The Green Bay Packers are shooting for a deep playoff run while the clock ticks loudly for Aaron Rodgers.
The 38-year-old veteran looks to lead the top-seeded Packers to the NFC title game for the sixth time in his tenure as starting quarterback when Green Bay hosts the sixth-seeded San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night.
Rodgers has won just one Super Bowl during his famed run in Green Bay and his future with the franchise remains uncertain. He would like to take advantage of this chance with the Packers coming off a bye and possessing home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
"This is a special opportunity. We're not gonna make it bigger than it is," Rodgers said. "We've gotten this far being level-headed and even-keeled and not riding a roller coaster of emotions, and we're gonna keep on doing the same thing. If it was good enough to get us this far, it's good enough to get us past this point."
The 49ers represent one of the recent stumbling blocks for the Packers.
San Francisco whipped Green Bay 37-20 in the 2019 NFC title game when Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards. Last season, it was Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who finished Green Bay off with a 31-26 victory in the NFC Championship Game.
If the Packers win Saturday, they would become the first team to reach three straight NFC title games since the Jim Harbaugh-coached 49ers from 2011-13.
Green Bay defeated the host 49ers 30-28 in Week 3 of the 2021 regular season when Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired.
While the Packers were resting last weekend, the 49ers booted the Dallas Cowboys out of the playoffs with a 23-17 road win.
"If you look at them as of late, this is a confident group," Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur said of the 49ers. "You can see it on tape. You can see it in how they've played. We're going to have to play every play like it's our last play for the duration of the game."
However, San Francisco was a beat-up squad after the win over Dallas. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sprained his right shoulder to go with the torn ligaments in his right thumb, defensive end Nick Bosa sustained a concussion and linebacker Fred Warner sprained his right ankle.
Bosa was practiced Thursday and was officially cleared to play Friday. He had 15.5 sacks in the regular season.
Warner and Garoppolo were full participants again Thursday and are expected to play, as is top running back Elijah Mitchell (knee).
The only players listed as questionable are defensive lineman Jordan Willis (ankle) and cornerback Ambry Thomas (knee)
Garoppolo said he hurt the shoulder during a fall in the game against Dallas while he was trying to protect the thumb.
"If you're a quarterback, it affects every throw. It definitely had some impact," Garoppolo said of the shoulder ailment. "But if I'm out there and I'm in that spot, I've still got to make the play. No excuses or anything like that."
The 49ers sdefense that corralled the Cowboys didn't have an answer for Packers star Davante Adams in the Week 3 matchup. Adams caught 12 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Rodgers passed for 261 yards and two touchdowns, while Garoppolo threw for 257 yards, two TDs and one interception.
That game was played in Santa Clara, Calif. This one will be in frosty Green Bay, where forecasts call for a Saturday night low of 2 degrees.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan knows it won't be easy to win at Lambeau Field in January.
"To go (to Green Bay) in the playoffs with the caliber team that they have, with the quarterback that they have, it is going to be a real special game," Shanahan said. "It's going to be a huge challenge and it's going to be something that I, myself, and everyone involved with us, will remember for our lives."
The Packers activated Randall Cobb (core muscle) off injured reserve Thursday. Cobb missed the final five regular-season games.
Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) didn't practice Thursday and is listed as questionable. Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (back) also missed practice and is listed as doubtful. Cornerback Jaire Alexander (shoulder) practiced and is expected to play, though he's officially listed as questionable.
--Field Level Media