Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
The 49ers are three-point favourites over the Packers on Saturday night, but there are still significant questions marks surrounding San Francisco right now.This is a still a good team with a great defence and a solid running game, but they are far from hitting on all cylinders going into the playoffs.
Here’s what’s going wrong:
David Akers is a mess. Field goals matter to the 49ers more than any other team in the playoffs. They are built on defence and running the ball, meaning they rely on field goals for points more than everyone else. Akers has led the league in field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons — if he isn’t on, the team struggles to put points on the board.
Akers has missed seven kicks in the last six weeks. He has made just two kicks of 40 yards or longer in the second half of the season. The team says he has responded to well getting challenged by back-up Billy Cundiff, but it’s a huge, huge question mark.
Frank Gore has hit a wall. The most important player on the 49ers offence is leaking oil. From Grantland’s Bill Barnwell:
“Gore was averaging 5.8 yards per carry through the first seven games and finished with 4.7 yards per carry, so you know he dropped off, but the real collapse came once backup Kendall Hunter went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 11. Over the final five games of the year, Gore averaged just 3.6 yards per rushing attempt. His workload stayed exactly the same, but his production just fell off a cliff.”
Passer rushing Aldon Smith hasn’t been able to rush the passer. Barnwell points out that Smith hasn’t recorded a sack since Week 15 (he was on a 1.3 sack per game pace before that), and that he hasn’t even so much as touched a QB in the last two weeks.
Pro Bowler Justin Smith is hurt. He’s going to play, but who knows how effective he will be. There are reports that his triceps is still partially torn, prompting some to question the wisdom of playing him at all. Smith eats up blockers and allows the rest of the great playmakers on the 49er D to flourish. He’s a big loss if he’s less than 100%.
All of this is before you get to the fact that it’ll be Colin Kaepernick’s first playoff game ever, against a team that will eat you alive if you turn the ball over.
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