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The 49ers and Packers enter their Week 3 showdown both looking to climb into the conversation among the NFC’s top teams after up-and-down starts to the 2021 campaign.

San Francisco is 2-0 with a couple of troubling early trends emerging, while the Packers come in 1-1 after struggling through Week 1 and eventually putting the clamps on the Lions in Week 2.

Both clubs had tumult at the quarterback position in the offseason and go into Week 3 struggling with injuries at different spots. The winner will emerge as a real contender in the NFC, while the loser will take a hit in their chase for the conference’s top seed.

We sat down with Zach Kruse of the Packers Wire to discuss the two teams and which one has the advantage on Sunday Night Football:

QB Play

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Packers Wire: Aaron Rodgers followed up a nightmare season opener with four touchdown passes and only five incompletions against the Lions in Week 2. He is still deadly when playing on time from the pocket. His arm talent remains elite, and stopping him becomes tremendously difficult when he’s decisive with the ball. And it’s usually game over when he’s playing from a clean pocket – last week, he completed 19 of 20 passes from clean pockets. The Saints gave him trouble in Week 1 by rushing four, committing resources to coverage and disguising two-deep safety looks. Can the 49ers – generally a Cover-3 defense – copy the blueprint? There aren’t many weeks when the Packers won’t have the advantage in quarterback play, and this week is no exception, but the 49ers do a terrific job making life easier on the position. Jimmy Garoppolo is completing over 70 percent of his passes in 2021, and Trey Lance adds an unknown element. Niners Wire: Jimmy Garoppolo in his first two games has exhibited the highs that show why the 49ers held onto him to try and compete for a Super Bowl this season. He’s also had the lows that explain why they traded up to No. 3 overall in the draft to select Trey Lance. One key for Garoppolo and the 49ers’ 2-0 start is the zero turnovers from under center. Giveaways were a significant problem for Garoppolo in each of the last three years, but he’s remedied the problem early in 2021. If he’s not giving the ball away, he’s plenty efficient to operate Kyle Shanahan’s offense successfully, even if it is a version of the offense that isn’t necessarily threatening defenses vertically. Lance could get some time, but the 49ers won’t likely go to him unless their offense is rolling. The rookie has gotten the attention this offseason, but this is still very much Garoppolo’s team. Advantage: Packers

Line of scrimmage

(AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

Packers Wire: The Packers have a big question mark along the offensive line with starting left tackle Elgton Jenkins battling an ankle injury and listed as doubtful. If he doesn’t play, a clear advantage for the 49ers might become a game-breaking factor. The Packers could survive upfront without him, but Jenkins is the team’s best offensive lineman and losing him from a premium spot on the offensive line would be huge, especially against such a talented defensive front. On defense, the Packers haven’t been good enough at the line of scrimmage. Simple as that. Kenny Clark has been terrific, but the supporting players are really struggling, and the Packers don’t have the power and versatility of Za’Darius Smith, who is on IR. The front just isn’t affecting the game enough through two weeks. Facing the 49ers offensive line won’t provide reprieve in Week 3. Niners Wire: This is an area San Francisco should dominate. Their defensive front is deep and relatively healthy with Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford and Kentavius Street all playing at a high level through two weeks. Philadelphia’s very good defensive line struggled to get the run game going and to keep quarterback Jalen Hurts clean. Their offensive line is also very good. Garoppolo hasn’t taken a sack yet and right tackle Mike McGlinchey is having a bounce-back year in 2021. There’s a hole at right guard though that teams can exploit. Daniel Brunskill struggled bad in Week 2 and barring a dramatic turnaround he’ll continue to be an area of concern on San Francisco’s offensive front. Advantage: 49ers

Turnovers

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Packers Wire: The Packers turned the ball over three times in Week 1, including twice in the red zone, but Matt LaFleur’s team didn’t have a giveaway last week. This team prides itself on protecting the ball, and the quarterback is one of the best ever at avoiding turnovers, especially interceptions. The Packers had only 11 giveaways in 2020. Turnovers figure to be huge in this matchup, as always. Keep in mind, the 49ers won the turnover battle 4-0 in the two games in 2019, but the Packers won it 2-0 in 2020. Kyle Shanahan’s team has two giveaways and just one takeaway so far in 2021, so it’s hard to decipher if the 49ers will be a turnover-dependent football team this year. This defense is good without taking the ball away. Niners Wire: The 49ers botched their opening snap of the season against the Lions, and then Deebo Samuel fumbled on their final offensive play of that game. Outside of those hiccups San Francisco has taken care of the ball really well. A key reason for that has been Garoppolo staying away from throws directly into a defender’s chest. Defensively they tallied an interception against Jared Goff, but linebacker Dre Greenlaw hurt his groin while returning that interception for a touchdown. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown a pick against San Francisco since 2013, and the 49ers’ inability to generate interceptions doesn’t bode well for a turnover Sunday night. Advantage: Push

Situational

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Packers Wire: Like all the evaluations here, the situational success of the Packers offense must be split between Week 1 and Week 2. They didn’t convert a third down with Aaron Rodgers on the field and didn’t score a touchdown in the red zone in Week 1, but the offense converted five third downs and went 4-for-4 scoring touchdowns in the red zone last week. This was the best situational offense in the NFL last season, but the jury is still out in 2021. The Packers have the starpower on offense to be dominant again in both areas. However, the defense has struggled getting stops on third down (47.4 percent, 28th in NFL) and the red zone (6-for-6, 100 percent, tied for last) so far in 2021. Expect the 49ers to give the Packers offense issues on third down, especially on third-and-long. And the situational battle between Shanahan and Joe Barry looks, well, lopsided. Niners Wire: San Francisco has converted all four of their red zone trips into touchdowns this season, and after an extremely slow start in Week 2 where they were 0-for-5 on third-down conversions, they finished 6-of-14 in that area and are 39.1 percent for the season. Their defense has been even better though, allowing a 33 percent conversion rate on third downs and in the red zone. There could be lots of long, deliberate drives where red zone conversions and third-down pickups will be the difference makers in this one, and the 49ers’ advantage in the trenches could be the deciding factor in who wins the all-important third-down and red-zone battles.

Injury situation

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Packers Wire: The 49ers might have big issues at running back, but the Packers have three major injuries to contend with on Sunday night. David Bakhtiari is on the PUP list. Za’Darius Smith is on IR. And Elgton Jenkins is doubtful to play. That makes three of the Packers’ top 8 or so players dealing with an injury. Not great. The rest of the team is healthy, for the most part, but overcoming the losses of three premier players could be tough in a matchup like this. Not having Jenkins available at left tackle could really complicate the offensive line’s matchup against the 49ers front. Niners Wire: This has been a disaster all year for San Francisco, especially in the backfield. They’re starting their third different running back in three games, and the likely starter Trey Sermon suffered a concussion in his only NFL carry. Jacques Patrick or Trenton Cannon will likely be the backups which says everything about where San Francisco’s RB situation is. They’ve also been beat up in the secondary, but Emmanuel Moseley should return this week and start at cornerback after missing the first two games. Za’Darius Smith’s injury along with the issues at tackle on the offensive line are two major injury situations for Green Bay that San Francisco should be able to exploit. Advantage: 49ers

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