By Kevin York
<You can read the second part of this post, the actual preview, here.>
Packers against Niners. The sequel. This time in San Francisco. I remember the first matchup in week one very well. It took place at Lambeau in a game that San Francisco won 30-22, a score that wasn’t at all indicative of how the two teams performed. The Packers looked absolutely horrible while the Niners looked much like they hadn’t lost a step from where they ended the season last year, a narrow loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship game. Going into that first game I was skeptical, yet optimistic. I thought the Packers offense would still be the great machine that it was in 2011 when it rolled over teams on the way to a 15-1 record. The defense on the other hand, that’s where the skepticism came in. That unit was nothing special in 2011, in fact it was actually downright bad. Like worst in the NFL bad. The Packers used their 2012 draft to address it though, adding young talents like Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward. I mean, they couldn’t be worse than they were in 2011, could they?
I came away from week one thinking that they may indeed be worse than the previous year. I didn’t expect the San Francisco offense to be anything special. It was the weak aspect of that solid San Francisco team in 2011, yet against Green Bay, the Alex Smith-led unit seemed to be able to do whatever it wanted. The game left me wondering if this Green Bay team would even be able to win the NFC North and if I’d have to endure endless narrative over the next five months here in San Francisco not only about the Niners beating the Packers, but about how they’re historic, unstoppable and Super Bowl bound. Yes, I was already hearing comments along those lines the day after the game and not just from regular fans, but from the meatballs on local sports radio around here. Yes, they really are that bad.
I also remember that week one matchup well because I watched the game with Hoa and Rahul, who are both, of course, 49er fans. They weren’t shy about rubbing the final score in, especially Rahul, who decided to take it a step further by writing a special post to me that scratched even deeper at my fresh wound. I tend to fly off the hook a bit when it comes to the Packers and retaliated almost immediately with a response.
After the Packers jumped to a big lead on the Vikings Saturday night and it slowly became more and more inevitable that the following weekend would produce a rematch of that week one confrontation, I began to consider writing a post analyzing the matchup. I was already forming tons of opinions in my head about the various strengths and weaknesses of the 49ers and where Green Bay could exploit its advantages and hide its weaknesses. I initially dismissed the idea though. See, I have this sort of rule that I follow. A weird one… I try not to talk trash in the week leading up to a game where my Packers are playing a team that friends support. I take it so far that I shy away from even making comments about their opponent, even simple things like, “Your offensive line is a mess of injuries right now, you’re going to have a real hard time defending Clay Matthews.” It sounds ridiculous, I know. After all, that’s what friends do to each other. They talk trash about their sports teams. I’ve done it before. That instance was not leading up to a Green Bay showdown though and that’s exactly why I try not to do it before a big game. As you may have sensed from my retaliation to Rahul’s Dear Kevin post, I have a hard time dealing with the reciprocating trash talk that comes my way afterward, if the Packers happen to lose one of these games. Directly after a loss I have nothing left to combat the jabs with other than stupid responses like, “If they had done what I said, we wouldn’t have lost! They didn’t have a good game plan!” So you know better than the coaching staff, huh, Kevin?
Is a game preview involving my team really trash talk though? This is a professional sports site, isn’t it? I just give my perspective and analyze both teams. Right? Actually, no. First, this isn’t a professional sports site. It’s five guys who like sports giving their opinions, three of whom are Niner fans and one who cheers for the just disposed-of-by-my-Packers Vikings. We give each other crap, a lot of it at times. With me writing this preview, it would end up containing some jabs, especially since it’s a preview involving my team playing the team that I absolutely hate, the San Francisco 49ers. So you see, professional is something we probably can’t be considered. After all, there’s not much in our backgrounds that prove we actually know what we’re talking about. We just like sports and like to give our opinions. We’re regular guys with no sports experience, just like Skip Bayless, Mike Greenberg, Tony Reali, Jemelle Hill, Israel Gutierrez, Dan Le Batard… Hey wait, those people actually are professionals who are paid for their bad opinions, so maybe…
Weird sports superstitions are hard to let go of. I have a green home AJ Hawk Packers jersey (yes, it’s an odd selection of a jersey for a big Packers fan. I bought it his rookie year. I liked his Big Ten pedigree and his toughness. I thought that he was going to be a really good player. Truth be told, I also liked his hair. When he cut it this past offseason, part of me died, although he has played better this year with short hair. Oh well, I’ve still got Clay Matthews…) and a white Aaron Rodgers roadie. I love both of them, but I can’t wear either one for a big game. The team doesn’t play well when I wear one. Actually, that’s an understatement. They lose, plain and simple. The lone exception is when I tempted fate and wore the Hawk jersey for Super Bowl XLV and the Packers beat the Steelers. When I wore it the next year it had lost its luck and still hasn’t regained it. In fact, I wore that exact jersey in week one.
After some thought, I decided that it’s ok to write this preview. It’s time for me to outgrow my weird superstition. So tomorrow, watch for my preview and analysis of the Packers – 49ers divisional round game. To use the words of Mark, you can consider this a preview to my preview. Who knows, if this goes well maybe I’ll even break out of my jersey superstition.