DVOA and 5th in EPA/play. Jordan Love is 12th in PFF grades and 9th in ESPN's QBR, but his play in the later half of his first season as a starter has been jaw-dropping impressive. Love is PFF's 2nd highest graded QB since week 9 (his opponent is 1st), completing 70.5% of his passes, gaining 8.0 yards per attempt, good for a 91.7 grade. He plays behind a medicore-at-best offensive line, that objectively the worst line remaining in the playoffs. RT Zach Tom - a 2022 4th rounder out of Wake Forest - has been the best of the bunch. RG Elgton Jenkins has also been strong as a pass blocker, but the others have had issues throughout the season. The receiving group is notoriously young, with virtually all of them having been drafted in either 2023 or 2022. Christian Watson (hamstring) was eased into the mix after returning last week, and with how well Romeo Doubs/Jayden Reed/Dontayvion Wicks have all been playing, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Green Bay continue to rotate Watson into the mix. The Packers are a run heavy (20th in situation-neutral pass frequency), play-action heavy (25.3%) team that ranks better passing (4th in DVOA) than running (15th).
The 49ers defense is 4th in DVOA (4th pass, 15th run). Since trading for Chase Young at the deadline, the 49ers have one of the most feared pass rushing groups in the league. They rank 6th in pressure rate despite blitzing 26th most often. Nick Bosa is a top-tier edge rusher, compiling an absurd 22.6% win rate and 95 pressures on the season. The 49ers will also return DT Arik Armstead for the first time since week 13, who teams up with ex Eagle Javon Hargrave on the inside. Fred Warner is PFF's top graded linebacker this season, excelling at coverage, pass rush, and in the run game. Meanwhile, cornerbacks Charvarius Ward, Ambry Thomas, slot man Deommodore Lenoir, and safety Tashaun Gipson make up a deep secondary that ranks 3rd in PFF coverage grades. The 49ers are strong against deep passes (4th in DVOA) and short passes (8th). There truly isn't a weakness to attack in the passing game, and 49ers pass rush against the Packers offensive line is a mismatch. San Fran's run defense isn't the strongest, but that's usually not a problem when you're blowing teams out.
When the 49ers have the ball:
San Francisco's offense is 1st in both DVOA and EPA/play. LT Trent Williams is one of the best tackles in the game, but the offensive line as a whole is the one weak point on offense. San Francisco excels due to scheme, the most impressive skill position players in the league, and a quarterback who plays well within structure and is more than capable of creating his own plays when the scheme doesn't give an obvious answer. By PFF grades, the skill position players rank as follows vs their position group: Brock Purdy (4th), Christian McCaffrey (2nd), George Kittle (1st), Brandin Aiyuk (2nd), and Deebo Samuel (15th). San Francisco is 1st in pass DVOA and 2nd in rush DVOA. Defenses tend to try to exploit San Francisco's offensive line issues via the blitz - Purdy's 38.6% blitzed rate is 3rd highest in the league - but that hasn't worked at all. Purdy is PFF's 4th highest graded QB against the blitz, gaining an absurd 10.2 yards per attempt.
The Packers defense is 27th in DVOA (26th pass, 26th run). They generate pressure 13th most often despite only blitzing 22nd most often, but they rank just 19th in ESPN's pass rush win rate and 18th in PFF's pass rushing grades. DE Rashan Gary (62 pressures), DT Kenny Clark (62), DT Devonte Wyatt (48), and DE Preston Smith (47) are the primary source of said pressure, but only Gary is above a 15% win rate (16.1%). The Packers have a strong linebacker (DeVondre Campbell), cornerback (Jaire Alexander), and safety (Darnell Saveage), but there's too many weaknesses to climb the top of the advanced stats defensive rankings. To make matters worse, Alexander reaggravated a left ankle sprain during Wild Card win over Cowboys. He's officially questionable and did not practice on Thursday, but the docs expect him to play. Green Bay has been poor covering number 1 receivers (26th in DVOA), tight ends (26th), and running backs as receivers (27th). They've struggled against deep passes (28th) and short passes (26th). The one matchup mismatch in their favor is Rashan Gary, who lines up primarily over the right tackle (Colton McKivitz). McKivitz has surrendered 48 pressures this season, 9th most among tackles, and has a 56.4 pass blocking grade from PFF. Green Bay is unlikely to put up much resistance against San Francisco, but if they do, it'll be Gary consistently winning and generating pressure.