San Francisco @ Green Bay
Power rankings: San Francisco 8, Green Bay 3
When San Francisco has the ball:
The 49ers offense sits at 5th in DVOA and 6th in EPA/play. Jimmy Garoppolo is 16th in PFF passing grades (72.8), completed 68% of his passes, and gains 8.5 yards per attempt. Garoppolo has a low average depth of target (7.8, 30th highest among 39 qualifiers) and a quick average time to throw (2.54 seconds, 4th fastest). He ranked 35th of 38 QBs in pass rate that traveled over 20 yards (7.5%), but 1st in pass rate that traveled in the 10-20 yard range (25.5%). Garoppolo has been brutally bad under pressure -- he has a 29.4 passing grade from PFF in those situations, which is 2nd worst in the league. PFF also charted him with a whopping 0 "big time throws" (he is the only QB who had significant playing time who didn't record a single one) with 15 "turnover worthy plays" (3rd most). Though this creates a way to exploit the 49ers offense, the problem is Garoppolo is rarely under pressure (28.9% of the time, 8th least in the league). You also can't simply blitz him, and teams know it -- he's blitzed at a rate of 23.5% (31st most) with a PFF passing grade that ranks 8th best (79.3). It also helps playing behind one of the better offensive lines in football, featuring LT Trent Williams, who is currently the highest graded player at PFF at any position. They lost RT Mike McGlinchey for the season back in week 9, but Tom Compton has stepped in and allowed just 4 pressures in 10 games. The weaponry is also the most unique in the game -- Deebo Samuel is a legit WR/RB hybrid, George Kittle is a two way tight end who can both block and receive, and Brandon Ayiuk is a deep threat with size. As a team, they've broken more tackles and gained more yards after the catch than any team in football. Eli Mitchell, a rookie 6th rounder out of Louisiana, has also turned out to be a productive running back. They rank 5th in DVOA in both running and passing, but are a run-first team, ranking 30th in situation-neutral pass rate. On defense, the Packers are 22nd in DVOA and 18th in EPA/play. The defensive line finished 27th in ESPN's pass rush win rate and 18th in run stop, but they have reinforcements along the way. Za'Darius Smith (back) should play for the first time since week 1. Smith has had an odd career -- he appeared to break out in 2019, collecting an absurd 105 pressures and 18 sacks. Last year, however, he had "just" 59 pressures and 14 sacks -- these are still good numbers, but it paints a picture that 2019 may have been a statistical anomaly, putting him in the category of "very good" rather than with the best in the league. Since he hasn't played since week 1, we can't expect him to immediately return to form, but it's certainly a big help. Whitney Mercilus will also return for the first time since week 10, where he was sidelined with a back injury. The 31 year old is a depth piece at best -- he hasn't had an injury free/productive season since 2016, but depth is key to improving the line. With Rashan Gary (81 pressures, 10 sacks), DT Kenny Clark (64 pressures, 3 sacks) and DE Preston Smith (62 pressure, 9 sacks), they are significantly better than their advanced metrics would indicate, and could cause problems for Garoppolo. At linebacker, De'Vondre Campbell was deservedly named all pro, where he has excelled in the run game, pass rush, and in coverage. The secondary will also return Jaire Alexander, who missed the last 12 weeks with an AC Joint injury. Alexander was the best cornerback in football a year ago, but the secondary played well even without him. CB Rasul Douglas, rookie CB Eric Stokes, and S Adrian Amos all stepped up. As a unit, they rank 15th in pass defense DVOA and 28th in run defense DVOA, but I can't stress enough that they've been trending in the right direction in both quality of play and overall health. It is worth noting, since the 49eres have that George Kittle guy, that the Packers have been significantly better against wide receivers (by DVOA, they're 7th against #1 wide receivers and 7th against #2 wide receivers) than tight ends (28th). They were also 3rd in DVOA against deep passes, a useless stat against a quarterback who doesn't throw deep passes, but were just 16th against short passes.
When Green Bay has the ball:
The Packers offense are 2nd in DVOA and 3rd in EPA/play. MVP favorite Aaron Rodgers is 3rd in PFF passing grades (87.7), completes 68.9% of his passes, and gains 7.7 yards per attempt. He's thrown just 4 interceptions this season, which is backed by his 3rd best 2.0% turnover worthy play rate. Similar to Garoppolo, he has a low average depth of target (8.1, 23rd highest) and quick average time to throw (2.59 seconds, 7th fastest). However, unlike Jimmy, he does not shy away from deep passes -- he throws the ball 20+ yards at a rate of 13%, which is 11st most in the league. His aDOT is dragged down by his high screen pass rate, which is 14.7%, 2nd highest in the NFL. The offensive line is 5th in ESPN's pass block win rate metric and 3rd in run block win rate, which are stats that make zero sense for a line that is mediocre across the board. They will have LT David Bakhtiari back, who played week 18, but had been out since week 1 with a knee injury before that. At his best, Bakhtiari is one of the best tackles in football, but it's clear that he's far from 100% after not practicing Thursday and being listed as questionable on the injury report (he's playing, though). RT Billy Turner should also return from a sprained MCL that had sidelined him since week 14, but I can't be convinced that's a good thing, in my view backup Dennis Kelly is simply better. Davante Adams will be the commanding leader in receptions -- he's the best receiver in football and doesn't have a competent number 2 behind him. Slot man and Rodgers favorite Randall Cobb will return from a core injury, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling (back) is out. Allen Lazard and RB Aaron Jones will also be featured in the pass game. Jones and AJ Dillon handle the RB carries, with about a 60/40 split in favor of the Jones. They lead a balanced passing attack, ranking 11th in situation neutral early-down pass rate, and have been efficient in both the pass game (2nd in DVOA) and run game (8th). On defense, the 49ers are 7th in DVOA and 15th in EPA/play. The line ranked 5th in pass rush win rate and 3rd in run stop win rate. They rely on their front to win by themselves, as they ranked 29th in blitz rate (19.8%). Nick Bosa leads the way with 77 pressures and 17 sacks, followed by DT Arik Armstead (55 pressures, 8 sacks), DT Arden Key (39 pressures, 8 sacks), and DE Samson Ebukam (38 pressures, 7 sacks). Bosa suffered a concussion last week, but this is playoff football, so he obviously cleared protocol and got in 2 full practices. Key has turned into a monster rushing the passer -- he had just 3 total pressures in his first 6 games before ripping off 36 in his last 12. LB Fred Warner has also been solid in coverage and run defense, but injured his ankle last week. He got in 2 full practices this week and is expected to play. The problem with the defense is the secondary, where only CB Emmanuel Mosley and S Jimmie Ward has played well. Mosley finished 9th among all corners in forced incompletions (17.6%), while Ward is PFF's 9th highest graded safety. It should be no surprise that they're better against the run (2nd in DVOA) than the pass (16th). They also struggled against #1 wide receivers, ranking 31st in DVOA -- far from an ideal stat when you're facing off against Davante Adams. They were far better against short passes (4th in DVOA) than deep passes (31st), giving Rodgers a clear advantage throwing deep. The hope for the 49ers is the handle things in the trenches. Nick Bosa started the season lining up primarily on the right hand side, but switched over to the left week 8, where he'll likely be on Saturday. He'll have a clear edge over an injured and bad RT Billy Turner.