Three Things to Watch in the NFC Championship Game

William Pitts

The two top seeds in the NFC will meet to decide who will advance to Super Bowl LIV, as the San Francisco 49ers host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. The Packers are also out to avenge their 37-8 loss to San Francisco in Week 12.

Can the 49ers shut down Aaron Rodgers again?

Yes, the Packers finished 13-3, but it was a weird 13-3. They finished with a first-round bye, but weren't truly exceptional in any category - 15th in points scored, ninth in points allowed, and 18th in both yards gained and allowed.
The 49ers' 37-8 victory in Week 12 exposed the true flaws of Matt LaFleur's team, particularly in the passing game. Against the 49ers, Aaron Rodgers passed for only 104 yards, and all nine passes he attempted of over 10 yards fell incomplete. For a quarterback known for his legendary accuracy relative to arm strength, this is truly astonishing, and a credit to the 49ers secondary.

Since then, while the Packers have kept winning, Rodgers has looked merely good at best. He exceeded 300 yards of passing only once since the 49ers game, and that came in their week 17 win over Detroit when he threw for 323 yards. While it's doubtful that Rodgers will struggle at the level he did in Week 12, the 49ers will certainly pose a threat once again.

Aaron Jones, workhorse

Early in the season, Green Bay gave equal time at running back to Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. As the season progressed, however, head coach Matt LaFleur gave Jones the brunt of the snaps, and it's paid off well for the Packers. Jones finished over 100 yards rushing in three of the last four regular season games, and was the key instrument in getting the Packers their first-round playoff bye. Against the Seahawks last week, Jones rushed for only 62 yards, but scored two short-yardage touchdowns in the Packers' win. With Rodgers' recent struggles, especially against the 49ers, Jones will need to have a breakout performance for the Packers to secure a Super Bowl berth.

George Kittle is the key

On paper, both teams are very evenly matched. Both teams finished 13-3. Both teams have strong defenses and strong offensive lines. However, their November meeting showed just how uneven these two were, and showed one thing the 49ers have that the Packers don't: tight end George Kittle.

A human wrecking ball wearing pads and a jersey, Kittle is the single greatest offensive weapon in the 49ers' arsenal. Against the Packers in November, Kittle made the Packers' secondary look like they were standing still as he caught six passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Unless the Packers have somehow found an answer for him in the two months between their last matchup and this one, the 49ers will have the offensive edge.