For the NFL’s final four contenders, this Sunday’s penultimate stage of the postseason will decide which teams will stamp their ticket to Super Bowl 54 in Miami, Florida.
Conference Championship weekend is all about earning the right to represent the AFC and NFC in the biggest pro football game on the planet. And while the AFC side of the bracket (link to AFC Championship betting preview here) is made up of two teams – the Tennessee Titans and the Kansas City Chiefs – attempting to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in decades, the NFC Championship game features a pair of recent attendees with rings to spare.
The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl 45 to close the 2010 season, and the San Francisco 49ers lost a thriller in Super Bowl 47 two years later. All told, the 49ers (16) and Packers (8) have played in nearly half of the 50 NFC Championship games during the franchises’ storied histories – but this Sunday will mark only the second time San Francisco and Green Bay have squared off with a Super Bowl berth on the line.
With both teams sporting identical 13-3 records over the regular season to earn first-round byes, before easily dispatching their Divisional Round opponents, the 49ers and the Packers seem to have been on a collision course all year.
Now that their long-awaited NFC Championship matchup has been set, online sportsbook Bovada has bettors covered with point spreads, moneyline odds, and Over / Under totals for the final game before Super Bowl 54.
#2 Green Bay Packers @ #1 San Francisco 49ers
Sunday at 6:40 p.m. EST on FOX
When the Packers last played by the Bay in Week 12, the 49ers put on an absolute clinic en route to a 37-8 blowout victory.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers had by far his worst outing of the season, completing only 20 of 33 passes for a paltry 104 yards while absorbing five sacks. Subpar performances playing at San Francisco have been par for the course over Rodgers’ career too, as the two-time league MVP has won only once in four games out west – including a loss in the 2012 Divisional Round.
Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh may have held Rodgers in check back in November, but head coach Kyle Shanahan has already warned his team to put that win in their collective rear-view mirror.
Asked about his message to the 49ers rank and file as they prepare for this Sunday’s pivotal rematch against the Packers, Shanahan made it clear that overlooking Rodgers and Co. won’t be an issue:
“Don’t be that stupid. That’s not real. This is about Sunday’s game.
There’s so many stories like that. And this is the NFL, so no team, the game before never matters like that.
There are four teams left and that’s four very, very good teams and it’s going to be a hard game for all of us.”
And since getting destroyed in San Fran, the Packers have been a very good team indeed. Green Bay hasn’t lost since then, reeling off a six-game win streak which has seen the team clamp down defensively. Over its last five regular season wins, the Packers’ D held every opponent to 20 points or fewer, and the Seattle Seahawks trailed 21-3 at halftime in Green Bay’s postseason-opening win last week.
Rodgers has also come alive in the wake of that beating in San Francisco, tossing for 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions while completing nearly 60 percent of his passes.
Green Bay will need every bit of Rodgers’ best, plus the Packers’ recent defensive dominance, to keep up with this 49ers squad.
Under the guidance of play-calling guru Shanahan, an offensive unit led by Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle – a tackle-breaking extraordinaire who broke through as a star.
in his third NFL season – has averaged 31.4 points per game since Week 14. Those scoring outbursts occurred against stout defenses in the Rams, Seahawks, and Vikings, showing that Shanahan’s scheme can be effective against any opposition.
The Packers, meanwhile, played their best defense against lackluster offenses like the Giants, Redskins, and Bears, so it remains to be seen whether Green Bay can hold down a talented offensive crew like San Francisco.
The oddsmakers aren’t big believers on that front, so they’ve installed the Packers as big (+7.5) road underdogs in this one. Moneyline bettors are getting (+270) worth of juice on Green Bay, while San Francisco backers are forced to pay (-340). As for the Over / Under total, the number of 45.0 points is eerily reminiscent of these teams’ regular season tilt.