Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 12/21/11

The Green Bay Packers stunning loss to the Kansas City Chiefs has sent them into a downward spiral in power rankings lists across the country. Not Really. But they aren't undefeated anymore, and although they remain the clear favorite to take the NFC yet again, they have more weaknesses than you may think.

The offensive line crumbled with injuries on Sunday, and Rodgers was rattled by hit after hit. The defense couldn't stop Kyle Orton and the Chiefs offense when it needed to most. Perfection had slipped away, but that didn't change the playoff picture too much. Barring a miracle, the road to Super Bowl XLVI will be through Lambeau Field, but for one NFC opponent, that might not be such a bad thing.

Let's rewind to last year's NFC Championship game at Soldier Field. Extremely cold temperatures and wintry conditions can typically put a damper on a good passing game. Aaron Rodgers statistics in their 21-14 victory over the Bears that day? 17 of 30 for 244 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Probably doesn't stand out considering he sandwiched that horrible performance with two 300-yard games. His 55.4 passer rating was actually outdone by Caleb Hanie, who produced a rating of 65.2 after he replaced Jay Cutler, and completed 13 of his 20 passes. Rodgers' two best performances in the 2011 playoffs came inside a dome. His other outdoor game in Philadelphia, resulted in just 180 yards passing, although he did have three touchdowns.

Sure the Pack had a lead throughout the game against the Bears and weren't forced into passing, but the weather played a big factor in that too. Rodgers wasn't pressured much either, so the offensive line wasn't to blame. The Bears sacked him just once and recorded only four quarterback hits. The tough play of the Green Bay defense and rumbling interception return by B.J. Raji won the game for the Packers on that day.

This season, the defense has continued to make plays, but they have needed help from Rodgers and the offense on too many occasions. The offensive line is starting to look more like a block of Swiss cheese than anything. That doesn't bode well if they find themselves matched up against a stout run defense in a cold-weather environment. Especially if the team has any sort of a pass rush to go with it.

 This all leads to why I consider the #2 seed in the NFC to be the most crucial undecided spot in all of the NFL. If the 49ers don't win out and the Saints steal that spot, they match up very similar to the Packers, and Drew Brees would suffer equally in a tough environment in Green Bay. But if San Francisco can hold on to it and end up in Lambeau for the NFC Championship game, they would have an excellent opportunity to knock off the defending champs and advance to the Super Bowl.

Going back to last year's championship game, the Packers forced three interceptions, two of them after Cutler had left with injury. Alex Smith and the 49ers lead the league with just 10 turnovers all season. The Bears gave the ball up 31 times last season and 21 were via the interception. So if the trend holds true for San Francisco, the Packers would have a much more difficult time forcing the 49ers to cough up the ball.

It's well noted by now that you simply won't run the ball on the 49ers' defense. They set an NFL record against the Pittsburgh Steelers when they held an opponent without a rushing touchdown for the fourteenth time in as many attempts this season. Add that to a ridiculous 36-game stretch of not allowing a 100-yard rusher, and you may as well not even suit up a running back against San Fran unless he's there for pass-blocking purposes. Green Bay struggles to pound the rock as it is, how would they fare against the 49ers in a repeat of "the ice bowl"? Well sure conditions like that happening again are unlikely, but you catch my drift.

Getting ahead in games and forcing teams to pass has also led to another benefit for the 49ers. Rookie of the year candidate Aldon Smith has been on a mission to show everyone why he is the best selection for the end of year honor. He's now recorded 13 sacks in half as many snaps as Broncos' linebacker Von Miller. Even if Ben Roethlisberger didn't have a bum ankle, there may have been no escaping this freak on Monday Night. He has man-handled nearly every offensive tackle he's faced, and he isn't even a starter yet. Superstars of new and old are popping up everywhere on this San Francisco defense, and it may not be long before they start to give Aaron Rodgers the same nightmares previous quarterbacks they've faced have been experiencing. Rodgers isn't all that mobile and he loves to hold out for the deep ball. A beat up offensive front and tenacious 49ers' pass rush could prove that to be a big flaw for the Packers.

The Packers defense is good, very good. They've been suspect this year, but the team is 13-1 and the defense can still give Rodgers the ball more times than he needs it. But what happens when they run into a team that knows how to take it right back? Frank Gore and the rest of the 49ers have ran well and done it without fumbling the ball. Smith has been smart in the passing game as well. With turnovers at a minimum, the Packers may be forced into a dogfight that they aren't very comfortable with. It must also be noted that the 49ers have the more dominant special teams unit. And after what the 49ers did to the Steelers in week 15, Green Bay better hope the Saints can snag the #2 spot, forcing the 49ers to New Orleans for a matchup against Drew Brees inside a dome. I personally think their hopes of a repeat are much safer with the Saints marching into Lambeau, and not the 49ers.

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