SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The most anticipated game of the regular season, to this point, has finally arrived.
9-1 vs. 8-2. Here are five things to watch:
1. Big numbers: Packers RB Aaron Jones enters the final six games of the regular season with 14 touchdowns. The last Green Bay player to have more than 14 in a single season? Jordy Nelson, with 15 in 2011. The last one to have more than 15? Ahman Green, with a franchise-record 20 in 2003.
2. Protection part I: The 49ers have racked up 39 sacks through 10 games and have four players with five or more this season (though one of them, Dee Ford, is injured). So the Packers' protection of QB Aaron Rodgers, which has experienced more struggles on the road than at home, is a primary focus. The 49ers don't blitz much, relying on their front four to get home. It'll be a night of one-on-ones.
3. Protection part II: The Packers also have to protect the ball from a 49ers defense that ranks third in the league with 22 takeaways. It's an entirely different unit in that regard from the one Green Bay faced last year, when San Francisco generated just seven turnovers all season.
4. Wrong direction: Through their first seven games, the 49ers allowed more than 17 points in a game just once. In their last three games, opponents have averaged 26 points per game as San Francisco pulled out two close ones over Arizona and lost to Seattle in overtime. The Packers need to keep one of the league's top units trending the wrong way.
5. Areas of concern: The Packers' bye week self-scout focused on these key areas – penalties on offense, big plays on defense and consistency on special teams. Reducing false starts, making opponents grind out drives, and finding a spark in the return game are all goals for the stretch run.