"Sooner or later, it all gets real." Thank you, John Bell. This week - it gets real. Thankfully. That was the most pathetic display of preseason football that I can recall from our beloved Green Bay Packers. Frankly, it was almost unbearable. But, now, it's real. And, as long as #12 is feeling confident, I'm feeling confident. Before I get into my Week 1 thoughts, here's a quick look at some of the big decisions that Mike McCarthy & Ted Thompson made in compiling the Final 53:
* I'd argue that outside of the conversations regarding #4, the last week included some of the most difficult conversations that McCarthy & Thompson have had to encounter. Both have to be disappointed. Just last year, Thompson traded up to get Terrell Manning. Manning never panned out. In 2011, Thompson made 11 selections. Today, only 4 of those players are on the Roster. One is Derek Sherrod who hasn't played in more than a year. Another is Ryan Taylor. Taylor has yet to make an impact. In 2012, Thompson made 8 selections. Today, only 5 remain. And two of those (Hayward & Worthy) won't be available for the Week 1 contest vs the 49ers. One of the recent cuts was BJ Coleman. Mike McCarthy prides himself on his ability to develop a QB. This must have been a punishing training camp for his ego. He invested 3 years in Graham Harrell. Harrell never progressed. BJ Coleman had all of the tools. He had a big arm, an ability to move, and great size. But, Coleman never developed. I believe that Coleman showed better footwork in the East-West Shrine Game than he did in the Week 4 preseason game at KC. Disappointing.
* Vince Young wasn't ready. I wanted it to come together for him. He was an absolute stiff at KC. Unbearable. Clearly, the Packers are desperate with the signing of Seneca Wallace. There's no way to beautify it.
* Couldn't be more excited for Chris Banjo! Dude came to play. He tackled everything in sight. Wouldn't shock me if he sees time in the regular season. I'll reiterate what I wrote last week - he's impressed me more than MD Jennings.
* Props to Sam Barrington! He reminds me a little bit of a young Desmond Bishop. Punishing in his attack. He plays with a mean intent. He's raw, but he has shown promise.
* Jeremy Ross is a survivor. He's going to get his shot at redemption this week.
* Micah Hyde looks like he has a little Sir Charles in him. Yes, I said that.
* Brandon Bostick has become the new project at TE. Wonder how long it is until he's utilized in a double TE package and sent down the seam.
* Well done, Lane Taylor. I thought he was deserving of a roster spot. If not in Green Bay, somewhere. Good developmental prospect.
* Cheers to Nate Palmer & Andy Mulumba. If you follow my twitter handle, you know that I was thrilled to have Mulumba in camp. Glad he's been given a chance to prove his worth.
* Johnny Jolly. What a stud!
* I wonder if Datone Jones is healthy. He's getting stuffed in his tracks.
* Good to see T-Mon get his hands on the ball!
* Brad Jones & Morgan Burnett better be healthy.
This week - it's the 49ers. In rematch form. For roughly 25 years, the Packers had the 49ers number. The rivalry was fully one-sided. However, in Week 1 last year, it seemed to flip the other way around. The 49ers dominated the Packers in the opener. At Lambeau. In the playoffs, it appeared as though the Packers had matched the 49ers intensity until Jeremy Ross' fumble. With that said, in both games, it was clear that the 49ers were the more physical team. They were a better coached team. They matched up better against the Packers than the Packers did against the 49ers. On paper, the same could be said about this year.
If you recall the playoff game last year, the Packers came out with a chip on their shoulder. There was a lot of talking and pushing after the play. The Packers had the right mindset - prior to Ross' fumble. Post the fumble, everything change.
I believe that this week is personal for McCarthy. The Packers are going to come out looking to punch the 49ers in the mouth. McCarthy will bring out his East Coast mentality in the locker room. He'll light a fire in the hearts of the team. The Packers will be mentally and physically ready.
While the Packers have had their share of injury issues, the 49ers are dealing with some troubles of their own. They'll be without Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree. On the outside, the Packers match-up well. Quinton Patton - a man that I wanted the Packers to draft - might be the #2 WR for SF. Patton is talented. And he brings swagger. He'll challenge the Packers DB's with solid routes, good hands and an ability to run after the catch.
I envision SF running a lot of play action short routes to Boldin. They'll get Kaepernick to the edge. They'll look for Vernon Davis on the edge of the defense. They'll attempt to pound at the heart of the Packers defense. All of this will happen before they try the Packers deep or run the read-option.
Defensively, the 49ers are the same that they've been the last couple of years. They're fast. They're physical. They'll seek contact. In the rotation, I imagine they'll only have two new faces: 1st round pick, Eric Reid, and Nnamdi Asomugha as the 3rd CB. They're unified. They'll be ready.
Early on, look for the 49ers to play power football. In response, the Packers will line up with a mix of Pickett, CJ Wilson, Raji, and Jolly. Jolly's attitude rubs off on the Packers in a positive way. He brings a toughness to the locker room. The Packers DL does a decent job matching the strength of the 49ers offensive front. And on the first 3rd down, Hyde comes on a blitz and disrupts Colin Kaepernick. In fact, if I were Dom Capers, I'd have Hyde shadow Kaepernick all game.
The Packers try to establish the run early in the game. Eddie Lacy finds little room to run. Then, on a roll-out, Rodgers hits J-Mike in the flat for a big gain. And the Packers offense is in business. The drive is capped as Rodgers hits Jones for a TD.
Last year - in Week 1 - the Claymaker got the best of Joe Staley. But, in the playoffs, Staley won the battle. Look for Clay to play with heightened passion. His intensity yields goodness.
Look for Harbaugh to attack Nick Perry. He'll try to get Perry in space. Harbaugh - ever the strategist - gets Perry to drop into zone coverage. He consistently aims for power football right at Perry. Harbaugh will view Perry as a weak link in the 3-4.
While the 49ers will utilize the read-option, it won't be used as much as it was in the playoff contest. After all, Kaepernick has a cannon of an arm and generally, he has good ball placement. The Milwaukee native has the tools. But, Hyde confuses him as he comes on a variety of blitzes.
God bless David Bakhtiari! Aldon Smith will be the toughest match-up that he'll face all year. Let's hope he can slow Bakhtiari down. I fancy that Quarless will be lined up next to Bakhtiari on a number of occasions. Quarless will chip Smith prior to his route. Look for Quarless to make an impact on this game. Especially on Rodgers roll-outs.
The 49ers drop into deep coverages. Testing Rodgers' patience. Staying calm, Rodgers finds Cobb on 3rd down. Consistently, Rodgers does not throw to the marker. Instead - receivers are forced to get yardage after the catch in order to move the sticks.
I expect the Packers to put up 24 points. So, it's up to the defense. Have to hold the 49ers to 5 scores, at most. While I believe that SF will move the ball, I'm not convinced that they'll punch it into the end zone. Crabtree was their finisher.
With the Packers leading late and facing a 3rd & 2, they give to Lacy. Lacy meets contact. Falls forward. Moves the stick. And keeps the clock ticking. Ticking towards victory.
I'm an optimist. And a realist.
Packers 24. 49ers 23.
Go Pack Go!