By Jim McBride
By Jim McBride
Globe staffPackers on offense: Aaron Rodgers is like a silent assassin. He isn’t flashy, he just quietly goes about his business of shredding secondaries. Rodgers is very smart and well-prepared, and he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Rodgers has an extremely accurate and strong arm and does an excellent job of spreading the wealth. The 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pounder is an underrated athlete and will make plays with his legs. He has nice receivers in rugged Greg Jennings (he’s speedy and strong), perpetually banged-up Jordy Nelson (he’s a great athlete), and the versatile Randall Cobb (he has an explosive first step). Tight end Jermichael Finley is a big, reliable target. Quick and agile Alex Green and wily veteran Ryan Grant will share the ground duties.
49ers on defense: There are impact players all over this unit. And the impacts are often bone-rattling. The linebackers are a fierce, brutish bunch led by the speedy and instinctive NaVorro Bowman (149 tackles) and the ultra-intense Patrick Willis (120 tackles). Aldon Smith (call him a linebacker or a defensive end, he could care less) is a freakish force. He overwhelmed blockers with great speed and power en route to collecting 19½ sacks.
49ers on offense: This unit underwent an overhaul during the season when Colin Kaepernick took over at QB for an injured Alex Smith and never gave the job back. The 6-4, 230-pounder is a tremendous athlete with a strong arm. He has made great strides in recognizing defenses and checking down to his third and fourth options. Kaepernick benefits a great deal from having solid pass catchers in Michael Crabtree (he’s speedy with strong hands), Randy Moss (he has slowed, but he can still make plays), and Vernon Davis (rugged tight end has great hands and strength). Running back Frank Gore runs like he’s angry. He’s quick to the hole and has impressive acceleration and power. He is a workhorse.
Packers on defense: Quick and powerful nose tackle B.J. Raji’s job first and foremost will be to clog the running lanes and try to make things tough on Gore. Linebackers Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk are throwback players who are always in the thick of it. They have the instincts and range to make plays from sideline to sideline. Versatile safety Charles Woodson is always in the right place at the right time. Cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields are rangy ballhawks.
Special teams: Ted Ginn handles the return duties for the 49ers and he is very hit or miss. Ginn averaged 23 yards on 11 kick returns (the job was formerly held by LaMichael James, who now is Gore’s backup, and Kyle Williams, who is injured). Ginn averaged 10.2 yards on 32 punt returns. David Akers has struggled, hitting on 29 of 42 field goals. The team actually brought Billy Cundiff in to compete with Akers this week (apparently, they were fresh out of Gramaticas in the Bay area). Andy Lee (48.1 average) is an exceptional punter. Green Bay return man Randall Cobb can be a game changer. He averaged 25.4 yards on kickoffs and 9.4 on punts. Mason Crosby (21 of 33) struggles on long field goal attempts — and swirling winds won’t help. Tom Masthay averages 43.5 yards per punt.
Miscellany: Green Bay is 4-1 in the postseason vs. San Francisco . . . Packers have won 13 NFL titles . . . 49ers have collected NFL-high 16 division titles since 1980 . . . Packers boss Mike McCarthy is 6-3 in the second season, while the 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh is 1-1 . . . Moss has 10 career postseason TD catches . . . Green Bay’s Tramon Williams has 15 interceptions since 2010.