NFL Thursday Night Football: 49ers/Packers Preview

by Big Al Staff

The Thursday Night Football game on Fox is a rematch of the NFC Championship Game last January.

San Francisco clinched their opportunity to play in the Super Bowl in that showdown on January 19th with their 37-20 victory over the Packers. After the 49ers lost to Kansas City in the Super Bowl LIV, many observers presumed that head coach Kyle Shanahan’s team was well-positioned to avoid the jinx that many Super Bowl losers suffer in the next season.

Yet the 49ers’ record fell to just 4-4 on Sunday with their 37-27 loss in Seattle. Their poor fortune was made even worse with significant injuries to both quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle, which will keep them out for perhaps the entire season. The loss of the All-Pro tight end robs the Niners’ offense of their most reliable target in the passing game. Kittle has 37 receptions this year for 474 yards.

Nick Mullens will be the starting quarterback after completing 18 of 25 passes for 238 yards with two touchdown passes in relief against the Seahawks. For the season, the former Southern Mississippi star has completed 69 of 98 passes for 852 yards with a 70.4% completion percentage and an 8.7 yards-per-attempt average. In his 13 career games, which includes ten starts, Mullens has completed 65.9% of his passes for 3129 passing yards with 17 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

San Francisco already has eleven players on Injured Reserve, including Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman, Dee Ford, and Raheem Mostert. The Niners have several players out indefinitely along with another list of players questionable for this game played on a short week, including wide receiver Deebo Samuel and running back Tevin Coleman. The 49ers also traded away Kwon Alexander, who has missed the last three weeks with a high ankle sprain. He goes to the New Orleans Saints for a conditional fifth-round pick and linebacker Kiko Alonso, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

The Niners also experienced a positive COVID test from Kendrick Bourne. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, left tackle Trent Williams, and the questionable Deebo Samuel are all out for tonight’s’ game in quarantine.

Green Bay has lost two of their last three games after their 28-22 upset loss at home to Minnesota on Sunday as a 5.5-point favorite. The Packers outgained the Vikings by a 400-324 margin, but they gave up 173 yards rushing to Minnesota in losing that game.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sharp in the losing effort. He completed 27 of 41 passes for 291 yards with three touchdown passes. For the season, Rodgers is completing 65.9% of his passes for 1948 yards. He has thrown 20 touchdown passes to just two interceptions.

Green Bay is dealing with a handful of injuries as well. Running back Aaron Jones and left tackle David Bakhtiari questionable and game-time decisions tonight with cornerback Kevin King declared out with his thigh injury for this game on the short week. King Wide receiver Allen Lazard and linebacker Christian Kirksey remain on Injured Reserve.

The questionable status of Jones has become more ominous with the positive COVID test from rookie running back A.J. Dillon. Both Dillon and running back Jamal Williams were placed on the COVID reserve list. The Packers elevated Dexter Williams from the practice quad to join Tyler Ervin as their only eligible running backs if Jones is not able to play in this game.

The Packers were thoroughly defeated twice last season by the 49ers. They were thumped in their regular-season encounter by a 37-8 score on November 24th before the rematch in the NFC Championship Game. The Niners outscored Green Bay by a combined 74-28 margin in those two games with an average winning margin of 23 points. Both of those games were played in Levi’s Stadium, which will also be the site for this showdown.

BookMaker lists Green Bay as a 6.5-point favorite, with the total set at 48.5. The kickoff on Fox and the NFL Network is at 8:20 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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