Packers pass offense
Aaron Rodgers set an NFL single-season record for passer rating last season at 122.5. You name it, he dominated. His 45 touchdowns against six interceptions equated to a ratio of 7.5-to-1. Tom Brady was a distant second at 3.27-to-1. His 9.25 yards per pass attempt was fourth-best since the merger in 1970. His career interception rate of 1.80 percent is the best in NFL history by a significant margin. (Neil O'Donnell is second at 2.1 percent.) The point is, Rodgers is the rare quarterback who will make plays down the field but generally avoids mistakes. Or, put it another way, Rodgers wins games but doesn't lose games.
His receiver corps is arguably the best in the league, led by Greg Jennings, who leads the NFL in 25- and 40-yard gains over the last five seasons, and Jordy Nelson, who ranked third in the NFL with 15 touchdown catches and second with 18.6 yards per reception. Rodgers will trade sacks for interceptions, so, the sack numbers are high and cast the offensive line in a bad light. The one question mark up front is left tackle Marshall Newhouse, a first-year starter last season who ranked as the worst starter in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com.
49ers pass defense
Newhouse is in for a long afternoon, because he will be lining up against All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Smith, who is a beast with a motor who will provide relentless pressure throughout the afternoon. It's key for the 49ers to get consistent pressure on Rodgers, and they'll be relying on their formidable front seven to do it while only rushing four defenders on practically every down. Those four regularly will include Smith, defensive tackle Ray McDonald and edge linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. The 49ers occasionally will send a fifth man on blitzes, but they know they have to keep defenders back in coverage to defend the onslaught of Rodgers and Co.
That will be the responsibility of the starting secondary of cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown and safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner. Those four work well as a unit and will be on the field practically every down while being complemented by solid nickel corner Chris Culliver and extra dime backs Perrish Cox and Tramaine Brock. The Niners will have Pro Bowler Rogers working in the slot and on Jennings in single coverage. Brown is a solid cover corner, but the Niners know they must mix their coverages to contain the Packers and keep the damage here to a minimum.