NFL Playoff predictions 2013: Packers vs. 49ers can go any which way


With the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers set to face one another in the divisional round, we discuss the match-up and pick a winner.

As we approach the second round of the 2012-13 NFL playoffs, it's been cut down to the elite eight. And to no surprise, some of the top offenses and top defenses in the league remain. Of the premier match-ups this weekend, the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers may steal the show.

On Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. ET, it has the best time slot, and features the league's ninth-ranked passing attack versus the No. 3 defense in the NFL. It should be a high-octane show when Aaron Rodgers brings his squad to Candlestick Park to face Patrick Willis' blue-collar bruisers.

Outside the change of venue, this will be a rematch of Week 1, where the 49ers came out ahead. But in all respect to the players and coaches, these are two very different teams going into this weekend's game.

The Packers have found new faces on offense to rely on and have grown defensively. Meanwhile, the 49ers have evolved from a ground-and-pound offense to an explosive-style attack that employs misdirection and straight-line speed.

In fact, what most fail to realize is that the 49ers were the team with a higher rated total offense in 2012, finished ranked 11th while the Packers came in 13th. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the 49ers technically have 'the better' offense going into this one.

In a game with no shortage of star power, this one should be pretty evenly matched. On the other side of the ball, both teams utilize the 3-4 defense, which are drawn from the exact same school of thought. The history between 49ers DC Vic Fangio and Packers DC Dom Capers goes way back.

They will be sure to sick each other's pass rushers on one another, so expect to hear from Aldon Smith and Clay Matthews in this game.

It's hard to predict which way the scale tips. San Francisco has done very well against this style of team. In 2012, they visited Green Bay, New Orleans and New England, and came away unscathed at 3-0. But Aaron Rodgers is at his best when he's doubted -- as is his legacy.

However, the 49ers came too close last year and the Packers are only two years removed from the Super Bowl. The Niners may have more raw energy for this game, and could emerge victorious, advancing to the NFC title for a second consecutive year.

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