Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Sep 2013

ESPN Upset Watch: Packers over 49ers

Is one playoff blowout a few months ago really enough proof that San Francisco is better than Green Bay? Plus, Cover Watch has Arizona (+4.5) at St. Louis.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 07 Sep 2013

10 comments, Last at 10 Sep 2013, 9:11am by coremill


by DisplacedPackerFan :: Sat, 09/07/2013 - 2:08pm

My Insider sub has expired and the latest deal I found for the mag at less than $10 a year hasn't shown up so I haven't read it yet.

But from the quick little blurb here and what you can see without the sub, there is more than just a playoff loss to go on. Sure week 1 last year was a long time ago as well. Sure the defense had different issues (Jarret Bush played most of the game!) but the Packers lost the fight in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

The GB line hasn't really improved since then. Yes Bahktiari is an upgrade over Newhouse, but he is a rookie and will make some rookie mistakes. Barclay is not better than Bulaga was at RT. EDS is better than Saturday at center, but he is still just a guy, and below average in the run game. I'm not sure that Sitton and Lang swapping sides helps. So you have two minor upgrades, one significant downgrade and two position swaps that are unknowns. Lacy should help the run game even with the line not helping him, but San Fran can still make them one dimensional pretty fast.

The Packers D line did upgrade but it wasn't leaps and bounds. Pickett and Raji are still solid and sometimes great players. The extra depth with Jolly and Datone Jones means CJ Wilson will only have to play in sub packages where he can be more effective. Neal's hybrid role could prove effective but is a big unknown. Mike Daniels has improved from a solid rookie year, but is still undersized (too short for the length they want at DE, too light for nose).

So they should prove more effective at stopping a traditional run game and getting some pressure to help out Matthews and Perry so I expect a slight bump in the pass rush. However the San Francisco O-line is one of the best, if not the best, in the league. They will continue to mostly neutralize the Packers upgrades.

The secondary can cover and the sub par receiving group of San Fran should be containable even if Burnett can't play and with Hayward already ruled out. But they won't be shutting the 9ers out.

So San Fran should still get rushing yards and protect Kaepernick long enough to allow some passing too. They should be able to maintain a steady offense and get some points on the board and their advantages will grow as the game wears on because they will win most of the battles at the line.

The Packers will put up points too, the game will be in the upper 20's lower 30's but I'm only give GB about a 25% chance to win this one. If it were week 8 or 9 and the team comes together like I'm hoping that might be a different story, but I don't expect any portion of this Packers team to be firing on all cylinders out the gate. Sure they average around 11 new players on the 53 man roster every year since Thompson came to town, this year it's 16 I believe. That's 30% turnover. Sure some of them like Quarless and even Jolly have started for the team before but they weren't on active rosters last year, they are new.

by Ed Schoenfeld (not verified) :: Sat, 09/07/2013 - 3:17pm

On offense, I'd count a bigger Finley and the addition of Quarless as improvements in the run game (Quarless because he is a much better receiving threat than Crabtree in 2 TE formations.) I'd also say that Lacy and Starks are materially better than Benson and Green, though that is mitigated by the O-line concerns.

On defense the biggest improvements are the subtraction of Erik Walden, who was the victim on at least two of Kaepernik's big runs, and a better understanding of the read/option threat by both coaches and players.

Yes, SF should be able to grind out offensive production, but given the relative decline of the Niners receiving corps vs. the Packers DBs, will SF be able to do that steadily (and quickly) enough to keep up with an offense that was, in fact, able to score against them without the noted improvements even last season? A lot of that answer depends on how Micah hyde plays in the slot. Fortunately Davon House, not Jarret Bush, is the 6th DB.

(As an aside, it's interesting that both the season ending injuries, Crabtree and Bulaga, enhance the opponent's defensive strengths).

The Niners are legitimate favorites, and not just due to home field. But the game should actually be interesting.

by Ed Schoenfeld (not verified) :: Sun, 09/08/2013 - 10:10am

And now they are down by Burnett and Jones as well.

by techvet (not verified) :: Sat, 09/07/2013 - 10:57pm

I'm a Packers fan, but let's face it, the Niners beat the Packers twice last year with two different QBs at two different locations. McCarthy has had all spring/summer to strategize for this game. Datone Jones and Jolly are our only hope.

by Deelron :: Sun, 09/08/2013 - 9:15pm

I think we can now safely say (with as much certainly one can get in such things) that SF is slightly better then GB.

by David :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 6:25am

I dunno, I think this was the epitome of a coin flip game - the niners won by six, but I wouldn't be surprised if the VOA came out even. Given the niners were at home, the two teams are certainly within the margin of error of each other, and I don't think that either one winning could be considered an upset.

by Deelron :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 2:57pm

If 3 wins in a row (two relatively close) aren't enough to say one team is slightly better then the other on a one-to-one basis, I'm not sure it could ever be said.

by coremill :: Tue, 09/10/2013 - 9:11am

Nah, this game shouldn't have been that close. SF outgained GB by more than 100 yards and was +2 in turnovers., but had three long drives end in field goal attempts (one of which was missed). GB only sustained 4 drives the whole game and had several three and outs, but all four of their good drives ended in TDs. VOA will penalize them for all those short drives.

SF is just a really bad matchup for GB. They make GB one-dimensional and take away the home runs. And Greg Roman just owns Dom Capers right now.

by David :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 6:25am

[redacted - double post]

by Give up (not verified) :: Tue, 09/10/2013 - 8:16am

You guys need to do the following stat:

1) adjust your model based on its complete and consistent failure in predicting the Harbaugh 49ers (my conjecture: it's not at all accounting for how important coaches are in the NFL);

2) stop with all the hating on the 49ers. They're making you look asinine for 3 years running now. Do one of your classic "DVOA says this, but we think it's wrong" statements if your model is negative on them.