at Green Bay
49ers, 12-4; Packers, 8-7-1
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb vs. the 49ers’ nickel cornerback
Cobb, one of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets, suffered a fractured tibia earlier this season and didn’t return until last week’s regular-season finale at Chicago. It was excellent timing. The two hooked up on a 48-yard touchdown in the final seconds to give the Packers the win and put them in the playoffs. The question is who will be responsible for covering Cobb, especially when he’s lined up as the slot receiver. That job typically would fall to Carlos Rogers, but the veteran cornerback tweaked his hamstring last week and did not practice in the run-up to today’s game. More likely, Cobb’s adversary will be Eric Wright, who has experience as a nickel cornerback but also is dealing with a hamstring injury suffered in practice last week. Perrish Cox also could step in if Rogers and Wright can’t play.
FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME
• The 49ers must harass Rodgers. San Francisco gave up its highest passing totals in the final two weeks of the regular season largely because Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Arizona’s Carson Palmer had plenty of time to throw.
• A meat-and-potatoes offensive philosophy for the 49ers that involves plenty of handoffs to Frank Gore might be prudent in today’s wintry conditions. A robust ground game also will keep the ball out of Rodgers’ hands.
• Rookie safety Eric Reid had one of his best games last week against Arizona. He’ll need two in a row against a Green Bay offense that is sure to test him once or twice deep downfield.
• An opposing tight end has caught a touchdown pass against the 49ers in four straight games. Tight end Andrew Quarless has become a big part of Green Bay’s passing offense, especially in the last four games.
• The 49ers’ LaMichael James is averaging nearly 10 yards per punt return, and the Packers were 29th in the league in punt-return yards allowed. James, however, must be prudent. He’s still relatively inexperienced and punts – and the ball itself – will be affected by the frigid temperatures.