Few matchups can offer more intriguing storylines than a contest involving the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers. In 1992, the 49ers offensive coordinator, Mike Holmgren, accepted the head coaching position offered by Ron Wolf of the Green Bay Packers. In his first five games against his old team, Holmgren coached the Packers to wins over the Niners in contests that included three playoff games; a Division contest in 1995, a Divisional matchup in 1996, and the 1997 Championship Game.
His sixth game against the 49ers was in the 1998 playoffs, the game in which Terrell Owens caught a Steve Young pass in the final seconds to provide San Francisco with a 30-27 victory. That loss was Holngren’s last with the Packers, moving on from there to guide another team into the Super Bowl, the 2005 Seattle Seahawks, before retiring after the 2008 season.
My first experience with a 49ers/Packers matchup was as a kid, I recall listening to my transistor radio on the edge of the playground at the local elementary school. It was a week before Christmas and the NFL was playing the last week of their regular season. Vince Lombardi was coaching the Packers, and somehow on this day the seemingly overmatched 49ers battled Green Bay to a tie, 24-24.
The series has been mostly dominated by Green Bay in the last 20 years. The Packers won eight straight games over San Francisco after Owens’ catch, with the 49ers gaining a measure of revenge in 2012; they opened and closed the Packers season. San Francisco won on opening day 30-22 in Green Bay, and at San Francisco in the playoffs in the game Colin Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback record 181 yards.
San Francisco opened and closed Green Bay’s season in 2013 too, beating them on opening day in San Francisco, 34-28, and at Lambeau Field in January, 23-20. Since those San Francisco twin killings, the Packers have won the two most recent games, at San Francisco in 2015 and in Green Bay three years later.
In perhaps another epic matchup, these two teams come into Sunday’s meeting alone in first place in their divisions, the Packers the NFC North and the 49ers the NFC West. With a loss, the Packers would fall into a tie with the Minnesota Vikings, who have their bye this weekend. With a win, the Packers pull a full game ahead of their closest pursuer.
The 49ers will be in a first place tie with loss following the Seattle Seahawks road conquest over the Philadelphia Eagles earlier today.
From a need perspective, the battle is even, while the talent bends in the 49ers direction. They have the kind of defense that will put pressure on Aaron Rodgers, which is their best chance at limiting the stars productivity. While the Packers are the visiting team this week, Rodgers is playing at home. He grew up in the Bay Area and attended Cal Berkeley.
It appears more smart money is backing the visitors in this one, and they have a solid set of reasons to support their side. My numbers don’t show a significant edge for either side.
I’m not interested in backing the 49ers when they need to cover a field goal or more, and don’t think the Packers are going to win a third straight over San Francisco.