Week 4: Top 10 Packers, 49ers to watch
For the first time since 2007, the 49ers are a home underdog of at least a touchdown. The 49ers arrived at this point after back-to-back losses totaling 65 points against Pittsburgh and Arizona. The timing of the 49ers’ worst consecutive losses in 35 years comes at a time when the unbeaten Green Bay Packers come to Levi’s Stadium looking to break a four-game losing streak against the 49ers...
10) FS Eric Reid
The third-year safety might have the most-difficult job in Sunday’s game. He will be largely responsible for trying to figure out where Aaron Rodgers is going with the football. Reid has experienced a tough transition to a new defense that asks the team’s defensive backs to disguise coverages and play a variety of zone concepts. The 49ers have to tighten up their defense to prevent Rodgers from carving it up.
9) WR Randall Cobb
The Packers’ offense has not slowed down after the season-ending injury wide receiver Jordy Nelson sustained during the exhibition season. Cobb has become the main focus of the passing game. Cobb moves around in the Green Bay offensive formation, including providing a tough challenge for defenses with his short-area quickness in the slot. He has 20 catches for 245 yards and four touchdowns.
8) RB Carlos Hyde
There is little doubt the 49ers want to run the ball, and they have to find a way to remain close in this game to allow Hyde to be a factor for all four quarters. This could be a game in which the 49ers come out throwing the ball. The 49ers at some point will need to use the passing game to set up the run, rather than always using the opposite formula. Hyde has 262 yards rushing (4.9 average) in three games. The 49ers must use Hyde to control the clock and keep the Packers offense off the field.
7) LT David Bakhtiari
With all the talk about the 49ers’ offensive line, the Packers’ line has not exactly been stellar, either. Bakhtiari ranks 65th of 70 tackles, according to Pro Football Focus’ ratings system. He has given up 10 quarterback hurries and two sacks. The 49ers must win their one-on-one matchups against Bakhtiari to get pressure on Rodgers and prevent him from feeling comfortable in the pocket. Otherwise, it will be another long day for the 49ers defense.
6) C Marcus Martin
The onus falls on Martin to make the line calls after surveying the Packers’ defense. On third downs, the 49ers will face a huge challenge mentally before attempting to execute their plan physically. The Packers move around their pass rushers, and that will place a lot on Martin’s plate to try to diagnose from where the pressure will be coming. Martin and the right side of the offensive line will face a stiff challenge. Thus far, that side of the line has struggled.
5) CB Tramaine Brock
Throughout the offseason program and training camp, there was no question Brock was the 49ers’ best cornerback. Now, he must step up and play like someone who can handle his duties in one-on-one coverage. Brock will be matched against Cobb throughout the game as he often moves inside to the slot position. It’s not easy to make a play against Rodgers, but that unit will see plenty of passes flying their way.
4) LB Clay Matthews
Matthews is someone the 49ers’ offense must identify at all times. He lines up on the inside and the outside, and he teams with Julius Peppers, Mike Daniels and Nick Perry to provide a formidable pass rush on third downs. Matthews is a high-energy player who does not slow down over the course of a game. If the Packers find a mismatch they like, Matthews will try to exploit it.
3) LB Ahmad Brooks
The 49ers expected big things from Brooks after Aldon Smith was released following another off-the-field incident early in training camp. But Brooks has not stepped up his game. He does not have a sack and just four quarterback hurries in three games. In order for the 49ers to have any hope of slowing down Aaron Rodgers, Brooks has to break through against Green Bay’s vulnerable offensive tackles.
2) QB Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers, a native of Chico, is playing the best football of his career – and that’s saying something. “I don’t know how this guy ever plays better than he’s ever played,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. “I think he’s always played that good.” Rodgers is completing 73.6 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating is a remarkable 135.4.
1) QB Colin Kaepernick
In less than a week’s time, the conversation has turned 180 degrees. Kaepernick appeared to be making significant strides in the passing game. Then, Arizona happened. After a career-worst four interceptions, Kaepernick and the 49ers are reeling. Kaepernick has experienced ridiculous success against Green Bay as a passer and runner. He must come through again — in a big way — if the 49ers have any hope of pulling off the stunning upset.