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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The 49ers' chances against Green Bay

By Mike Sando

Two potentially lopsided matchups add intrigue to the 49ers-Packers game at Lambeau Field in Week 11.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. joined me to discuss them Wednesday.

Beyond the matchups, this game is huge for the 49ers as they try to keep pace with Arizona and the wild-card challengers in the NFC.

49ers front seven vs. shaky Packers pass protection

Matt Williamson: Aaron Rodgers is going to get hit, going to get sacked. There might not be any one area of any team in the league that is worse than the Packers' pass protection. Rodgers just gets crushed every week, but they still make plays in the passing game. He is really tough, he keeps coming back, he is really competitive, he is throwing the ball really well -- but they cannot protect.

Mike Sando: One hit from the 49ers' Patrick Willis can be one too many. Ask Matt Hasselbeck. Will the Packers adjust?

Matt Williamson: They are starting to wise up a little bit by calling fewer 7- and 5-step drops. They are getting it out quicker and their wide receivers are very good after the catch, which is what they were two years ago. Last year, the Packers were very vertical and they cannot do that as much any more. They have everything but the protection.

Mike Sando: Do you see any problems for the Packers specific to the 49ers' front?

Matt Williamson: Not really. A team like Minnesota just crushes them with Jared Allen and Kevin Williams. I don't see any great angle making the 49ers different from other teams. Detroit sacked Rodgers five times. It happens every week no matter who they play. Even guys like Manny Lawson should give Green Bay's protection all they can handle.

49ers passing game vs. tremendous Packers pass defense

Matt Williamson: Alex Smith is going to be tested in this matchup. The Packers' defense played extremely well last week. They are extremely talented on defense. They got to the quarterback without Aaron Kampman. Their corners are very good. Charles Woodson is a great player who does not get enough credit.

Mike Sando: Smith has suffered from turnovers since replacing Shaun Hill. Woodson is probably the best corner the 49ers have faced all season.

Matt Williamson: Woodson will line up all over the place. Dom Capers came from Bill Cowher. They have some movable chess pieces in their 3-4 and Woodson can be their Troy Polamalu. He can play safety, man over the receiver, off -- he can really do everything asked of him. People forget, this guy won the Heisman. He is a special player coming out of Michigan who has not disappointed at all. He is playing great. He is somebody Alex Smith needs to be extremely aware of. Smith is very smart, but he does not have a ton of game experience lately. He has had some turnovers lately and it wouldn’t shock me if that happened again.

Mike Sando: My perception is that Smith needs to win a game at some point. Not just be on the winning team, but be the reason his team won.

Matt Williamson: I like Alex Smith and think he is the right guy for the job today, but he is physically limited, too. Of all the quarterbacks who have been first overall picks, he might have the worst physical skills. He is a good athlete who is very coordinated, but he is not a big, strapping guy who can throw deep out routes and throw across the field. That is OK because Josh Morgan, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree can all be short-to-intermediate targets with occasional deep stuff. And if they are running the ball, then all is well. Frank Gore looks great.

Mike Sando: Smith does have some decent targets. Vernon Davis has had a breakout season. Michael Crabtree has made an immediate positive impression.

Matt Williamson: I love Crabtree. He was my top player in the draft and he looks tremendous. He has those Larry Fitzgerald-Sidney Rice qualities with the ball in the air -- very strong, physical enough to get up the field, very aggressive in his movements. I liked him more than anyone coming out of the draft. They have to start force-feeding him the ball a little bit. Outside of Gore, I think he has a chance to be their best player within the next month. He can surpass Vernon Davis as a total-package receiver. That is not a knock on Davis. He is a tight end and a pleasant surprise.