49ers-Packers matchup No. 1: Colin Kaepernick vs. Aaron Rodgers
Two of Colin Kaepernick's best games as a pro have come against the Packers, in last year's playoffs and in Week 1 of this season. (USATSI)
Editor's note: This is the final part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Packers matchups to watch Sunday, 1:40 p.m., at Lambeau Field
[MATCHUP NO. 3: Goodwin vs. Pickett]
[MATCHUP NO. 2: Smith vs. Bakhtiari]
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick vs. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Tale of the tape
Kaepernick (7): 6 foot 4, 230 pounds, third season, Nevada
Rodgers (12): 6 foot 2, 225 pounds, ninth season, Cal
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who grew up a fan of the Green Bay Packers, will fulfill a childhood dream, of sorts, on Sunday when he starts a playoff game at Lambeau Field.
“I don’t think my dream was to play in freezing weather, but to be in the playoffs and have this opportunity, yes, it’s part of the dream,” Kaepernick said.
Aaron Rodgers, the Chico native who cheered on the 49ers in his youth, has experience playing in cold weather. His advice is simple: “Eat a lot of chicken-noodle soup and dress warm.”
Kaepernick and Rodgers, though never on the field at the same time, will be the central figures in the NFC wild-card playoff game that is likely to be held in weather conditions hovering around zero. How they negotiate the arctic conditions will likely determine which team keeps alive its Super Bowl hopes.
Rodgers returned to action last week to help the Packers clinch a playoff spot as the NFC North champion after missing the previous seven games with a broken left collarbone.
Rodgers, who ranks No. 1 in NFL history with a career 104.9 passer rating, threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns against the 49ers in Week 1. He will look to further expose a 49ers secondary that figures to line up without starting cornerback Carlos Rogers, who did not practice all week due to a right hamstring strain.
[RELATED: What to expect from Rogers, Wright]
Rodgers has a number of different weapons from which to choose, including wide receivers Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb and tight end Andrew Quarless. The Packers will use mostly three-receiver personnel groups to test the 49ers' depth at cornerback.
Kaepernick has given the Packers fits with his ability to run and throw. He has made two starts against the Packers in his career, and he led the 49ers to victories in completely different fashions.
He rushed for 181 yards -- the most in NFL history by a quarterback -- in a 45-31 victory in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs last season.
Then, the Packers adjusted their defense, and Kaepernick adjusted his game. He threw for a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-28 win against the Packers in a Week 1 victory on Sept. 8 at Candlestick Park.
The 49ers want to get yards on the ground via Frank Gore and Kaepernick. And they also have more balance than they’ve had in a long time with Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Also, rookie Quinton Patton stepped up late in the regular-season finale with a 29-yard reception to set up the winning score against the Arizona Cardinals.
“I think it’s great for us,” Kaepernick said. “We can do a lot of different things. We can try to manipulate defenses different ways.”
But, ultimately, it comes down to Kaepernick. When he averaged 6.0 yards or more per pass attempt this season, the 49ers were 12-0. When he was under that figure, the 49ers were 0-4.
The Packers no longer appear to have such a huge advantage at Lambeau Field in the playoffs. Green Bay was 11-0 in the playoffs from 1957 to 2002. But the Packers have lost four of their past seven home playoff games since then. And it's not as if Kaepernick is not accustomed to playing in cold weather, too.
"He’ll be fine," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He played up in Reno. They had some cold weather games there, cold and windy."