SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers know it is not going to be as easy as it was in Week 12, when they got off to a hot start and never let the Green Bay Packers into the game.
This time, the teams meet in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium.
And the 49ers’ 37-8 Week 12 victory of Nov. 24 is a distant memory.
The 49ers and Packers have 14 wins apiece. In order for the 49ers to pick up another to advance to Super Bowl LIV in Miami, they need to get solid performances from a mix of proven veterans, youngsters and players on the rise.
Here are five 49ers to watch in Sunday's title bout:
5. LT Joe Staley
There were no guarantees Joe Staley would ever be back in this situation. But here he is, just one victory from returning to the Super Bowl. And Staley faces one of the most important head-to-head matchups that will determine who wins Sunday.
The Packers went out in free agency and came away with two edge rushers named Smith who have proven to be handfuls for opposing offensive tackles. Preston Smith lines up on one side. Za’Darius Smith is a force on the other side. Za'Darius Smith, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, has stepped in and given the Packers a presence off the edge.
He registered 13.5 sacks on the season, including 1.5 sacks in the Week 12 meeting against the 49ers. That game was one of nine during the regular season in which Staley was not available due to injuries. The veteran left tackle first fractured his lower leg and later had surgery to repair a fractured finger.
Since his return to the lineup, Staley has been playing like his six-time Pro Bowl self. He will have to be on top of his game Sunday to keep Jimmy Garoppolo comfortable in the pocket.
4. FS Jimmie Ward
While Staley, the longest-tenured 49ers player, certainly has invested a lot to continue his quest to return to a Super Bowl, there might not be a player on the team more deserving of playing on the big stage than Jimmie Ward.
Ward has overcome injury after injury after injury. He has overcome position change after position change after position change.
Finally, Ward has remained healthy for most of the season. Finally, he has a stable position. Ward is playing at a high level, and that will have to continue against an all-time great quarterback.
Aaron Rodgers is not a dink-and-dunk quarterback. He will want to push the ball down the field, and that is where Ward will play a significant role, as his job is to limit pass plays that pick up big chunks of yards. Ward must be on top of his game Sunday.
3. CB Emmanuel Moseley
Coach Kyle Shanahan is not saying whether Emmanuel Moseley or Ahkello Witherspoon is going to start at right cornerback. Moseley seems to be the logical choice after replacing a struggling Witherspoon in each of the past two games.
But if the 49ers go with Witherspoon, again, just scroll up one paragraph and insert his name. That’s because nothing really changes whether it’s Moseley or Witherspoon.
The Packers will look to exploit this matchup with Davante Adams. After all, they do not figure to test Pro Bowl performer Richard Sherman on the other side. Sherman typically does not shadow wide receivers. He stays on one side.
Adams is the Packers' most-dangerous threat in the passing game. He caught eight passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns in Green Bay’s 28-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round.
The key for the 49ers’ pass defense is getting pressure on the quarterback. The secondary will not be able to hold up all day, so it’s imperative for the 49ers that Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead make Rodgers uncomfortable.
2. QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not have to do a whole lot for the 49ers to advance past the divisional round of the playoffs.
On Sunday, the 49ers will need him to do more because it is unlikely the 49ers will dominate on the ground as they did against the Vikings.
Few questions remain about Garoppolo, who has taken every meaningful snap for a team that won the NFC West, earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and rolled in the divisional round to get to the NFC Championship Game.
Now, it’s just a matter of producing on the big stage. And there’s only one venue bigger than Sunday’s game.
[RELATED: Sherman brings Hall-of-Fame credentials to 49ers' Super Bowl run]
1. TE George Kittle
All-Pro tight end George Kittle is the 49ers’ best player. And big games like this are all about great players.
Kittle has a huge impact on the game when the 49ers throw the ball. He has a huge impact on the game when the 49ers run the ball. It does not matter to him, though it seems he enjoys blocking as much as he likes piling up yards after the catch.
Kittle had a quiet game in the divisional round against the Minnesota Vikings. He had just three receptions for 16 yards. But his impact in the 49ers’ run game was quite loud. After a mid-week issue with his ankle, Kittle said he is feeling “fabulous.”
The 49ers will likely need Kittle at the top of his game to take advantage of some mismatches. If he produces big plays and yards after the catch, the 49ers likely will be making travel plans Miami.
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday)
Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 5:30 p.m.