Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 9/7/12

Last season the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers were the top two teams in the NFC, but they couldn’t be anymore different.

The Packers had one of the best offenses in the league but also one of the worst defenses.  The 49ers had one of the best defenses in the league but had a mediocre offense.

Both teams addressed their needs in the offseason, the Packers going heavy on defense during the draft, and the 49ers picking up some veteran and drafting some younger offensive players.  If these changes have an immediate effect on the teams we are in for a heck of a game.

Even if they don’t have an immediate effect this game will be great.  The Packers start their season with a true test, which will give them and fans a good measuring stick for how the team will perform this season.

The Packers offense will face a stiff test against a strong 49ers defense.  The defense last seasons ranked middle of the pack in the league in pass defense, giving up 230 yards per game, but they had the best run-defense, which only gave up 77 yards per game.  Looking at those stats should give you a good option of what the Packers will do on offense.  Throw. The. Ball.

If you follow the Packers, or read these stories, you know Rodgers skills passing but here they are again just so you can ogle them.  Last year he threw for 4,6423 yards, 45 touchdowns to only six interceptions and 68.3 percent completion rate.   Rodgers and the receiving core should have no problem moving the ball through the air.  The 49ers defense has had a long time to prepare for this game but Rodgers has shown he can beat almost any defense regardless of what they do to stop him.

Cedric Benson could really help the Packers out by turning in a good rushing game but the 49ers strong defense will make that tough. (AP Photo/John Grieshop)

The main issue for the Packers offense will be, much like it was last year, the running game.  The Packers have added Cedric Benson in the offseason in hopes of giving the running game a boost but don’t expect it to come this week against the 49ers.  The 49ers will most likely stuff any running game the Packers try to muster up which will force them to throw the ball more.  This could prove problematic for the Packers, especially if the 49ers find a way to slow Rodgers down, but as stated above Rodgers has an ability to perform against any kind of defense.

On the defensive side of the ball the Packers need to do their best to shut down the 49ers and force them to be one-dimensional, preferably make them run the ball more.  Frank Gore is a great running back but the Packers are more efficient at stopping the run (111 yards per game) than they are at stopping the pass (299 yards per game).Gore averaged only 76 yards per game last season and despite the additions of Brandon Jacobs and rookie LaMichael James the Packers should be able to keep them in control.  The 49ers added veteran receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham to aid quarterback Alex Smith.  While Moss’s glory days are most likely behind him he can still be a good player and I see him as an x-factor of sorts for this game.  You also can’t forget about Vernon Davis who is one of the best tight ends in the league and is always near impossible to cover.  The Packers have their work cut out for them on this one.

Vernon Davis has proven himself to be a force in the league and will be a tough matchup for the Packers (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

The Packers x-factor is Cedric Benson.  I’m expecting almost nothing from him because of the 49ers dominant run defense but if he is able to get a running game going and can put up a good chunk of yards, around or over 100, the Packers should win this game easy.  If the running game gets stuffed the Packers will need Rodgers to be the same guy he was last year and carry them to victory, which is what will happen.

Another factor in this game is that both teams are trying to forget the way their seasons ended last year.  The Packers were 15-1 and at home before the Giants came in and beat them and the 49ers fumbled a punt in overtime to the same Giants, which cost them their shot at the Super Bowl.  The game could come down to who wants the win more.  This edge goes to the Packers who will be out to prove that the loss to the Giants was a fluke and that they will be just as dominant as last season.

All this said the Packers win a close one in Lambeau to kick off their season on a positive note.  Packers win 28-24.

I wanted to try something new this season and include this brief, quasi summary to the game previews.  I would like to know what you think of this feature so that I can continue to improve it.  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.  Also, how do you think the game will go?

Three Keys to victory

  1. Shutdown the 49ers passing game – The Packers goal on defense should be to slow down or completely shut down the 49ers passing game.  If they are able to do that the 49ers will be forced to run the ball, which the Packers should be able to handle.
  2. Give Rodgers a break – We already know that Rodgers will get his stats and be able to lead the offense through the air but he will need some help.  Cedric Benson and the rest of the running backs will have to do all they can against the tough 49ers defense.  Any running game will help but a big day from Benson will really help this team.
  3. Let the crowd decide – We already know that Lambeau Field will be rocking and the Packers will need the crowd to be behind them the whole time.  It may be superficial but the Packers seem to really be at their best in front of the home fans.  The players will feed off the crowd’s energy and give them an extra boost that could be just what they need to win this game.

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