In what may be the most important game in the NFC so far this season, the West-leading San Francisco 49ers risk falling into second place unless they can hold off the first-place team in the North Division, the Green Bay Packers, in a massive matchup on NBC's Sunday Night Football. And for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, in his first healthy season as an NFL starter, the SNF clash will be the second in three weeks that he faces the most important game of his career.
Two weeks ago, Garoppolo and the Niners faced their divisional rival Seattle Seahawks and ended up losing an overtime thriller. Though the loss was San Francisco's first of the season, it gave Seattle the tiebreaker advantage. And with the Seahawks' romp over the Philadelphia Eagles earlier on Sunday, the 49ers must beat the Packers to avoid falling into second place.
The 8-2 Packers face a similar situation, though they currently hold the tiebreaker advantage against the Minnesota Vikings. But a loss for Green Bay would otherwise leave the team tied with Minnesota atop the division with an 8-3 record.
Playing at home, San Francisco comes in as a three-point favorite over Green Bay, according to Sporting News. But as of early Sunday, 55 percent of bettors had wagered that the Packers would beat that narrow spread.
Based on the two teams' relative performances so far, the 49ers should be favored by a slightly higher margin. They come in with the second-ranked defense in the NFL, one that's allowed only 155 points through 10 games. That's 47 more than the league-leading New England Patriots, according to Pro Football Reference.
At the same time, Garoppolo's offense has put up 29.5 points per game, the second-best average in the NFL. The above numbers could give San Francisco an edge over Packers, who rank 13th on defense and 10th on the offensive side of the ball, per PFR.
One odd statistic noted by Sporting News appears to predict that the winner of Sunday night's game will go on to win the Super Bowl. According to the outlet, the game marks only the fifth time since 2007 that two teams with two losses or fewer have faced each other as late as Week 12.
The last two times that happened, the winner of the game went on the win the Super Bowl. Those teams were the Denver Broncos in 2014 and the Seattle Seahawks the previous year.
The Packers have won the last two meetings with the 49ers, including a 33-30 thriller in Green Bay last season and a 17-3 rout in San Francisco four years ago.