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Sports NFC Championship Tale of the Tape: Who has the edge at each position?

18:06  17 january  2020
18:06  17 january  2020 Source:   thescore.com

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The NFC Championship Game is a rematch of the San Francisco 49ers' 37-8 bludgeoning of the Green Bay Packers in Week 12. But much has changed since that contest.

While the No. 1-seeded Niners have gone 4-2 since that game, including a divisional round beatdown of the Minnesota Vikings, the No. 2-seeded Packers haven't lost since that November affair.

Here's how the NFC's two best teams matchup with a trip to Super Bowl LIV on the line.

Quarterback

a baseball player holding a bat in front of a crowd: Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images Sport / Getty© Provided by theScore Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The battle under center pits a two-time NFL MVP against a passer with 27 career starts. But, resumes aside, this matchup isn't cut and dry.

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The NFC Championship tale of the tape . According to FiveThirtyEight, the Rams have the lowest odds among the four remaining teams of winning the Super Bowl. Through 14 games, the Rams had rushed for more than 150 yards three times; they’ve now done so in each of their last three games.

Tale of the tape . AP Pro 32 reporter Barry Wilner examined the matchups at each position in Sunday’s NFC Championship game. Wilner previewed each team’s offensive-defense matchups, who has the special teams advantage, as well as the head coaching advantage for the game.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, even at the age of 36, remains at top form. He was extremely efficient again in 2019, throwing 26 touchdown passes against just four interceptions during the regular season. But the star quarterback was at his best in the divisional-round game against the Seattle Seahawks. Rodgers threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns and tossed a couple of game-winning, pinpoint throws in the clutch to help Green Bay advance to the conference championship game.

Though less is being asked of the 15-year vet, he proved on Sunday he can still take over a game when it's hanging in the balance.

In his first full 16-game season, Jimmy Garoppolo led the 49ers to a 13-3 season and the top spot in the NFC. Yet the Niners aren't entirely dependent on Garoppolo's right arm. While he's been mostly brilliant throughout the campaign, leading San Francisco to a number of nail-biting victories, the six-year pro still has a tendency to make poor throws at inopportune times.

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The loss of Wentz and the unexpected re-emergence of Foles has been the storyline surrounding the Eagles this post-season. Foles is having an historically Don’t expect the Patriots to be as susceptible to the Eagles offence as the Vikings were in the NFC championship : After giving up more than 440

After Jimmy G threw a first-half interception against the Vikings in the divisional round with the 49ers leading 14-7, he attempted just six more passes the rest of the contest. The 28-year-old completed three of those passes for 26 yards and San Francisco still emerged with a decisive 27-10 victory.

While Garoppolo's play could determine whether the 49ers win or lose on Sunday, Rodgers - a Super Bowl champion and the MVP of Super Bowl XLV - is more likely to take a game over in an effort to ensure his team is victorious.

Advantage: Packers

Running Back

The running back matchup is a bit more difficult to call.

With Aaron Jones as their bell cow, the Packers had their best rushing attack since 2015 and their first 1,000-yard back since Eddie Lacy in 2014. Jones shared the league lead with Derrick Henry in rushing touchdowns with 16.

But only five of Jones' 18 rushing scores (including last week's playoff game) came from further than seven yards out, suggesting much of his influence on the scoreboard comes as a goal-line back.

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Tale of the Tape : Who Ya Got, Vikings or 49ers? The 'NFL Total Access' crew debate who has the edge between the Vikings and 49ers Here's what you need to know before the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers matchup in the NFC Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL season.

We give the advantage at each position for the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders leading up to their showdown in Mexico City, as well as a final

On the opposing sideline, San Francisco possesses the league's No. 2-ranked running game. Though the three-headed monster of Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, and Matt Breida split the workload (Mostert and Coleman each had 137 carries, Breida had 123), the result between them was nearly 2,000 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.

As noted above, the 49ers rely much more heavily on their run game than the Packers, and they rode it to the tune of 186 yards and two scores in the divisional round. The Niners own the stronger, more reliable rushing attack, and that's not even taking into account the impact of fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Advantage: 49ers

Receivers

a baseball player wearing a helmet: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport / Getty© Provided by theScore Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Neither team had much confidence in their receiver depth entering the 2019 season. The 49ers relied on a collection of Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, and Kendrick Bourne in 2018, while the Packers couldn't get any consistent production beyond Davante Adams.

Green Bay struggled once again to find a second option at receiver this season. Aaron Jones finished the year as the team's second-leading pass-catcher in all major receiving categories. Allen Lazard, Geronimo Allison, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling each had their moments throughout the year, but none emerged as a consistent weapon for Rodgers.

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Meanwhile, Garoppolo seemed to find a different receiver to key in on each week. On any given Sunday, one of Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders, or Bourne could break out for 100-plus yards or multiple touchdowns.

And then there's George Kittle. The monster tight end was named first-team All-Pro after putting together another 1,000-yard season. After breaking out last year, he emerged as one of the league's best playmakers this season. Kittle more than eclipsed the production Jimmy Graham provides the Packers from the same position.

Advantage: 49ers

Offensive Line

The Packers feature the only All-Pro offensive lineman in second-teamer David Bakhtiari. On the right side of the line is mainstay Bryan Bulaga, who was a late scratch from the divisional round with an illness. Though veteran Jared Veldheer filled in admirably, Bulaga's availability will go a long way toward determining who wins the battle in the trenches against a vaunted 49ers pass rush.

The Packers allowed five sacks in their Week 12 meeting with the Niners. They allowed Rodgers to be dropped just twice in last week's playoff game.

Garoppolo is protected by a formidable offensive line anchored at the tackles by Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. He was sacked three times in San Francisco's last game against the Packers and twice against the Vikings.

Packers' LaFleur: Rodgers still among NFL's premier players

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The Jaguars have a strong running back in rookie Leonard Fournette, who is coming off a three-TD effort, and he can help Jacksonville control the The Patriots always have one of the best coverage teams in the league, and Matthew Slater excels at making hard tackles that keep opponents in check.

The Rams also have to find a way to stop Saints receiver Michael Thomas, something they couldn’t do in the teams’ first meeting and something If experience matters, then this category certainly falls to the Saints’ Sean Payton, who is in the NFC championship game for the third time and is 10 years

The Niners' zone running game is reliant upon a cohesive offensive line clearing the way for a collection of backs. San Fran finished the year with the second-ranked rushing attack and 13th-best passing game. Green Bay was ranked 13th and 17th in those categories, respectively.

Advantage: 49ers

Defensive Front Seven

Star Tribune via Getty Images / Star Tribune / Getty© Provided by theScore Star Tribune via Getty Images / Star Tribune / Getty

The defensive fronts for both teams are playing at a championship level.

Finally at full strength with Dee Ford back in the lineup, the Niners' defensive line thrived last week, limiting the Vikings' offense to just 10 points. Ford had missed the previous six games due to injury, and though he accounted for just one sack last week, Kirk Cousins had just 48 yards and one interception when the pass-rusher was on the field, according to Zebra Technologies. When Ford was on the sidelines, Cousins completed 12 of his 15 passing attempts for 124 yards and a touchdown.

The quartet of Ford, Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, and Arik Armstead combined for 16 quarterback pressures in the divisional-round win. It was Bosa's seventh game this season with at least five pressures, which ties him for the league lead with the Packers' Za'Darius Smith.

Smith and fellow Packers linebacker Preston Smith also had stud performances in the divisional round. The duo combined for four sacks, 10 QB pressures, and 12 hurries - per Zebra Technologies - as they harassed Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Za'Darius Smith led the league with 71 QB pressures during the season and accounted for a 27% QB disruption rate in Sunday's game.

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How do NFC Championship opponents, the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons, stack up ahead of Sunday's game? A break down of both Let’s break down each position group to determine who has the upper hand entering the biggest game of the season. A trip to the Super Bowl awaits the

He highlighted defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, who had four tackles against the Vikings during the teams’ 2016 matchup. “They haven’t been a huge Whether it’s defense, offense or special teams, it’s going to be a chess match Sunday night between the two teams that have risen to the top of the NFC .

The difference between these two fronts likely comes down to the run defenses. The 49ers ranked 17th in stopping the run during the season while the Packers came in at 23rd. Last week, San Francisco bottled up Dalvin Cook, limiting the Pro Bowler to 18 yards. In their regular-season meeting with the Packers, the Niners held Aaron Jones to 38 yards and kept him out of the end zone.

Advantage: 49ers

Secondary

While second-team All-Pro Richard Sherman has been locking down his side of the field for the 49ers, allowing a passer rating of just 46.8 when targeted, the opposite corner is a position in flux. San Fran benched Ahkello Witherspoon last week after he gave up a 41-yard touchdown to Stefon Diggs. Backup Emmanuel Moseley stepped in and only allowed 24 yards to Diggs the remainder of the game.

The Packers rely on youngsters Jaire Alexander and Kevin King at the corners with veteran Tramon Williams filling in at nickel. The unit was blitzed by Kittle and Co. in the first meeting between the two teams, but it's cut down on allowing big plays in the six games since.

The 49ers ranked No. 1 in pass defense during the season and held Adams to 43 yards and a touchdown in November. San Francisco again gets the nod in this category.

Advantage: 49ers

Special Teams

a close up of a person wearing a helmet: Leon Halip / Getty Images Sport / Getty© Provided by theScore Leon Halip / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Mason Crosby was his ever-reliable self for the Packers, missing just three kicks (one being an extra point) all season. While Robbie Gould was dependable from 40 yards in, he missed two field goals from the 40-yard range and all four of his 50-plus-yard attempts.

JK Scott holds the edge for the Packers over Niners rookie Mitch Wishnowsky in the punt game, and neither side is particularly memorable in the kick-return game.

Advantage: Packers

Coaching

Kyle Shanahan enters the chess match with the advantage over first-year head coach Matt LaFleur.

Both are Coach of the Year candidates, but as the 49ers' head coach and offensive play-caller, Shanahan will have more of an influence on the game. He'll be doing battle with Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, while LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will tussle with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, a head coaching candidate during the latest hiring cycle.

As proven last weekend, when the game's in the balance and the Packers have the ball, Rodgers is more likely to audible to his preferred play and route combination than he is to rely on what's called into his headset.

Advantage: 49ers

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