Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 1 BAL at DEN (THU) GB at SF *NE at BUF *TB at NYJ

Prediction: GB 20, SF 24 (Line: SF by 5)

Players of Interest: Eddie Lacy, Jermichael Finley, Vernon Davis, Marlon Moore, Quinton Patton

The 49ers beat the Packers in the playoffs last year, winning 45-31 in San Francisco. The Packers were only 4-4 on the road last season while the 49ers were 6-1-1 at home. Both teams are healthy and repeating the game that was played eight months ago with much greater consequences.

1 @SF - 10 PHI -
2 WAS - 11 @NYG -
3 @CIN - 12 MIN -
4 BYE WEEK 13 @DET -
5 DET - 14 ATL -
6 @BAL - 15 @DAL -
7 CLE - 16 PIT -
8 @MIN - 17 @CHI -
9 CHI - ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
GB @ SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Aaron Rodgers 20 270,2
RB Eddie Lacy 60 1-10
WR Randall Cobb 5-60
WR Jordy Nelson 3-50
PK Mason Crosby 2 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Packers just missed a first round bye with their 11-5 record last season. They los Greg Jennings to the Vikings but he was a nonfactor last year anyway. Otherwise all the other receivers returned and they finally opted to work on the rushing effort. After drafting Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, the Packers are looking to replace their committees of recent seasons. But make no mistake - this remains a pass-first offense and Aaron Rodgers is not adverse to running and scoring himself.

QUARTERBACKS: Yet another big season for Aaron Rodgers who scared fantasy owners last year when he started out and only threw three touchdowns over the first three games. He still ended up with 4295 passing yards and a total of 41 touchdowns. Rodgers has been with these receivers for several years now and that sort of chemistry shows.

Rodgers passed for 257 yards and two scores in San Francisco last January.

RUNNING BACKS: This is where to watch this weekend. Eddie Lacy was drafted to put some power back into the backfield and while Johnathan Franklin was also selected, he's fallen from contention and has just become depth. DuJuan Harris seemed like a potential threat to share carries but once again he is back on IR with a knee injury. Alex Green was also released so the door is open for Lacy to become a full-time back in Green Bay... whatever that actually means. The Packers are never going to handoff to the same back 25 times a game unless Rodgers is on the sidelines injured. And Rodgers loves to reach the three-yard line and then spend three downs throwing the ball into the endzone. Or he may rush it in himself. Lacy gives them an option that may be better than anything last year. But even as the primary back, how much work that Lacy gets has yet to be proven.

DuJuan Harris was the starter in that playoff loss, running for 53 yards on 11 carries and scoring once.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Greg Jennings may be gone but there is never a shortage of wide receivers here. Randall Cobb was breaking out last year when he produced 80 catches for 954 yards and eight touchdowns. Jordy Nelson underwent minor knee surgery on August 5th and is on track to start this week. He comes off a down season in 2012 when he only had 49 catches and seven scores thanks to both knee and hamstring issues that robbed him of all or part of half his games. Nelson was a beast in 2011 when he scored 15 times and gained 1263 yards. James Jones fills out the starters and while he has been limited to under 800 yards every year, he did score 14 times last season. This is a productive bunch and any one (or all) of these receivers can go off in any week.

Greg Jennings (6-54) and James Jones (4-87) both scored in San Francisco while Jordy Nelson (5-46) and Randall Cobb (5-24) were less effective.

TIGHT ENDS: The biggest news coming out of camp was how well Jermichael Finley looked and how well he was connecting with Aaron Rodgers. Granted - Finley has been there for five seasons. But he's been talked up not only as an improved blocker, but as a receiver by no less than Aaron Rodgers. Seemingly every year FInley looks good and is going to have a big season. And every year he ends up with around 600 or 700 yards and maybe 50 or 60 catches. This is a contract year for him but he'll need to do more than he has in five seasons to merit that much fantasy attention beyond being just an average tight end at best.

Finley only managed four catches for 35 yards on the 49ers last year.

MATCH AGAINST THE DEFENSE: The only real change to the 49ers defense was losing FS Dashon Goldson to the Buccaneers but they took a first round draft pick to replace him. Playing in San Francisco is not much fun for the last couple of years and this game just went off last January. The Packers did well enough to post 31 points on them and that's unlikely to happen again. Both teams bring in roughly the same players and the exact same offenses and defenses. You should never bench a Packer player because of matchup but it is reasonable to temper expectations in this season opener as it is one of the worst places to play. No one threw for more than two scores in San Francisco last year and only Rodgers managed more than 275 pass yards.

This should be an inauspicious start for Eddie Lacy starting out in the Lion's Den.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Eddie Lacy of course is first priority - what do the Packers do with a legitimate full time back? Will he get more than say 15 touches in a game? And will Jermichael Finley finally cease being a tease and truly step up to being an elite tight end.

Gaining Fantasy Points GB 2 27 1 14 21 19
Preventing Fantasy Points SF 6 3 8 13 1 9


1 GB - 10 CAR -
2 @SEA - 11 @NO -
3 IND - 12 @WAS -
4 @STL - 13 STL -
5 HOU - 14 SEA -
6 ARI - 15 @TB -
7 @TEN - 16 ATL -
8 @JAC - 17 @ARI -
9 BYE WEEK ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
SF vs GB Rush Catch Pass
QB Blaine Gabbert 200,1
QB Colin Kaepernick 50,1 240,1
RB Reggie Bush 20 6-60,1
WR Anquan Boldin 5-60
WR Quinton Patton 2-30
WR Torrey Smith 4-60
TE Vernon Davis 4-30
PK Phil Dawson 1 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: So close. The 49ers made it to the Super Bowl but fell just short in the Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh match. Entering into this season the 49ers are at a disadvantage slightly thanks to losing Michael Crabtree to an Achilles injury back in May. Anquan Boldin was acquired as a substitute of sorts but there is a world of difference between a 26 year-old budding star coming off a break out year and a 33-year old receiver who hasn't been north of 850 yards in years. But this is all about defense and rushing more than passing. This first week out will be a good gauge as to whether the absence of Crabtree is meaningful or not.

QUARTERBACKS: Colin Kaepernick plays in his first season opener having only shown up in week 11 of last year and then winning the game down the improbable stretch to the Super Bowl. Kaepernick had a monster game against the Packers, running 16 times for 181 yards and two scores while also throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns. He typically remains under 30 rushing yards in most games and has only once ever thrown for more than two scores. His only 300 yard game so far was in a Super Bowl.

RUNNING BACKS: Frank Gore is now 30 years old but is back for at least one more year as the primary back. Kendall Hunter provides the backup for Gore but only accounted for 72 carries for 371 yards last year as a relief runner. LaMichael James may have been hyped as a rookie but he was a nonfactor on the offense and again will play special teams and add only depth. The early plan is to use Gore less in the early season to save him for a playoff run. That sounds good and proper but Gore tends to run as much as they need him to run to win the game. He had seven games with more than 20 carries in 2012 and ended with his second best season ever with 1214 rushing yards.

Gore rushed for 119 yard and one score on the Packers.

WIDE RECEIVERS: This is where it gets interesting. Michael Crabtree is out most of the year with an Achilles injury. Anquan Boldin helped win the Raven's Super Bowl but they did not think enough of the over-aged wideout to bring him back. Boldin has not broken 1000 yards since 2009 and it is not going to change this year. He's just a possession receiver on the downside of his career. A.J. Jenkins was a first round draft bust and was traded to the Chiefs in exchange for Johnathan Baldwin who was their first round bust as well. But Mario Manningham is not expected back until after week six thanks to MCL and ACL surgery.

Marlon Moore is a Miami cast-off entering his fourth season with only 12 career catches but he is expected to start early in the season until others are healthy again. The rookie Quinton Patton was drafted with their 4.21 pick and he'll start the season as the #3. Baldwin may end as the #4 and that means that the first four wideouts to start the year are new to the team. And there could be much movement during the year with the depth chart here. Without Crabtree around, it is difficult to see any of these wideouts amounting to that much. Boldin is the only one likely to remain in place all year and he's barely average on a good day.

Crabtree was the only effective receiver against the Packers, catching nine passes for 119 yards and two scores.

TIGHT ENDS: Vernon Davis could come to the rescue here but one problem with that. Davis comes off his worst year since 2008 because defenses were specifically game planning to stop him. This was displayed when he was limited to only one catch for 44 yards by the Packers. With Crabtree out, the likelihood that defenses load up to stop him again is about 100%. It is not like Boldin is striking fear into anyone's heart.

If Davis can get something going it will be a huge help for the 49ers. But if last year repeats, this offense will have lost a significant weapon with Crabtree injured.

MATCH AGAINST THE DEFENSE: The only notable change to the defense was losing Charles Woodson which really isn't that big a deal considering his declining skills as he ages. The key to this game is whether the 49ers are able to stop Rodgers from throwing - they could not so much last time. And how well Kaepernick throws to an entirely new set of wideouts matters big. The Packers only allowed five receivers to break 100 yards all last year and two of those went to Calvin Johnson. Home opener is always nice to fire up the crowd and Gore already had success rushing on the Packers. But the passing game may not start out as smoothly as desired from all the new personnel.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: The passing game is what is notable this week. Vernon Davis needs to show he can be bigger than double coverage and then Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton will be pressed into duty from a lack of options. They need to at least carry the game well enough not to be a liability.

Gaining Fantasy Points SF 11 18 23 13 10 15
Preventing Fantasy Points GB 13 13 17 5 13 6

WEEK 1 BAL at DEN (THU) GB at SF *NE at BUF *TB at NYJ

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