After defeating the Seattle Seahawks in a 14-3 defensive struggle last week, the Green Bay Packers now face what is shaping up to be a classic quarterback matchup when they take on the heavily favored San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, with a trip to Super Bowl 54 as the grand prize.
On the Green Bay side, 36-year-old Aaron Rodgers stands one win away from moving on to just the second Super Bowl of his 15-year, future Hall of Fame career, in his 19th postseason game. But Rodgers — the Packers 2005 first-round draft pick — spent the first three years of that career stuck on the bench behind another Hall of Fame quarterback, Brett Favre, before he was able to so much as start a game.
So Rodgers can likely relate to his opposite number with San Francisco, 28-year-old Jimmy Garoppolo, who made it through his first full season as a starter in 2019. Drafted in the second round by the New England Patriots in 2014, Garoppolo was held on the bench behind Tom Brady — with the exception of Brady’s four-game “Deflategate” suspension in 2016 — until he was traded to San Francisco in the middle of the 2017 season.
Since then — despite missing all but three games with an injury in 2018 — Garoppolo has rolled up a 19-5 record as a starter, per Pro Football Reference, and has now led the ‘Niners to the doorstep of their first Super Bowl since the 2012/2013 season.
A panel of ESPN experts previews the Rodgers-Garoppolo matchup, in the video below.
When the two teams, and quarterbacks, met in Week 12 — also at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California — the 49ers were barely challenged, cruising past Green Bay 37-8, per PFR. In that game, the San Francisco defense held Rodgers to just 104 yards in the air on 33 attempts, including his team’s only touchdown.
On the other side, Garoppolo threw for a respectable 253 yards on only 20 attempts, including a pair of touchdowns. Finishing the game with a 145.8 passer rating, the performance was Garoppolo’s best of the season.
The two teams finished the regular season with identical, 13-3 records, but perhaps as a result of that earlier contest, San Francisco heads into the matchup as heavy, seven-point favorites to win the game and move on to Miami for Super Bowl 54, against either the Tennessee Titans or Kansas City Chiefs, depending on the outcome of the AFC title game earlier in the day, according to odds published by Newsweek.
The 49ers have been good at beating the spread this season, with a 10-6-1 record, fifth-best in the NFL. But the Packers have been even better, covering 11 times against six misses, third-best overall.
The NFC title game kicks off at 3:40 p.m. PST in Santa Clara, or 6:40 p.m. EST. The Fox Network has the national television broadcast, with streaming video provided by the network’s online Fox Sports Go service.