(San Francisco): TE Vernon Davis - He became quarterback Alex Smith's favorite target last year. He is a matchup nightmare because of his size, speed, and playing strength. The Packers inside linebackers will have problems covering him underneath because of his speed. The safeties will fair no better because Davis is so much bigger physically and can shield them with his big frame. If Alex Smith can correct his accuracy issues and get the ball to Davis on time he should have a tremendous game.
(Green Bay): QB Aaron Rodgers - This young man is about the most accurate quarterback I have ever seen. He can beat you with the pass from the pocket or on the move outside the pocket. He also has good foot quickness that allows him to scramble and pickup yards with his legs when the play breaks down. The 49ers defense was among the best in pressuring quarterbacks and having tight coverage in the secondary. They will need to play smart assignment football because if not Rodgers will pick them apart using his multiple receivers to his advantage. It is next to impossible to run against the 49ers so will have to have a good game for the Packers to get the win.
DE Justin Smith (versus) Guard T.J. Lang: Smith is a beast and is very disruptive to opposing team's offenses. He plays the same role as Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. He requires a constant double team to keep him from getting into the backfield. Lang will be lineup opposite smith a lot and will need help from the tackle or center to keep Smith contained. If Smith can get constant pressure in Aaron Rodgers face it will give the secondary time to make plays on the ball.
LT Joe Staley (versus) OLB Clay Matthews: Staley made his first trip to the pro bowl in 2011. He use to be a former tight end in college and has very good foot quickness and agility to slide along the line of scrimmage in pass protection. He will have to utilize all of those skills to keep Alex Smith protected from Mr. Matthews relentless pass rush. Matthews has a non-stop motor and rushes from all over the field. He will lineup across from Staley most of the time. On 3rd down passing situations this matchup will be vital for each team. It could be the difference between winning and losing the game.
Final Word: San Francisco was one win away from making the Super Bowl in 2011. They are one of the favorites in 2012 to win it all. Alex Smith once again is the key to their success. If he can continue to limit the turnovers and take the next step of making plays in the passing game more often, the 49ers have all of the other key personnel to win the title. In the off season they added Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and Brandon Jacobs to give Smith more options to attack down field. It's up to him now to make accurate throws something he has had problems with his entire career. The defense is championship ready led by Justin Smith and two of the best middle linebackers in the NFL, Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman. Green Bay should pick up where they left off offensively as long as Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback. They may have a chip on their shoulders with the opening playoff loss at home to the New York Giants in 2011. The defense had an up and down year and needs to be more consistent. They have too much talent on all three levels of the defense to be mediocre. They have two guys in Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews who are capable of winning defensive player of the year with their versatility and ability to make huge plays. These two teams could meet again in the NFC Championship Game in January.