Packers present stiff challenge for 49ers
SANTA CLARA — The Packers can’t compete with the 49ers on paper.
The standings favor the 49ers — they’re 9-1. The Packers are 8-2. And the statistics favor the Niners as well. They have outscored opponents by 140 points this season, while the Packers have outscored teams by only 45.
But the Packers have reasons to feel confident this Sunday night against the 49ers. The Packers are battle tested. They already have beaten four teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today. Those teams are the Minnesota Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys, the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The 49ers have played only one team that’s on track to make the playoffs — the Seattle Seahawks. And the 49ers lost.
Sunday night’s game against the Packers will be the biggest test of the season for the 49ers.
Here are five legitimate concerns the 49ers should have.
1. The 49ers have lots of injuries and the Packers don’t: The Packers are coming off a bye week. They’re prepared, rested and remarkably healthy for late November. All 22 of their starters are on track to play against the 49ers.
Meanwhile, the 49ers won’t have starting left tackle Joe Staley (finger), or pass-rush specialist Dee Ford (quadriceps and hamstring). The 49ers also probably won’t have starting running back Matt Breida (ankle), or starting kicker Robbie Gould (quad). The 49ers list them as “doubtful” to play.
And the 49ers may not have Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle (knee and ankle), plus both starting wide receivers — Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) and Deebo Samuel (shoulder). The 49ers list those three as “questionable.” Even if all three play, they may not make their usual impact because they’re not fully healthy.
“If it was a normal person, I’d probably make him doubtful,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said about Kittle. “But Kittle’s different than most people, and he won’t allow me to rule him out too early because he keeps telling me he’s going to surprise me by game day.”
The 49ers need a big surprise from Kittle.
2. Richard Sherman doesn’t match up well against Davante Adams: Adams is 27 — just entering his prime. He averages 89.5 receiving yards per game and is one of the five best receivers in the NFL.
Sherman is 31 — no longer in his prime. He was the best cornerback of his generation, but now he’s the weak link in the 49ers secondary and opponents have started to attack him.
Last week, the Cardinals tested Sherman’s coverage frequently and he committed three penalties in the first half alone. Their strategy paid off. And they didn’t have a receiver as good as Adams.
“I play my game regardless, so it doesn’t really matter who’s out there,” Adams said, courtesy of Packers.com. “Obviously, (Sherman) has been doing this for a really long time. I have a lot of respect for him as an athlete. It will be a good test.”
A good test for Sherman.
3. The Packers’ defensive backs match up quite well with the 49ers wide receivers: Last week, Samuel caught eight passes for 134 yards against the Cardinals. He torched them. But everyone torches the Cardinals secondary. It has allowed an average opponent passer rating of 113 — by far the highest in the NFL. The Cardinals can’t cover anybody.