NFL Nation: Final Word 2012 divisional

Final Word: Texans at Patriots

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
3:00
PM ET
NFC Final Word: Packers-49ers | Seahawks-Falcons AFC: Ravens-Broncos | Texans-Pats

Five nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's Houston Texans-New England Patriots divisional-round playoff game at Gillette Stadium:

Guarding against overconfidence: The New England Patriots are heavily favored against the Texans. New England trounced Houston 42-14 last month. But that means all the pressure is on New England to win again at home. This game could have shades of the Patriots' 2010 playoffs if New England isn't careful. That year New England drilled the rival New York Jets in the regular season 45-3, only to get overconfident and lose to the Jets in the playoffs. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams that lost in the regular season by 28 points or more are 11-11 in rematches in the postseason.

[+] EnlargeRob Gronkowski
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerRob Gronkowski did not play in New England's win against the Texans earlier this season.
Gronkowski's impact: Despite the Patriots' blowout win over Houston, it is notable to mention that New England Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski did not play in the first matchup. Gronkowski missed five games with a broken forearm. He returned in the final regular-season game against the Miami Dolphins to shake off the rust and recorded two catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. He has had two weeks to get back in rhythm and continue to get closer to 100 percent. Gronkowski is New England's top red-zone threat and has 11 touchdowns in 11 games. "It will be big for us," Patriots receiver Deion Branch told reporters this week. "I'm pretty sure the coaches are going to continue to install Gronk through the game plan to make sure he gets his touches and he's around the ball."

Can Brady pass Montana? New England quarterback Tom Brady has a chance at another record that he would be proud of. With a win over Houston, Brady would pass his childhood hero -- Joe Montana -- for the most postseason wins in NFL history. Brady is 16-6 during the playoffs in his career, although he went 10-0 to start his postseason career.

Talib vs. Johnson: One of the key matchups in this game will be the cornerback-receiver matchup of Aqib Talib of the Patriots versus Andre Johnson of the Texans. They will see a lot of each other Sunday. Talib was acquired in a midseason trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quickly became New England's best cover corner. It has allowed the Patriots to played more man-to-man defense. Johnson had another monster, Pro Bowl year. He caught 112 catches for 1,598 yards this season, with eight catches for 95 yards in the first meeting.

Tailback concerns: The Patriots will enter this game with concerns at tailback. New England second-year players Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen have minimal combined playoff experience. They will have to earn the trust of New England’s coaching staff. Ridley and Vereen have had some untimely fumbles late in the season. Both lost fumbles in New England’s most recent loss, to the San Francisco 49ers. Ball security will be crucial in the playoffs. As a result, the Patriots may increase the workload for sure-handed veteran tailback Danny Woodhead.

Final Word: Packers-49ers

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
1:41
PM ET
NFC Final Word: Packers-49ers | Seahawks-Falcons AFC: Ravens-Broncos | Texans-Pats

Five nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers divisional playoff game:

Tight matchup: In talking and writing about this game over the past week, it became clear that there truly is no favorite. The Packers and 49ers have the same number of advantages and disadvantages, which makes for what I think should be the most anticipated matchup of the divisional weekend. The 49ers are 2.5-point favorites at home, which basically means Las Vegas would consider this a pick 'em game on a neutral field. ESPN's panel of 14 experts is split -- seven picked the Packers and seven chose the 49ers to win. My NFC West colleague Mike Sando, who is 36-17 in picking his division's games this season, predicts a 28-24 win for the 49ers. Me? I don't make picks. Lucky meeeeeeeee!

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesAaron Rodgers has three consecutive road playoff wins -- just one shy of tying an NFL record.
Rodgers on the road: We've noted that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has three playoff victories on the road in his career, a relatively modest number that nevertheless is two away from the NFL record. And it's worth noting that Rodgers was exceptional on the road during the regular season, even by his standards. He threw 22 touchdown passes and three interceptions in those eight games -- the second-best touchdown-interception differential (+19) in road games during the Super Bowl era. Only Tom Brady (+25 in 2007) has been better. This week, we also noted that Rodgers' low interception rate over his career gives him a head start for consistent playoff success.

Smith factor: Rodgers and the Packers should get an early gauge on how close 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith is to full strength. Smith was a key part of a defense that physically overwhelmed the Packers in Week 1, but he missed the final two and a half games of the regular season because of a triceps injury -- and the 49ers defense took a notable dive in his absence. Over that stretch, the 49ers' sack rate dropped by about half and linebacker Aldon Smith didn't have a single sack. The 49ers forced a turnover about once every 57 plays without Justin Smith as opposed to once every 41 plays with him, and opponents averaged 5.1 yards per play after managing 4.5 yards per play with him on the field.

Defending Kaepernick: The 49ers' bold midseason move to promote Colin Kaepernick to their starting quarterback meets a critical judgment point this weekend. Kaepernick brings a more explosive mixture of running the read-option and throwing downfield, but his ability to handle the pressure of the postseason has not been tested. Although it was an admittedly small sample size, the Packers gave up an average of 10 yards on the six read-option plays they faced last Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings. On the other hand, you have to assume the Packers -- now at full strength with linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive back Charles Woodson on the field -- will send heavy pressure at Kaepernick. The Packers' 40-percent blitz rate during the regular season was the fourth-highest in the NFL. Kaepernick completed 57 percent of his passes against the blitz this season, ranking No. 20 in the NFL. His Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) was 59.6 against the blitz and 86.5 against four or fewer rushers.

Kicking strategy: The teams have taken different approaches with inconsistent veteran kickers this season. The Packers never considered replacing Mason Crosby, who has emerged from an extended slump to convert five consecutive attempts over his past three games. The 49ers' David Akers, meanwhile, struggled for much of the season and has missed four of his past 10 attempts. He will kick in this game only after fending off a challenge from veteran Billy Cundiff, whom the 49ers signed for an extended competition during their playoff bye week.

(Statistics courtesy ESPN Stats & Information unless otherwise noted.)

Final Word: Ravens at Broncos

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: Packers-49ers | Seahawks-Falcons AFC: Ravens-Broncos | Texans-Pats

Five nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game:

Flacco factor: The Ravens are at their best when quarterback Joe Flacco goes deep. In the wild-card win over the Colts, Flacco averaged a career-best 23.5 yards per completion, which was also the second highest for any quarterback in a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Baltimore is 10-2 this season when Flacco's average target is more than 9 yards downfield. The Ravens are 1-4 when it's fewer than 9 yards. It's tough to throw deep downfield against Denver because of Von Miller and the Broncos' pass rush. Denver allowed 39 completions of more than 20 yards, the fifth-fewest in the NFL.

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesBaltimore is 10-2 this season when Joe Flacco's average target is more than 9 yards downfield.
Pass at your own risk: The Ravens haven't allowed a touchdown pass in their past three playoff games. Baltimore has held Houston's T.J. Yates, New England's Tom Brady and Indianapolis' Andrew Luck to a combined six interceptions and no touchdowns. Since 2008, when coach John Harbaugh took over as coach, the Ravens have intercepted 18 passes in the playoffs, the most in the league. No other team has more than 16 turnovers in the postseason, much less interceptions, over that span. Only two quarterbacks have thrown more touchdown passes than interceptions against Harbaugh's Ravens in the postseason: Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning.

Ball security: The Ravens' Ray Rice lost two fumbles in Sunday's wild-card game, joining Green Bay's Ryan Grant (2007) as the only running backs to lose two fumbles in a postseason game in the past 10 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Rice's four fumbles lost in the playoffs are the most for any active player. The Broncos forced 20 fumbles in the regular season, the fifth-most in the NFL. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil have caused six fumbles each. In his past six playoff games, Rice hasn’t rushed for more than 70 yards in any game.

Third-down meltdown: Last month against Denver, the Ravens failed to convert on 11 of 12 third-down opportunities (8 percent success rate), their worst showing of the season. That was Baltimore's first game under new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, and the Ravens went three-and-out on their first five drives of the game. They didn't record a first down until midway through the second quarter, and Flacco finished 3-of-11 on third downs for 29 yards. Since that game, the Ravens have been much more efficient, converting on 44 percent of their third downs. Also, after being held to 278 yards by Denver, the Ravens have gained at least 350 yards in their past three games, their longest such streak since 2010.

Tough against the run: Baltimore has allowed one 100-yard rusher in the playoffs (Houston's Arian Foster last season), keeping opposing running backs under the century mark in 17 of 18 postseason games. The Ravens have given up 89.3 yards rushing per game in the postseason, the lowest average since the 1970 merger. The Ravens' run defense has been more vulnerable this season, ranking 20th in the regular season. Denver's Knowshon Moreno gained 115 yards last month against the Ravens, which included a leap over safety Ed Reed. But the Ravens didn't have Ray Lewis or their two top tacklers (safety Bernard Pierce and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe) for that game. All of them will suit up Saturday.

Final Word: Texans at Patriots

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: Packers-49ers | Seahawks-Falcons AFC: Ravens-Broncos | Texans-Pats

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Houston Texans' divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots on Sunday at Gillette Stadium:

[+] EnlargeArian Foster
Brett Davis/USA TODAY SportsArian Foster is 90 yards shy of Terrell Davis' rushing record of 515 yards for a player's first four postseason games.
Play-action influence: Per ESPN Stats & Information, when using play-action, Matt Schaub's yards per attempt average on passes deeper than 10 yards downfield (15.5) ranks fourth in the league. On those same throws without play-action fakes, Schaub’s yards per attempt (10.4) ranks 14th, and only four quarterbacks have a worse touchdown-interception differential than Schaub (minus-2). Everyone knows Arian Foster and the run game get this offense going. He has been great in three playoff games allowing play-action to work. His 425 rushing yards are the most ever by a player in his first three playoff games. He needs 91 in this game to surpass Terrell Davis' record for rushing yards in a back’s first four playoff games. Foster has averaged 2.7 yards per rush before first contact this season, but was unable to find space to run in most of the Texans' losses. He averaged 1.9 yards in those losses, including 1.6 against the Patriots, compared with 2.9 yards in wins.

Tight ends: Texans strong safety Glover Quin was responsible for shutting down Cincinnati's Jermaine Gresham last week (though Gresham did have two critical drops). Tight ends have been targeted 124 times this season against the Texans, tied for fourth most in the league, but Houston has been successful defending them everywhere except the end zone. Opponents completed 58 percent of their passes to tight ends (second-best defensive percentage in the league), 6.3 yards per attempt (third) and got a first down 34 percent of the time. But tight ends caught 11 touchdowns against Houston, tied for 31st among defenses. On the other side of the ball, the Texans have used multiple tight ends on 72 percent of their plays this season (excluding spikes and kneel downs). It’s the first time since New England drafted Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski a team other than Patriots finished with the highest use of multiple-tight end formations. Even with Hernandez and Gronkowski both missing games this season, the Patriots used multiple tight ends on 49 percent of their plays (fifth highest).

No time: Tom Brady has had the quickest release in the NFL this season. ESPN Stats & Information says he held onto the ball on average for 3.03 seconds from the snap until either the pass, sack or scramble attempt. Brady was able to pass 25 times within 3.0 seconds of the snap in Week 14 against the Texans, completing 68 percent of those throws with three touchdowns. The Texans have to force him to hold it longer. If he has the ball for at least three seconds, his completion percentage drops from .720 to .410 and his yards per attempt drop from 8.1 to 6.4. Brady went 13-of-19 with three touchdowns against five or more pass-rushers in Week 14 against the Texans.

The Reed effect: Texans linebacker Brooks Reed missed the Week 14 blowout loss to the Patriots with a groin injury. Reed’s presence has provided a boost to the Texans’ defense this year. With him on the field, they’ve given up 4.8 yards per play, 6.2 yards per pass, 3.9 yards per rush and a rushing touchdown every 215 plays. Without him, it has been 5.5 yards per play, 7.3 yards per pass, 4.2 yards per rush and a rushing touchdown every 43.5 plays.

Also: The Texans, Patriots, Broncos and Ravens are the same final four in the AFC as last year. The Elias Sports Bureau says this is the first time ever the same four teams reached the divisional playoffs in a conference in consecutive seasons. … According to Elias, teams that lost by 28 or more in the regular season to a team that it then faced again in the postseason are 11-11 in the rematch. All six playoff losses the Patriots have suffered under Bill Belichick were rematches of regular-season games. … This is the fourth time the Patriots have been the No. 2 seed. They reached the Super Bowl each of the past three times and are 8-1 all time as the No. 2 seed. … Including the playoffs, Brady is 85-15 at home -- the best home record of any quarterback that began his career in the Super Bowl era.

Final Word: Ravens at Broncos

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: Packers-49ers | Seahawks-Falcons AFC: Ravens-Broncos | Texans-Pats

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Baltimore Ravens-Denver Broncos AFC divisional-round game, which will be played at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Denver's Sports Authority Field:

Justify his glove: A quarterback wearing a glove is a fairly common occurrence. But when a quarterback the caliber of Peyton Manning starts to wear a glove, it’s noticeable. When it happens after Manning missed an entire season because of a neck injury that required four surgeries, it is going to be newsworthy. This week, Manning admitted he is wearing the glove as a result of his surgery. He wore the glove in the past two games -- both at home -- because he has had difficulty gripping the ball in the cold. Snow is a possibility Saturday, and temperatures may dip below 20 degrees at game time. Expect to see the glove make its third appearance. If the first two games are any indication, Denver shouldn’t be worried about the fit: Manning has thrown for 643 yards, six touchdowns and one interception while wearing the glove.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsWearing a glove to combat the Denver chill hasn't slowed Peyton Manning his past two games.
Is Rice suddenly a fumbler? There is a curious trend developing for Baltimore running back Ray Rice. Once the postseason begins, the normally ball-secure Rice becomes vulnerable to fumbling. Rice has seven fumbles in 1,527 touches in his regular-season career. But after fumbling twice Sunday against the Colts, Rice has fumbled five times in 152 touches in the playoffs. Nothing can unravel an upset bid on the road in the playoffs like a key fumble. It will be something Rice and the entire Denver crowd will be thinking about Saturday.

Pees has playoff experience against Manning: Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees was an assistant coach in New England from 2004-09 and faced Manning in the postseason twice, winning once and losing once. This week on ESPN’s “NFL Live,” another former Bill Belichick defensive assistant, Eric Mangini, said Pees’ time planning for Manning with Belichick's playoff staffs could come in handy. Mangini said there were times when Belichick changed an entire defensive scheme against Manning at halftime to get an edge. Thus, Mangini said, Pees is adept at doing what it takes to try to stop Manning in the playoffs.

Will the Ravens be worn down? Denver will try to strike quickly and set the tone. Expect to see some fast-paced, no-huddle offense against what could be a fatigued Ravens defense. Baltimore had a short week after beating the Colts on Sunday -- after which the Ravens had to travel west into the thin air of Denver. The Colts ran 87 offensive plays and kept the ball for 37 minutes, 32 seconds Sunday. All of these factors could come into play Saturday.

Will Caldwell give different looks? When Denver beat the Ravens 34-17 in Baltimore in Week 15, it was the Ravens’ first game with Jim Caldwell as their offensive coordinator. Manning’s former head coach in Indianapolis was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator after the firing of Cam Cameron. Caldwell’s offense was anemic against Denver, which took a 31-3 lead into the fourth quarter. The unit has made some strides in the three games since, meaning that Denver should expect to see an improved Baltimore offense.

Final Word: Seahawks at Falcons

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: Packers-49ers | Seahawks-Falcons AFC: Ravens-Broncos | Texans-Pats

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Seattle Seahawks' divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome:

Banking on Wilson: Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has 11 total touchdowns (eight passing, three rushing) against one interception in the Seahawks' past five road games, counting playoffs. He has the NFL's third-highest passer rating (104.7) and second-highest Total QBR score (87.1) in road games over that span (since Week 8).

The Falcons have allowed only six touchdown passes at home all season. They have picked off 12 passes in those games. Their QBR allowed at home (32.6) was second-best in the NFL this season (playing the NFL's easiest schedule surely helped).

Though Wilson outplayed the injured Robert Griffin III during Seattle's wild-card victory at Washington, his QBR score for that game (36.7) was his lowest since Week 7. It ranked 65th out of 95 QBR scores for playoff starters since the 2008 season. The quarterbacks responsible for the 30 lower postseason QBR scores -- Griffin among them -- went 3-27 in those games. Seattle probably needs more from Wilson to beat the Falcons.

[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports With another 100-yard effort Sunday, Marshawn Lynch can make team history, tying Shaun Alexander for the most games with at least 100 yards in a season.
Beast Mode: Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has reached 100 yards rushing in five consecutive games and 11 times overall this season. He needs one more 100-yard game to tie the franchise record Shaun Alexander set during Seattle's 2005 Super Bowl season. Doug Martin (142), Cam Newton (116), LaRod Stephens-Howling (127), Alfred Morris (115) and Willis McGahee (113) reached 100 yards rushing against the Falcons this season. The Falcons went 3-2 in those games.

Irvin in focus: The Seahawks are counting on rookie first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin to take over for the injured Chris Clemons at the "Leo" position along the defensive line. The sack Irvin collected against Washington in the playoffs was his first since Week 14 and second in the Seahawks' past seven games. Irvin hasn't had a sack on the road since collecting two (plus a critical forced fumble) against Carolina in Week 5. Irvin has been building to this moment, however. He has played 57.3 percent of the defensive snaps since Week 14 after playing 39.5 percent of them previously this season.

Nice option to have: Increased use of option plays has helped unleash the Seahawks' ground game since a Week 13 victory at Chicago. The Seahawks are averaging 155.2 yards rushing before contact over that six-game span, up from 85 per game prior to that. The Panthers had 21 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown on option runs in a 30-28 defeat against Atlanta in Week 4. Newton then posted a season-high 97.0 QBR score against the Falcons during a 30-20 victory in Week 14. He had two touchdown passes and a 72-yard run against Atlanta in that game. Overall, the Falcons allowed 30 carries for 218 yards and two scores on plays ESPN charted as zone reads, options and option pitches.

Late-game worries: The Seahawks are riding a three-game road winning streak, but their defense hasn't been reliable during the final minutes of closely contested games away from home. That's a concern against the Falcons, who went 7-2 in one-score games this season. Ryan had four touchdown passes, zero picks and an 83.4 QBR score in the final two minutes of halves this season. That was up from 14 touchdowns with 11 picks and a 59.3 QBR score in those situations previously. Seattle's road opponents posted an 88.4 QBR score in fourth quarters this season, the highest allowed by any team this season and well above the average (55.1).

Late-game drama could be additionally nerve-wracking for Seattle given that regular kicker Steven Hauschka was placed on injured reserve with a calf injury. Veteran Ryan Longwell, 38, will be kicking in a game for the first time since the 2011 season. The Seahawks suffered a 30-28 home defeat against Atlanta last season when coach Pete Carroll opted for a 61-yard field goal try on fourth-and-8 with 13 seconds remaining. Seattle would presumably go for it if faced with a similar situation this time.

Final Word: Seahawks at Falcons

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: Packers-49ers | Seahawks-Falcons AFC: Ravens-Broncos | Texans-Pats

Five nuggets of knowledge about Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and Falcons:

No. 1 doesn’t matter: The Falcons earned the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but recent history says being No. 1 doesn’t carry the clout it once did. From 1990 through 2006, No. 1 seeds were 17-0 in the divisional round of the playoffs. But the No. 1 seed has lost in four of the past five seasons, including the Falcons in 2010.

[+] EnlargeMatt Ryan
AP Photo/John AmisMatt Ryan and the Falcons will try to get their passing game cranking Sunday against Seattle.
The 200 Club: Here’s a stat that might help explain why Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has yet to win a playoff game: In his three playoff starts, Ryan has yet to have a 200-yard passing game. Now, more than ever, I’m convinced it’s crucial for Ryan to come out winging the ball on Sunday.

Beware of the option: With quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks use the read option at times. That’s something the Falcons have seen a fair amount of. Only four defenses had more read-option rushes against them in the regular season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But Atlanta’s experience, mostly against Carolina’s Cam Newton, isn’t necessarily a positive. The Falcons allowed an average of 7.3 yards per rush on read-option plays.

The Triplets: The Falcons need to keep receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez on the field as much as possible. On plays when all three were on the field at the same time in the regular season, Ryan threw an interception once in every 61.9 attempts. But Ryan was picked off once in every 20 attempts when all three weren’t on the field.

No rookie jitters: Logic would say the Falcons have a huge edge because Wilson, a rookie, is coming into a loud and hostile environment. But Wilson is no ordinary rookie. He did struggle in his first five road games, throwing four touchdowns and eight interceptions. But, in his past four games on the road, including a playoff win at Washington, Wilson has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions.

Final Word: 49ers vs. Packers

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
12:45
PM ET
NFC Final Word: Packers-49ers | Seahawks-Falcons AFC: Ravens-Broncos | Texans-Pats

Five nuggets of knowledge about the San Francisco 49ers' divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday at Candlestick Park:

Season of change: These are not your 2011 49ers. The three players most instrumental in San Francisco's divisional victory over New Orleans last season -- Justin Smith, Alex Smith and Vernon Davis -- enter this game on different terms. Justin Smith will try to play through a triceps injury that has sidelined him for three weeks and will require surgery in the offseason. Alex Smith gave way to Colin Kaepernick as the starting quarterback in Week 11. Davis, who caught 10 passes for 292 yards and four scores in the playoffs one year ago, has six catches in his last six games. Kicker David Akers, who set an NFL record for field goals last season, struggled enough recently for the team to sign Billy Cundiff. Who are these 49ers, anyway? Tune in Saturday to find out.

[+] EnlargeJustin Smith
Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports The 49ers are welcoming back Justin Smith from injury this week. Will he be near full strength?
Just in time: Justin Smith appears to be critical to the 49ers' defense. The team allowed 4.5 yards per play with him on the field and 5.1 per play without him this season. Opponents took a sack once in every 14.8 drop-backs with Smith on the field compared with once every 26.8 drop-backs without him. The 49ers forced a turnover every 41.2 plays with Smith and every 57 plays without him. Without Smith contributing at a high level, the 49ers will have a tougher time pressuring QB Aaron Rodgers with four-man rushes.

Something has to give: Rodgers had 22 touchdown passes and only three interceptions on the road this season. The 49ers' defense has allowed seven touchdown passes while picking off six passes at home. San Francisco held Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees far below their usual Total QBR scores this season. In the divisional round last season, New Orleans' Brees completed 40 of 63 passes (63.5 percent) for 462 yards and four touchdowns, with two picks and three sacks against San Francisco. His NFL passer rating (93.5) and Total QBR score (63.1) were good, but the Saints still lost.

Not much of a rush: The 49ers are facing a Packers team that went all season without producing an individual 100-yard rusher. The 1981 49ers were the last team to win a Super Bowl without having a 100-yard rusher during the regular season. The 1970 Baltimore Colts and 1966 Packers also won Super Bowls without one. 49ers RB Frank Gore hasn't hit 100 yards rushing in a game since doing so against Seattle in Week 7. He has eight 100-yard games over the past two seasons, but none after Week 8. Gore averaged 5.6 yards per rush in the playoffs last season, but he got only 29 carries in two games.

Watching for Woodson: The 49ers must watch for Packers safety Charles Woodson, who is returning from a broken collarbone. Green Bay has been about 50 percent more likely to blitz with a defensive back when Woodson is on the field. Kaepernick has completed 13 of 20 passes for 158 yards (7.9 per attempt) with no touchdowns or picks when opponents rush at least one defensive back. Former starter Alex Smith had a higher NFL passer rating (116.0 to 89.2) and QBR score (82.0 to 65.3) against DB pressure during the regular season. Smith led the NFL in completion percentage (73.0) against all forms of added pressure, completing 11 of 12 such attempts against Green Bay in Week 1. Kaepernick is at 57 percent completions against five or more pass-rushers.

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this item.

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