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Is Candlestick Park an advantage for the 49ers?

The countdown to Saturday's playoff game continues for the Packers


Dino from Racine, WI

Do you think the 3-4 makes it harder to stop the run? Essentially, it's a 5-2 because the outside linebackers are pass rushers.

The 34 is a 52 with the ends off the line as linebackers. That's all it is. If you're looking for a 34 rush-backer, look first at the college 52 standup ends. The 34 is not a run defense. It is preferred by coaches that want more speed on the field for the purpose of rushing the passer and defending against the pass. In the vernacular, the 34 is "light in the pants," as opposed to the 43. Ends in the 34 are really tackles, and 34 linemen are asked to absorb the blocking and hold the point of attack so the stars of the show, the linebackers, can attack the ball. If you want to play a 34, you better have two things: linemen that are difficult to move, and linebackers that can run.

Kyle from Tampa, FL

While I absolutely wanted that first-round bye, I can't help but feel great about the position we're in right now. The majority of recent Super Bowl winners have played on wild-card weekend. It seems this momentum thing is for real, and I love the storyline of Aaron going back to play against his favorite team growing up and the team that passed on him. What say you?

I'd rather the Packers were playing the 49ers at Lambeau, but that's the only drawback from not having won in Minnesota. The 49ers have earned the right to host this game. They came here and won. It's only fitting that the Packers go there and win.

Tim from Santa Clarita, CA

Vic, why is it the SEC has a choke hold on college football? I miss the days when other conferences had really good teams.

The schools in the SEC pursue victory more aggressively than schools in other conferences do. Losing is not tolerated at places such as Alabama and Florida. Presidents are selected as much for their favor for football as they are for their favor for academia. Look at the coaches who've won national titles recently. Nick Saban is from West Virginia. He went to college in Ohio and coached at Michigan State in the Big Ten, but he's won national titles at LSU and Alabama. Why there? Urban Meyer and Les Miles are from Ohio, but they've won national titles at Florida and LSU. Why there? The answer is: Because the SEC is where you go to win titles. That's where the money is, that's where the commitment is. It's not a southern thing; it's an SEC thing. There are a lot of southern schools in the ACC that don't share that commitment. I have found football and academics to be a kind of yin and yang. The ACC is loaded with AAU schools, but the ones that have commitments to football are not AAU schools. The SEC only had two AAU schools, Florida and Vanderbilt, until it admitted Missouri and Texas A&M. Rank the conferences according to AAU memberships, and you'll pretty much rank them according to success on the football field, in reverse order, of course.

Justin from Christchurch, New Zealand

Who does DuJuan Harris remind you of?

His body type and running style remind me of one of the most underrated running backs in NFL history, James Brooks.

Gadi from Milwaukee, WI

I thought your piece with Bob Costas on the future of the game was interesting. Outside of your suggestion of doing away with the facemask, which I think is brilliant but too outside-the-box for people to accept, I only see this going one way: Everyone must come to terms with the fact that playing football may have long-term health effects, much like with other professions, such as coal miners, nuclear power plant employees and offshore oil riggers, and those willing to take the risk (and be handsomely paid to do so) can freely choose to pursue an NFL career. Thoughts?

I found it very interesting that Mark Murphy said in his conference call last Friday, that the league has given serious consideration to outlawing the facemask. Mark is a member of the NFL competition committee.

Adrian from Rochester, NY

Vic, you've said you don't see an MVP going to someone in today's league who isn't a quarterback. What kind of talent or athleticism does a guy have to display to change your mind about that? Would Adrian Peterson be worthy of it this season?

It's not about changing my mind, it's about changing the minds of the voters, most of whom think football is a game of pitch and catch. I'm fine with Peterson winning the MVP. I'd vote for him, if I had a vote.

Kashan from Virginia Beach, VA

Vic, I remember when Alabama won their first championship, and this was while you were still covering the Jags, of course, and I think you said something like Nick Saban had such a physical offensive line that they would win more championships and would change the landscape of college football. I want to know, did you see it shaping out like this?

Sure I did. Look at those people he has on his two lines. What I meant by change the landscape is that he would resurrect the running game, especially in the SEC. College football is such that it allows elite programs to corner the market on talent. There are too many 6-0, 190-pound guys that can run to corner the market on them, but there are only a few 6-5, 330-pound guys that can bend their knees and move, and that's where the elite programs corner the market. I'll use Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio as an example. That's not some kid from Tuscawillie or Hoosaloosa. Kouandjio is from Hyattsville, Md., and he was the No. 1 offensive line prospect in America in 2011. Alabama is a national program that has the resources and has committed the money to go out and get the best football talent pound for pound that America has to offer. The SEC isn't winning with quarterbacks and wide receivers. They're winning with dominant linemen.

Mitchell from Fond du Lac, WI

If there was one match up to watch in the upcoming game, what would it be?

Ahmad Brooks vs. Don Barclay, or Aldon Smith vs. Marshall Newhouse, depending on which tackle gets help. Focus on the one that doesn't.

Shon from West Fargo, ND

Was Notre Dame that bad, or was Alabama that good?

I watched the other Notre Dame-Alabama game, the one from New Year's Eve 1973. It was on ESPN Classic prior to the boring Notre Dame-Alabama game. The one in 1973 was fabulous. It gave me goosebumps, again. Tom Clements was a great, great college quarterback.

Rob from Bel Air, MD

Considering Rodgers is going back to his hometown this Saturday and the 49ers rejected Rodgers in 2005, could this game drive Rodgers to prove the 49ers made the wrong choice in the draft?

I have to believe this is a game of special meaning for Aaron Rodgers.

George from Hutchinson, MN

The Packers offense will find it very difficult to match the muscle of the 49ers defense 75 percent of the time. That means an up-tempo and quick timing passes will need to be executed at a level of success similar to the Super Bowl game against the Steelers.

Make a team that wants to hit think.

Chris from Fairfield, CT

What is wrong with college football? The BCS national championship is supposed to be a good game.

The problem is there's no strong central ruling body. Conferences are cutting their own deals. Even Notre Dame is cutting its own deals. When that's allowed to happen, the field tilts, and when the field tilts, the product suffers. Leaguethink has made the NFL the model league in all of sports. It really encouraged me and put a smile on my face to see the NFL get back to a stronger commitment to leaguethink in the negotiation of the current CBA.

Brandon from Glenwood City, WI

Christian Ponder is getting ripped on Minnesota sports radio for not trying to tough it out, and Mike Shanahan is being blasted for not taking RG3 out. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. I believe those same people would be complaining had the reverse taken place.

We don't know what we want. We just know we want to complain about not having it.

Tom from Knowlton, WI

Thanks, Vic, for your interesting insight into various aspects of the game. After many years as a Packers fan, it helps make the game even better. I understand the various aspects of why Coach McCarthy often defers when winning the coin toss. What goes into the decision of which goal they decide to defend to start the game?

If there's a distinct wind advantage, then most coaches are going to take the wind to their back at the start of the game, assuming deferring will cause their opponent to take the ball, to avoid a double whammy. The whole deferring thing is overrated; I think we spend way too much time on it. The coin toss circumstance that most interests me involves wind. On a windy day, when wind at the back is a big advantage, I want it at my back in the fourth quarter, so I'm going to create a strategy that might help make that happen. Mostly, I'm going to hope I lose the coin toss and my opponent will defer. If that happens, then I'm going to take the ball to start the game, and then take wind in the face to start the second half, after my opponent opts to take the ball, even though that's a double whammy, because I think wind at the back in the fourth quarter can decide a game.

David from Bangor, ME

Let's talk rookies; they have impressed me all season. Will their growth be a difference maker this time around against the 49ers?

That's the plan.

Dave from Bourbonnais, IL

When will the Packers travel to San Francisco? With it being a night game, I think they should go early in the week to give their body clocks time to adjust, not to mention the weather.

I think that circadian rhythm stuff is a lot of baloney. Fly in the day before the game, go to bed, get up the next day and kick some butt. That's all the itinerary a team needs. Anything more than that is the "Love Boat." The Packers leave Friday afternoon.

Brett from Glen Rock, NJ

"Everyone has a plan, until they get hit in the face."--Mike Tyson. I think this applies perfectly to the players, not plays mentality. Should be a good one on Saturday. I can't wait.

Chuck Noll liked to say, "Pep talks work until the first time you get knocked on your (butt)." After that, you're on your own.

Beau from Lancaster, PA

How much of a home field advantage is Candlestick? How many points is it worth to the 49ers? How is the crowd noise, the playing surface, etc.?

I've never considered Candlestick to be an especially tough place to play. The team that played in it during the Montana-Young years is what made winning in Candlestick difficult. The Giants don't play there anymore, so the infield skin is gone and the playing surface is much better than it was when the Giants played there. The field has a reputation for being wet and soft, but I've looked at their weather forecast and this appears to be a dry week. I don't see any reason for Candlestick Park or the weather to be an obstacle to victory for the Packers.

Bob from Daugherty, IL

Vic, I enjoyed the call with Mark Murphy the other day. I couldn't help but think about Mark's comments about players having no fear due to modern facemasks when I saw the helmet Ray Lewis was wearing on Sunday.

It's one step away from a diving bell. I wonder what Bobby Layne and Tommy McDonald would think.

Jeff from Eau Claire, WI

After losing the smash-mouth game with the 49ers, then again against the Giants, what would indicate the Packers can be physical enough against any physical team?

I'm not looking for indications. We'll find out on Saturday if they can win that kind of game. I can wait.

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