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NFC Playoff Capsule: 49ers at Packers

Posted Jan 2, 2014

Newyorkjets.com is profiling each playoff game in this NFL postseason, with a special eye on Jets angles in each of the matchups. Today: the NFC Wild Card Game to be played Sunday afternoon:

(5) SAN FRANCISCO (12-4) at (4) GREEN BAY (8-7-1), 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX

Story Lines

As usual, it's about the quarterbacks. The 49ers' Colin Kaepernick and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers both have recent Super Bowl experience.

Colin was Kaep-tivating in helping guide the Niners into last year's SBXLVII, where they lost to the Ravens. Now the Niners are alive to return to XLVIII at MetLife Stadium while the Ravens are out of the postseason.

Kaepernick's encore season has been on the understated side. Maybe it's being picky here but his passer rating slipped from 98.3 to 91.6 and his rushing average from 6.6 to 5.7, while his personal giveaways rose from five in last year's seven-start season to 12 in this year's 16 starts.

"I'm more comfortable with the situation, with the scenario," Kaepernick insisted. "Last year everything just happened fast. This year I have the experience of being in the playoffs, I have the experience of being in the offense."

Rodgers' story is slightly different. He and his Pack won the Super Bowl after the 2010 season and he has worked his way into the conversation of who's the best QB in the NFL since finally clearing the Brett Favre hurdle in 2008.

But this season the only TV pitches he was making for a long time were for State Farm as he sat virtually eight full games with a broken collarbone before returning last week to fire the Packers past Da Bears at Chicago and into the playoffs.

"I've got to give our guys credit for fighting through some difficult periods in the season, put us in a position to be right there," Rogers said.

"Aaron Rodgers is clearly our best player," coach Mike McCarthy said. "When he's on the field, we're a different team."

Statistical Picture

Equally compelling storylines are about the teams' records and the weather.

The 49ers, runnerup to the Seahawks in the NFC West and the conference's first wild card, are 12-4, and are favored to prevail over the 8-7-1 Packers, champions of the NFC North. But Niners beware ...

Since the 2002 division and playoff realignment, wild-card teams with worse regular-season records have prevailed over teams with better records in nine of 15 games. And since '05, teams with records two games or more lower than their opponents have won five of six.

Further, the Packers have an all-time home playoff record of 16-4 (80.0%), best in NFL history.

Further still, you might assume this game would favor the Packers of the north over the Niners of the west due to the expected weather at Lambeau Field: game-time temps as low as minus-10°, with accompanying wind chills as low as minus-40°, making this game likely one of the coldest in football history.

The running games figure to be even, with SF's Frank Gore (1,128 rush yards) going up against GB rookie Eddie Lacy (1,178 yards), although Lacy (ankle) has been limited at practice.

Anquan Boldin (85 catches, 1,179 yards), the Niners' team MVP, is Kaepernick's top target, Jordy Nelson (85 catches, 1,314 yards) is Rodgers'.

Kickers Mason Crosby for Green Bay (33-of-37) and Phil Dawson of San Fran (32-of-36) have missed just four FG tries each.

Playoff/Rivalry Histories

The Packers lead the 49ers in their all-time rivalry, 34-29-1, with their last meeting coming at San Francisco on opening day this year, the 49ers prevailing, 34-28, as Boldin starred.

The teams have met six times in the postseason, with their most recent meeting coming a year ago when the Niners, again at home, topped the Pack, 45-31, with Kaepernick running wild, on their way to the Super Bowl.

Jet Fuel

Jonathan Goodwin keeps rolling along in the middle of the San Francisco O-line. Goodwin, the Jets' fifth-round draft pick in 2002, has been a starting C in the NFC for the past six seasons, three with the Saints and the last three as the 48-game starter for the 49ers.

On Jim Harbaugh's coaching staff, former Jets head coach Eric Mangini is a senior offensive assistant, Brad Seely, Jets special teams coach in 1994, is special teams coordinator/assistant head coach, and Ed Donatell, Jets secondary coach from 1990-94, is the Niners secondary coach.

For the Packers, RB Kahlil Bell, a Jet for part of last season and part of this past training camp, was signed last month to back up RBs Lacy  and James Starks. Lanier Coleman, one of the feelgood stories of Jets camp as he fought for a job as an off-the-street free agent three years out of the game, is on the Pack's practice squad.

And Chad Morton is in his fourth season as the Packers' special teams assistant. Morton, we remember, returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the 2002 season opener at Buffalo, with the second return the gamewinner in OT.

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