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Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Two teams coming off postseason disappointment face off in one of the premier games of the NFL’s opening weekend when the San Francisco 49ers travel to Green Bay to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Green Bay is bent on redemption after squandering a 15-1 regular season by bowing out in its first playoff game, while the 49ers will try to make the next step this season after a 20-17 overtime loss to the Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the NFC title game.
It’s also a matchup of contrasting quarterbacks, though both were effective in their own right in 2011. Rodgers had one of the best seasons in NFL history with 4,643 passing yards, 45 touchdowns against only six interceptions and a league-record 122.5 rating. San Francisco’s Alex Smith also blossomed, but he did so by becoming an effective game manager, passing for 3,144 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. The Packers lead the all-time series between the traditional NFL powers 30-25-1 and have won the past nine meetings, including all three under coach Mike McCarthy.
ABOUT THE 49ERS (2011: 13-3): San Francisco upgraded Smith’s receiving corps by adding Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and rookie A.J. Jenkins and added some depth in the backfield by signing Brandon Jacobs and drafting LaMichael James. The 49ers also return virtually everyone from a defense that ranked second in points allowed and fourth in total yards allowed last season.
ABOUT THE PACKERS (2011: 15-1): Green Bay didn’t do much in the offseason, and it didn’t need to. The Packers were dominant in 2011 until the playoffs, and they have the pieces in place to make a deeper playoff run this year. The Packers’ biggest change was letting running back Ryan Grant go to free agency and replacing him with Cedric Benson, who is coming off his third consecutive 1,000-yard season.
1. The Packers have 52 wins on kickoff weekend, tied with Chicago for the most ever.
2. Smith has won 14 of his past 17 starts, and the 49ers are 10-0 when he has a rating of 100.0 or better.
3. The 49ers led the NFL with a plus-28 turnover margin last year, the second-best mark in the NFL since 1970.