Aaron Rodgers
© Jeff Hanisch | 2018 Oct 15
Aaron Rodgers © Jeff Hanisch | 2018 Oct 15

Green Bay (8-2; 7-3 ATS) at San Francisco (9-1; 5-4-1 ATS) (Sunday night)

Early line: Niners (minus-3 points). Total: (46)










This is the season’s first “flexed” game, replacing the Seahawks-Eagles game, which will now kick off at noon Sunday. Packers lead all-time series 36-30-1 and have won last 2 games vs. Niners after losing their previous 4 games, most recently edging SF 33-30 at Green Bay in Week 6 Monday-nighter last season. After Aaron Rodgers’ 16-yard TD pass to WR Davante Adams tied last year’s game at 30-all with 1:55 remaining, Packers PK Mason Crosby connected on a 27-yard game-winning 3-pointer with no time left on clock (GB outgained SF 521-401).

PACKERS entered Week 11 bye breathing easier atop the NFC North after hanging on for 24-16 Week 10 victory over the Panthers at snowy Lambeau Field that ended with Green Bay’s defense stopping Carolina MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey at the goal line as time expired.

"Obviously, we've accomplished the start that we've wanted to get off to and now we have a chance to get healthy," Rodgers said after PACKERS’ Week 10 win. "I think overall we've been fortunate so far to not have a number of major injuries, but a lot of us are nursing things that we have throughout the early part of the season. It will be nice to get that week off. Obviously, the scotch tastes a lot better at 8-2 on a bye week than 7-3."

PACKERS’ week off was their latest bye since the bye was reintroduced in 1990.

Rodgers had no problem being overshadowed in Week 10 by PACKERS RB Aaron Jones, who was tied with McCaffrey for the league lead in rushing TDs (11) and total TDs (14) after scoring three rushing TDs for the second time this season and officially entering the league MVP conversation in his own right.

With Rodgers continuing to be Rodgers (ranked 5th in league in passing yards with 2,718 entering Week 11 action with a typically sterling 17-2 TD-INT ratio), Jones establishing himself as one of the league’s most productive backs and Adams returning to form with the 14th 100-yard receiving game of his career after missing 4 games with turf toe, PACKERS arguably have the league’s top set of “Triplets” with NFL’s stretch drive fast approaching.

PACKERS’ ground game is further fortified by RB Jamaal Williams, a solid complement to Jones who had 13-63 rushing with a long of 16 in Week 10 win.

The prognosis for PACKERS’ defense is not nearly as promising, however, after allowing over 400 total yards (401 in Week 10) for the 4th time in 6 games.

Four PACKERS defenders who are definitely pulling their weight are top tackler ILB Blake Martinez, who had a league-leading 102 tackles entering Week 11; OLBs Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, who have a combined 18 ½ sacks (10 and 8 ½, respectively); and CB Kenny King, who has 3 of the team’s 9 INTs.

In PACKERS’ Week 10 win, Preston Smith had 2 sacks, 4 hurries and 6 tackles; Za’Darius Smith had 3 hurries; and King had a TFL and team-leading 9 tackles, two more than Martinez.

One factor PACKERS focused on during bye week was the team’s communication during substitutions. The Packers got a delay-of-game penalty following a timeout in Week 10 win that definitely got under head coach Matt LaFleur’s skin.

"It looks chaotic and disorganized at times," PACKERS’ LaFleur said. "That's something we're going to take a good, hard look at and how we can make it more clear and efficient for our players."

In PACKERS’ Week 6 win over Niners last season, Rodgers had 25-46-425-2 TDs-0 INTs (100.4 QB rating) while getting sacked 3 times and 3-34 rushing with a long of 21, Adams had 10-132-2 receiving on 16 targets with a long of 18, TE Jimmy Graham had 5-104 receiving on 9 targets with a long of 54, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling had 3-103 receiving on 6 targets with a long of 60, Jones had 8-41 rushing with a long of 16 and Crosby connected on 4-of-4 FG attempts (29, 39, 51, 27).

There’s no rest for the weary NINERS, who needed a dramatic comeback in 36-26 Week 11 home win over the division-rival Cardinals to assure them of their first winning season in six years.

NINERS’ next three games will go a long way to determining whether they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender or merely a pleasant surprise.

NINERS had little time to revel in a 16-point comeback vs. the Cardinals that was the team's biggest in the regular season in eight years. Soon after their Week 11 victory was complete, attention quickly turned to a three-game gauntlet against a trio of first-place teams in Green Bay, Baltimore and New Orleans.

After rolling to eight straight wins to open the season, things haven't been nearly as easy for the NINERS the past two weeks. San Francisco lost 27-24 in overtime to Seattle on Nov. 11 in a physical battle that left a toll on the players.

That contributed to a slow start against the Cardinals. But NINERS managed to rally from a 16-0 hole to score the go-ahead TD on QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s 25-yard TD pass to RB Jeff Wilson Jr. in the final minute against Arizona.

NINERS haven't needed a lot from their quarterback this season, relying more on defense and the running game for success. But in two games against the Cardinals when he was needed, Garoppolo was outstanding. He threw for a career-high 424 yards with four TD passes (115.4 QB rating) in Week 11 win.

Garropolo joined Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young as the only NINERS QBs to throw for at least 400 yards and four TDs in a single game. Garoppolo also threw for 317 yards and four TDs in the first meeting against Arizona.

Garoppolo did almost all of his damage in the passing game on underneath throws and screens in Week 11 win. NINERS gained 281 yards after the catch, the most by a team in a single game since 2014.

On the downside, after ranking 2nd in the league with 181.1 yards rushing per game the first 7 games, the NINERS have been shut down the past three weeks. San Francisco is tied for 26th with just 74 yards rushing per game in that span.

That has coincided with an injury that has sidelined TE George Kittle, a key blocker in the running game. Head coach Kyle Shanahan basically abandoned the running game in the second half against the Cardinals, as NINERS were held to 34 yards on 19 carries.

With Kittle sidelined and WR Emmanuel Sanders limited by injured ribs, NINERS’ 2nd-round rookie WR Deebo Samuel has stepped up in a big way the past two weeks. He had eight catches for a career-high 134 yards in Week 11 and is quickly becoming one of Garoppolo's most trusted targets.

That comes after Samuel had eight catches for 112 yards the previous game against Seattle. He is the first NINERS rookie with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since the merger. The previous time any SF player had consecutive 100-yard games came in December 2017 when Marquise Goodwin did it.

On the other side of the ball, CB Richard Sherman was a weak link in NINERS’ top-ranked passing defense (142.5 ypg) in Week 11.

Arizona’s Kyler Murray showed no hesitancy challenging Sherman. It paid off in three pass-interference calls that led to 72 yards in penalties against the NINERS. Sherman had been called for three penalties all season, including none since the season opener.

NINERS DE Dee Ford left Week 11 game with a hamstring injury and could miss a couple of weeks. Kittle (knee, ankle), RB Matt Breida (ankle), PK Robbie Gould (quadriceps) and DT D.J. Jones (groin) all will be evaluated this week to see if they will be able to return (check statuses).

In NINERS’ Week 6 loss to Packers last season, QB C.J. Beathard had 16-23-245-2 TDs-1 INT (115.3 QB rating), RB Raheem Mostert had 12-87 rushing with a long of 26, Brieda had 14-61-1 with a long of 13, Goodwin had 4-126-2 receiving on 5 targets with a long of 67 and Gould connected on 3-of-3 FG attempts (46, 44, 43).

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