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What to watch for in 49ers-Packers on 'MNF'

The Packers know firsthand what the 49ers are going through.

It was a year ago today that Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone against the Vikings, sending Green Bay into new realms of total oblivion.

Three weeks removed from losing Jimmy Garoppolo to a season-ending ACL tear, the Niners (1-4) ride into Monday night minus their north star, leaving San Francisco fans with little to cling to in what amounts to a drifting campaign.

Feelings of aimlessness do not apply to Green Bay, a squad angling to author a win for just the second time in the past calendar month.

Here's what we'll be watching for when these two teams tussle on Monday Night Football:

1. The Packers' passing game

We're accustomed to the Packers forging a fast start, but that's not the case this autumn. Their 2-2-1 mark equals the club's worst record through five games since 2012, but Monday night has all the makings of a get-right contest in front of a juiced-up home crowd -- despite some lingering issues.

Rodgers has rebounded from an opening week, mobility-limiting knee injury to etch moments of familiar brilliance, but the supporting cast has let him down. Davante Adams is the only wideout on the team with more than 20 catches. His 37 grabs for 425 yards and four scores put him on pace for a career year, but it would help if someone else stepped up.

Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison -- both battling hamstring injuries -- won't play. Rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown should see heavy workloads as they did in Detroit a week ago, but Rodgers has gone without a reliable second target for most of the year.

Look for MNF's somewhat hyperbolic announcing crew to describe Jimmy Graham as a fiery god among men. Truthfully, he isn't the same player of days old, but this is a better matchup for the massive-bodied tight end than last week's Lions skirmish. His chances for red-zone touches increase mightily if any of the names above don't suit up.

2. Aaron Jones vs. the 49ers' front seven

In his favor, Rodgers will face a Niners defense with just nine sacks on the year (only the Raiders, Patriots and Giants own less) after having to deal with nasty pass rushes out of Chicago, Minnesota and Buffalo. The biggest concern for Green Bay comes in the form of DeForest Buckner, San Francisco's tall-as-a-tree defensive lineman who leads the team with four sacks. The Niners have also gotten solid play out of Arik Armstead and second-year man Solomon Thomas, while holding three of their last four opponents to sub-100-yard days on the ground.

Look for Green Bay to use Monday night as a showcase for Aaron Jones, currently galloping at 6.1 yards per clip as the best back on this roster. The Packers aren't a team that bullies enemies on the ground, but Monday night turns lesser-known players into familiar faces. This feels like a star-turn evening for the 23-year-old Jones.

3. Where will the Niners' offense come from?

Veteran pass-catcher Pierre Garcon is the biggest name among Niners targets, but his play has been quiet of late. I'd keep an eye on tight end George Kittle, currently operating as a near weekly guarantee to rumble through secondaries. He's battling a knee issue, but Kittle has been a favorite of fill-in starter C.J. Beathard, whose yardage through the air over the past two weeks -- 288 yards against the Chargers and 300 in last week's loss to the Cardinals -- tops all three of Garoppolo's appearances. Beathard has four picks in two games, though, one area he must correct on the road against a Packers defense desperate for takeaways after generating just six all season.

On the ground, prepare for plenty of Alfred Morris if Matt Breida's ankle won't cooperate. In a hopeful note for one of the league's most banged-up rosters, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Breida is "pushing" to play. Coach Kyle Shanahan also loves finding ways to get versatile fullback Kyle Juszczyk involved.

4. Which Packers D will show up?

Green Bay's defense has been a mixed bag of highs and lows.

New coordinator Mike Pettine has brought creative flair to help the Packers notch a respectable 16 sacks in five outings. The unit allowed just 145 total yards in a rugged 20-0 trouncing of the Bills two weeks ago, but that result was sandwiched in between two losses that saw Green Bay give up 31 points to the Redskins and Lions.

Bottom line: We'd think differently about this team's place in the NFC had linebacker Clay Matthews not been flagged on a controversial roughing-the-passer penalty that wiped out a game-altering interception in Green Bay's Week 2 tie with the Vikings.

As for your plans, we suggest you dial in some middle-tier Chinese takeout, pour some overly priced craft beer and carve out some "me time" this evening on the couch. Kill Monday with style.

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