Some would simply look at this season’s week one matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers to start breaking down this upcoming Saturday’s divisional playoff game. But each of these teams has made a sizable change between Week 1 and now.
So what are the changes? The 49ers have a new starting quarterback in Colin Kaepernick and the Packers have found a more productive running game. Let’s examine each of these factors as it relates to this upcoming game.
This is the biggest change for San Francisco. In the week one matchup at Green Bay, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was the starter and he was extremely efficient. He was 20 for 26 with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It helped that Frank Gore added over 100 yards rushing and with Smith not under any real pressure all day. The 49ers were able to beat the Packers for the first time since 1999 and the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
In a week 10 game against the St. Louis Rams, Smith suffered a concussion and had to leave the game. That would be his last start and action during the 2012 season. Smith was forced to miss the next week’s game when he was not cleared to return.
Back up quarterback Colin Kaepernick filled in for Smith and threw for two touchdowns in the team’s next game, a Monday Night win over the Chicago Bears. From there, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh declared that he would continue with the “hot hand” and keep Kaepernick under center.
Kaepernick helped the 9ers get to 12 wins an secure the NFC’s second seed entering the playoffs. He finished the season with 10 touchdown passes to just three interceptions. He had over 400 yards rushing on the season and added another five touchdowns on the run.
In his only snap against the Packers in week one, Kaepernick ran for 17 yards and a big first down. Green Bay has plenty of film on him and needs to focus hard on his mobility this week. It’s Kaepernick’s first career playoff start, but he is coming in with a lot of confidence and it’s a home game.