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September

2012 NFL Regular Season Week 1: Packers – 49ers Preview

Clay Matthews Alex Smith

This is our first chance to see if the Packers pass rush is truly improved.

It’s here. Finally, it’s here.

The draft? Done.  Training camp? Finished.  Preseason? Completed.

The dress rehearsals are done and the games that count are upon us.  The curtain on the 2012 NFL season has been raised and the march to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans begins in earnest this weekend.

The Green Bay Packers kick off their 2012 campaign Sunday at Lambeau Field against the San Francisco 49ers.  Many thought when last season’s playoffs began that this would be the NFC Championship Game, but thanks to the New York Giants the Packers’ season ended prematurely.

The regular season opener is the first big test to see if the Packers have fixed their defense, the Achilles heel that doomed their run at a second straight Super Bowl title a year ago.  It’s also a chance for reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers to begin to make his case for a second straight award and that the Packers offense is still as lethal as ever.

How do the Packers stack up against 49ers? Let’s first take a look at their opponent

Scouting the 49ers

Last year, the Packers faced one of the top offenses in the league during their season opener in the New Orleans Saints.  This year, they face one of the best defenses in the 49ers.

When you talk about the 49ers’ defense, you start with linebacker Patrick Willis.  Willis anchors a linebacker group that is one of the best in the NFL against the run. He was an All-Pro selection along with NaVorrow Bowman and helped the 49ers allow only 77.3 rushing yards per gain.  With defensive end Justin Smith leading the group up front, the 49ers figure to again have a very stout rush defense.

A strong defense allows the 49ers to make their opponents one dimensional which in turn allows their secondary to go on the hunt for interceptions.  San Francisco finished 16th in pass defense last season despite decent years by safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Carlos Rogers whom both were selected to the Pro Bowl.

Despite coach Jim Harbaugh’s background, the offense remains the weak link for the 49ers.  Alex Smith was re-signed by the team only after a secret attempt to sign Peyton Manning became public.  The 49ers still don’t quite know what they have in Smith despite having a career season in 2011 and nearly leading the team to the Super Bowl.