Green Bay – In the storied rivalry of two of the NFL’s marquee franchises, the names are legendary.
Joe Montana. Brett Favre. Steve Young. Aaron Rodgers. Jerry Rice. Reggie White. Terrell Owens. Colin Kaepernick. Charles Woodson. Raheem Mostert. Davante Adams.
Bob Harlan, former Packers president, has seen them all in his Green Bay tenure.
“It’s been such a great rivalry and featured so many great, great players,” Harlan said. “Whenever you beat the 49ers, it was a great accomplishment. You felt like the organization had really arrived when you could beat a team of that stature.”
The Packers’ ascension under Favre and Mike Holmgren in the 1990s returned Green Bay to elite status in the NFL. While the Cowboys owned the Packers in the playoffs, Green Bay owned the 49ers.
“When I took the job in Green Bay, the 49ers were the darling of the NFL,” said former Packers GM Ron Wolf said. “They were held up as the benchmark franchise. Anytime we were able to beat them was special—it was especially big for Mike (Holmgren) when we played them in San Francisco, in his backyard.”
While Green Bay won the first three of the team’s first four playoff encounters from 1997-2002, San Francisco has owned Rodgers and the Packers and won the last three. Rodgers will get his fourth shot in the playoffs against the franchise that bypassed him on draft day, a chip that has remained on the reigning league MVP’s shoulders throughout his career.
“I did watch this rivalry growing up,” Rodgers said. “This is one of those rivalries up there with Dallas and San Fran on the NFC side and all of our divisional rivalries.”
The 4-4 deadline in postseason play will be broken Saturday night in a NFC Divisional Playoff contest at Lambeau Field, which will be televised exclusively in Western Wisconsin by FOX 25/48.
Steve Mariucci, now NFL Network analyst and former Packers assistant coach and 49ers head coach, said: “Two great organizations, so many great players over the years. I was talking about this rivalry at work this morning, how it’s so good for the sport of football.
“There will be a lot of eyeballs watching this one—even if not fans of the Packers or 49ers—because they know of the rivalry and tradition of these two great franchises.”
The first-round bye afforded rest for the Packers, who are getting healthier and will be bolstered with the return linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus, who were activated off injured reserve Friday afternoon. Cornerback Jaire Alexander may see action in nickel or dime situations and David Bakhtiari is listed as questionable, but the All-Pro left tackle may well will himself on the field.
Throw out the seeding. The No. 6 seeded 49ers are a complete team that has all the elements on offense, defense, and special teams to walk out of Lambeau Field with a victory. The Packers must bring their A game and avoid the slow starts that have plagued them in the last three playoff losses to San Francisco. And the chess match between Matt LaFleur and Kyle Shanahan will be interesting to see unfold as the game progresses.
NFC Divisional Playoff Picks
Packers 27, 49ers 24
Homefield is definitely an advantage Saturday evening with wind-chill temperatures below zero and a loud Lambeau crowd. Stopping the run first is the goal of both defenses and whoever wins the battle in the trenches and commit the least turnovers will win the war. Rodgers outduels Garoppolo in a physical contest in which the big playmakers make the difference.