Behind Enemy Lines: Matchups

We wrap up our three-part preview of the game by examining the matchups that will determine who wins Sunday's game against San Francisco. Leading off: Greg Jennings against the 49ers' top cornerback, Shawntae Spencer.


WR Greg Jennings vs. CB Shawntae Spencer

Jennings has become Rodgers' favorite target. His 37 catches for 639 yards in his last six games are more than the season totals of any of the Packers' other pass-catchers. His 106.5 receiving yards per game during that span tops the league charts. He's tied for sixth on the season with nine receptions of 25-plus yards. Last year against the 49ers, he caught five catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. He'll mostly be matched against Spencer, who is quietly having a solid season and is the team's best cover corner.

Interior blockers vs. ILBs Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes

Green Bay will have to account for one of the league's most disruptive players all over the field. If Willis isn't being sent on a blitz — he leads the team with five sacks — he will be dropping back into coverage. QB Aaron Rodgers must be cognizant of Willis' whereabouts since Willis will be apt to lurk underneath and prey on any short throws should Rodgers not find the 49ers' coverage to his liking for getting the football down the field. What's more, Willis' exceptional speed and range makes running the football difficult. Rodgers called him "ferocious." Willis (96) and Spikes (65 and two interceptions) are one-two on the team in tackles.


LB Clay Matthews vs. RT Anthony Davis

Clay Matthews
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
While he's been slowed the last two weeks — getting just one cheap sack against Brett Favre two weeks ago — Matthews is having a defensive-player-of-the-year type of season. He has 11 1/2 sacks, an interception and a touchdown for Dom Capers' aggressive defense. The Packers almost certainly will attack Davis, a rookie who has been wildly inconsistent this season with seven sacks allowed. The 49ers chose Davis in the first round over the player the Packers took with their first-round pick, RT Brian Bulaga. At left tackle, Matthews could attack 36-year-old journeyman Barry Sims, who is filling in for injured standout Joe Staley. He's allowed 2.5 sacks in his two starts.

Linebackers and defensive backs vs. TE Vernon Davis

The athletic and powerful Davis has given Green Bay fits in two meetings. He had three catches for 74 yards, highlighted by a 52-yard touchdown, as a rookie in the Packers' blowout win at San Francisco in 2006. Davis played a key role in a huge fourth-quarter comeback by the 49ers that fell short at Green Bay last year, finishing with six receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown. Green Bay, which is without top coverage linebacker Brandon Chillar, struggled in its last game with Falcons' tight end Tony Gonzalez over the middle. Now, the Packers will have to try to contain Davis, who he's looking to bust out after having only three catches for 35 yards in the last two games and no touchdown grabs in the past four outings.


... If they stop the 49ers' running back tandem of versatile veteran Brian Westbrook and powerful rookie Anthony Dixon. It's an easy recipe for the Packers: Stop the run and put the ball in the hands of young quarterback Troy Smith.


... The wind derails their passing game. The forecast calls for winds of 20-30 mph. If the Packers can't throw it with their usual efficiency, Willis and Spikes will smother a bad running game.


... Smith stays upright and makes plays. The Packers have a huge advantage against the 49ers' offensive tackles. If Smith can keep plays alive with his legs, he's got a good matchup with Davis.


... Ted Ginn doesn't provide a big lift on kick returns. Ginn, a first-round bust as a receiver with Miami, is averaging 24.7 yards per kickoff return and 11.1 yards on punt returns. His 41-yard kickoff return and 42-yard punt return set up touchdowns last week.


The wind bothers me but the Packers' run defense — while disappointing this season after ranking No. 1 in the league last year — will contain Westbrook and Dixon and Smith figures to throw a couple balls to the Packers' defensive backs. Packers 30, 49ers 13.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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