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NFC Wild Card
The Packers host the 49ers in the last Wild Card game of the weekend and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are currently +2.5 point home dogs at Lambeau Field with a posted total of 46 at 5 dimes sportsbook. Surprisingly, as of Thursday afternoon, the game wasn't sold out, which means the game could be blacked out locally.
This game, to me, is the most difficult game of the weekend to handicap. Here you have a 12-4 team having to hit the road for a Wild Card game, taking on a team that finished 8-7-1 and was without it's star QB from weeks 9 thru 16.
For the Packers, you obviously have to toss out their games from week 9 thru 16. The QB position CAN be overrated, even in the NFL, but there are a few instances where it makes all the difference in the world. We've seen that with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and now Aaron Rodgers. These guys are among the best to ever play the game and their importance to their teams is unmatched. The Packers were 2-4-1 without Rodgers and 6-3 with him. Actually 2-5-1 without him if you count the Bears game he was injured in.
But for the Packers, even their games WITH Rodgers were less than spectacular. They ended up on the losing side of their game with the 49ers to start the year as well as at Cincinnati in week 3. Those were the only two playoff teams they faced all year. They were both on the road but in case you weren't paying attention last week, their win over the Bears at home to get to this game was no walk in the park.
It's tough to gauge the 49ers mindset coming into this one. They have got to be thinking, "what's a team got to do to get a home playoff game?". There are 8 divisions in the NFL and the 49ers 12-4 mark would have been good enough to have won 6 of those divisions, earning them a first round bye and home field advantage. Instead, they get stuck having to hit the road to play on the Frozen Tundra against an 8-7 team. There's something wrong with this picture.
If we look at the Packers yards per point numbers in games WITH Aaron Rodgers, we see that they were roughly 14.5 on both sides of the ball. Those are the numbers of an average football team and while they may have been 6-3 with Rodgers, those 6 wins came against non playoff teams. The 49ers numbers though, remain unchanged whether they were on the road or at home with ypp numbers of 12 on offense and 18.5 on defense. Those are some very good numbers and are decisively better numbers than the Packers. The 49ers were 6-2 in road games outscoring their opponents by an average margin of 27-16.
It's a big lift for the Packers to have Aaron Rodgers back. But the bottom line here is, Aaron Rodgers is all this team has. Last I checked, Aaron Rodgers didn't play defense, and the Packers have some pathetic defensive numbers. They gave up 27 points per game and ranked 25th against the run and 24th against the pass.
Good football teams, especially good, quality playoff teams, have strengths all over the football field on BOTH sides of the ball. Good teams have other spokes in the wheel that take over when another key spoke goes down. The 49ers are a quality team. They have a defense that's capable of dominating and taking over a game. If the 49ers had Colin Kaepernick go down, their defense is more than capable of stepping up and carrying the team. As you can tell by the numbers and the Packers results without Rodgers, the same can't be said for Green Bay.
The 49ers are a quality football team. The Packers aren't. It's unfortunate that the 49ers have to play this game on the road and in these weather conditions. That, and the lift Rodgers will give the Packers, both psychologically and with his play on the field, will be somewhat of an equalizer. But at the end of the day, the 49ers are a quality football team through and through from top to bottom, and the Packers are not. That should be the difference Sunday afternoon. 49ers -2.5
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