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NFL Playoffs: Packers vs. 49ers Preview

San Francisco's Super Bowl dreams rest on the young shoulders of Colin Kaepernick.


Many years ago, the San Francisco 49ers were dealing with a quarterback problem. They had too many good ones. Steve Young eventually took over for Joe Montana and won a Super Bowl. The same is true today to a less legendary degree. Alex Smith was doing little wrong for the Niners this season, leading them to wins, not turning the ball over and completing his passes at a high percentage. The problem for Jim Harbaugh and his staff was that they felt they needed more explosive plays and that Smith couldn't bring that to the table.

Enter Colin Kaepernick, a razzle-dazzle kid that lopes around and flings passes on the run. He is a tattooed dynamo, often grinning foolishly and turning the corner faster than defenders. While not officially a rookie, Kaepernick is still very fresh to the league and not fully understood by his competitors or by his spectators. What is this guy? What can he do? There are moments where I wonder if even he knows.

The San Francisco defense needs no introduction. As far as elite defenses go, they are the last of the Mohicans. Their linebacker corps ranks with the historical greats and the safeties are cagey hit men-both of whom have been named Pro-Bowl starters. They face one of the most lethal aerial assaults in football with the Green Bay Packers, but they are confident in their ability to slow Aaron Rodgers down enough to win.

The game comes down to Kaepernick. We football people have decided the term "game manager" is an insult to the quarterback position. Alex Smith is widely viewed as the quintessential example of this. Kaepernick is a little of the opposite, though. He has all the physical characteristics that limited QBs yearn for, but due to the lack of gameplay wisdom, he struggles at times managing the game. His biggest test under these conditions was in Seattle where the whole team melted in the rain.

Mauling the Packers in the run game would go a long way for young Colin and his mates. Harbaugh and his brain trust are more creative than most offenses when scheming together their running game. They can run the read-option, the standard option, the quarterback draw and a thousand others, or they can simply maul straight ahead behind their tremendous line highlighted by my favorite lineman in football, Mike Iupati.

Green Bay's defense has gotten by on turnovers and reputation for a couple of years now. The offense is so potent it overshadows the defensive deficiencies except when they get bounced in the playoffs. Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson are certainly notable play makers, but they aren't all that scary. If they struggle stopping the 49ers running attack, Kaepernick can coast his offense to enough points to win by the Bay.

I felt last year that the 49ers were the most cohesive team in football and again in the earlier part of this year. Then the quarterback switch was made and suddenly a crack of uncertainty could be seen in their façade. While things have still come up largely roses for the Niners in 2012, Kaepernick's performance on this kind of stage will be closely examined. If he pulls of his Road Runner routine and run the Packers out of town, the hype machine will crank back up to full blast in San Francisco. If he lets the pressure consume him, though, then Harbaugh will be accused of midseason meddling.

Harbaugh and Kaepernick should be okay, and I'm sticking with them as my preseason pick for the Super Bowl. Defenses like this don't come around too often and the offense is good enough to get them to that promised land.

49ers 25, Packers 24

Mojokong-the butcher, the baker, the Candlestick quaker!