NFC Championship Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Green Bay Packersby MJ Hurley January 23, 2021 1 comment
Most Green Bay Packers fans want to forget the horrific 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the 2020 NFC Championship Game. While fans may have forgotten, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine made sure the Green Bay defense did not. After practice and before the Friday press conferences, the entire Packers defense watched the NFC Championship from start to finish. A few quotes from the defense leaders included:
“I had to compose myself after watching that. We are not done yet,” said Rashan Gary.
“I put on my mask for this press conference so you guys would think I am smiling because I am not smiling,” said Za’Darius Smith.
After an emotional Wednesday and Thursday with the passing of former Packers general manager, Ted Thompson, the Packers were hit with more emotion and more motivation Friday. Facing their greatest challenge yet, Aaron Rodgers is looking forward to Tom Brady coming to the Frozen Tundra this time around with their offense primed to face the cold weather.
“Big backs in snow have had lots of success in the snow throughout the years. John Kuhn, Eddie Lacy, Ryan Grant, AG, James Starks. Dillon has really good feet like you saw in the Titans game. Jamaal can do it all, and Jonesy is such a slasher,” said Rodgers. “Cutting on a cold field is such an advantage, and he is the smallest of the three (Packers RBs) but he is a pretty damn tough guy.”
After the 38-10 trashing in Week 6, the Packers are motivated to not repeat their failures during the 2019 season. With the thoughts of that game fresh in their minds, Green Bay and Tampa Bay are still not the same teams that met earlier in the season. The Packers posted 32 points and over 475 yards of offense on the NFL’s top defense last week, something that has never been done in NFL playoff history. Rodgers is the NFL MVP, and the Packers are playing like a championship team, something Brady and the Bucs did not see earlier this season.
While Rodgers has the NFC Championship at home, Brady is trying to have home-field advantage in Super Bowl 55 which will be held in Tampa Bay, Florida.
“We’ve got a chance with four quarters of football to come home to a home Super Bowl, which would be a pretty cool thing,” said Brady.
Since Week 7, the Packers have only allowed one 100-yard rusher. Their defense has only allowed more than 20 points once in the last seven weeks, and their pass rush is finally hitting home. On the other side, the Tampa Bay defense has been truly average since Week 6, ranking 14th in the NFL in that span.
Injuries will play a key part in the Sunday afternoon matchup. Buccaneers’ receiver Antonio Brown has been ruled out, and both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have been limited with injuries during the week of practice. Thankfully, Tampa Bay will have Vita Vea returning off of injured reserve to shore up their defensive interior against the Packers’ deadly trio of running backs.
On the Packers’ side, old friend Tramon Williams was signed to the practice squad during the week and is expected to see action as the dime or nickel back against the various weapons Tampa Bay has. With Jaire Alexander likely trailing Evans, Green Bay will leave Kevin King, Williams, and their safety duo to cover the rest of the impressive Tampa Bay offense.
2020 Season Statistical Overview
Passing YPG: 9th
Rushing YPG: 8th
Passing YPG: 7th
Rushing YPG: 13th
Passing YPG: 2nd
Rushing YPG: 27th
Passing YPG: 21st
Rushing YPG: 1st
The Packers are a more well rounded offensive unit, but the Buccaneers can light up the passing game if given the chance. With the Packers boasting the 2nd-ranked secondary in the NFL this season, they will not give Brady the easy opportunities given throughout the season or in Week 6. The Tampa Bay rushing defense will challenge the bootleg and play-action offense that the Packers run. Even so, Matt LaFleur will not back down and abandon the running game. Devin White and Lavonte David against Aaron Jones and the Green Bay running back room will be the key to the game in the trenches.
Date: January 24th, 2021
Start Time: 2:00 PM CST
Location: Green Bay, WI
Stadium: Lambeau Field
TV Info: FOX
Betting Odds Sponsored by Jazz Sportsbook
Points Spread: TB +3.5 (-110) | GB -3.5 (+110)
Moneyline: TB (+155) | GB (-190)
Over/Under: O 52 (-110) | U 52 (-110)
Both of these teams know how to score the ball, both defenses have strengths and weaknesses, but their quarterbacks clearly lead the way. The Packers and Bucs often hit the over, which is a safe pick here. This could be a close game, so playing the spread could be dangerous. But the majority of the money sits on Green Bay in Vegas right now.
This will not be a blowout. The Packers will be prepared, at home, and fired up with their 9,000 fans in attendance. Given the way the season played out, the Packers’ offense is hotter than the face of the sun. And Rodgers has only lost twice in his playoff career when his defense allowed less than 30 points. If the Packers keep Tampa Bay under 30, Rodgers will be on his way to a second Super Bowl appearance. Turnovers will be key, and that is not just a cliche. Brady started four drives in New Orleans territory last week. However, the Buccaneers did not have a touchdown drive that started in Tampa Bay territory. Assuming Green Bay takes care of the ball, LaFleur will out-coach Bruce Arians in his second-straight NFC Championship Game.
Final Score: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27, Green Bay Packers 31