The Packers will have their hands full this Sunday when they meet up with the 49ers for the NFC Championship game. San Francisco has enough great players to worry about like Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, and Richard Sherman but there are two X-Factors, one on offense and one on defense, that could make the difference in Sunday’s game.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Packers understandably need to game plan for guys like Kittle, Emmanuel Sanders, and Tevin Coleman but their “third string” running back could make a huge difference on Sunday. Matt Breida is the X-Factor the 49ers may deploy on Sunday that could create problems for Green Bay all night. Breida is an extremely fast running back who might have the most big play ability on San Francisco. He showcased this when he had an 83 yard rushing touchdown earlier in the season. In fact, it was the biggest play by any 49er all year. Even though Breida was the least used back on the team throughout the season behind Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert, when he was healthy, he helped the 49ers round out the three-headed monster they always wanted. Not just an explosive runner, Matt Breida is also dangerous out of the backfield as a pass catcher. Breida had the highest catch percentage of anyone on the team with at least 22 targets. With his explosiveness, the Packers will need to keep an eye on Breida whenever he is on the field even if he doesn’t get the handoff. Matt Breida just needs a small window to make a big play and change the tide of a game.
Defensively, all the talk about the 49ers this season has been about their defensive line. This is justified considering Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and DeForest Buckner have all had incredible seasons. However, their 23-year-old middle linebacker, Fred Warner, is the low-profile player who could give Green Bay fits on Sunday. Over the last 2 seasons, Warner has averaged 121 tackles with 5 being for a loss per season. This year, along with good tackle numbers, he also had an interception returned for a touchdown, 9 pass deflections, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 sacks. He has a great combination of power and speed which makes him a very balanced linebacker. He has a knack for creating turnovers which is something the Packers need to keep an eye on if they want to win. Warner is also a great linebacker when dropping back into coverage. In the past 2 seasons, he has held quarterbacks to a QB Rating of 89.0 whenever his man is targeted. This is a very good number for a linebacker more known for stopping the run than stopping the pass. Fred Warner is the type of guy who plays with an extremely high motor and gets better as the game goes on. If Green Bay doesn’t watch out, Warner could be the guy to make a huge 4th quarter play and take the Packers out of the game.
Obviously, Green Bay has to watch out for San Fran’s superstars but Matt Breida and Fred Warner are just two examples of X-Factors who could make the Packers NFC Championship Game, a long one.