Packers fans have taken a beating by many folks leading up to Sunday’s playoff game.
The green and gold faction has been accused of being soft for the biblical cold that is supposed to engulf the upper Midwest like a tiny blanket that always keeps your feet freezing.
But thanks to sponsors that kicked in the final dough to mark the 320th straight sellout on Sunday while keeping the last time the Packers didn’t sell out was January 1983.
So, a blackout and empty frozen aluminum bleachers won’t be a problem.
But Vernon Davis will be.
At a chiseled 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, Davis might be the most impressive looking athlete on the field Sunday. He’s a huge target that can catch, run and he regularly makes safeties and cornerbacks fold up like lawn chairs. Think of Davis as a carbon copy of Packers’ tight end Jermichael Finley, except a little more sure handed and sure headed.
In a game in which it will feel like -17° at kickoff and drop 7° three hours later, the ball will contract which will make the vertical passing game much more difficult.
Enter Davis. He is second on the team in targets and he has set career highs with touchdowns (13) and yards per reception (16.3). The eighth year tight end has shown this year he’s a favorite of Colin Kaepernick when it matters because of his 52 grabs, 38 percent of them have been made on third down.
Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers wants to keep this worn and weary defense off the field as much as possible. And now with Michael Crabtree back from injury and playing well, the Packers won’t have the luxury of double teaming Davis because they also have to deal with quasi tight end Anquan Boldin as the other receiver.
Which means, a linebacker will more than likely be matched up with Davis for much of the game. Which is music to San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh and Davis’ ears. He can run circles around just about any linebacker in the league — sans his own — and he can run over most defensive backs.
In Week 1 he torched the Packers with six catches on nine targets for 98 yards and a couple touchdowns. And that was with a fully loaded and rested defense. The Packers defense is without its best playmaker in Clay Matthews but overachieving yet injury prone linebacker Brad Jones is probable and looks to play. And if the Packers try to match A.J. Hawk on Davis, Hawk will be able to paint a picture of Davis’ backside after getting burned early and often.
Of course the determining factor is Aaron Rodgers. He does equal everything out. But even he cannot overcome huge defensive losses, an offensive line that has allowed 45 sacks and a cold environment that will more than likely take a little time to get accustomed to.
The 49ers are just a more physical team on both sides of the ball. The offensive line will have a field day against a defense that only has two sacks in the last two games. Eddie Lacy didn’t look right with a right ankle that was tender in Chicago and will be extremely difficult to keep loose in subpar conditions.
Then there’s Davis. If Capers opts to shut down Frank Gore and Kaepernick’s running ability by bunching the box with several linebackers, Davis will be able to release down the seam and turn in big gains.
Tight ends aren’t usually a sexy position but Davis has the body of a linebacker, catches like a slot receiver and can make the moves of a third down back. He possesses all the key traits the 49ers want in order to keep long sustaining drives alive by making this deplorable defense left with blowing steam out of its mouth with its hands on its knees.
The weather will be a factor but Davis supersedes weather. Cold or hot, rain or snow, Davis will beat nearly anyone that guards him. For those that think the Packers have a cold weather advantage are wrong because Davis is the advantage.
And unfortunately in that scenario, the Packers remain the little brother for the fourth straight time.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn