Sat. Jan 28th, 2023
NFC Championship - Tampa Bay Bucs v Green Bay Packers
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Bucs and Packers are set to square off for the first time since the NFC Championship in 2021

Things are likely going to be a little different this time around as the Bucs and Packers face one another for the first time since the Bucs went into Lambeau and punched their ticket to a Super Bowl. The Packers no longer have DeVante Adams while the Bucs are likely to be without Chris Godwin, Mike Evans will be out due to suspension, and while Julio Jones has replaced Antonio Brown on the roster he is already having to deal with a knee injury that kept him out of last week’s game in New Orleans.

These two teams, at this stage, are eerily similar. Neither Hall of Fame quarterback has played to the level fans have come to expect and both have serious questions regarding their pass catchers. For the Packers, no one has emerged as the number one guy in Adams’ absence. While Allen Lazard figures to become that guy throughout the season, he isn’t there yet. The chemistry between Rodgers and rookie wideout Christian Watson is sorely lacking and Watson has already had a few painful drops on what should have been touchdown receptions this season.

After being dismantled by the Minnesota Vikings in week one, the Packers bounced back at home in week two against the Chicago Bears – thanks in large part to the play of running back Aaron Jones. The Bears attempted just eleven passes in the game, which is far less than what they’ll see against the Bucs.

Or so we think.

Tom Brady is having some early season struggles, there’s no questioning that. Even in week one against the Cowboys, he was a little off targeting Evans, Godwin, and Jones. Last week in New Orleans, he was without Godwin and Jones then Evans was ejected in the fourth quarter. The leader in targets against the Saints? Scotty Miller with eight, only three of which were caught.

Instead, the defense has been the story to open the season. The Bucs are currently first in scoring defense (6.5 ppg), second in takeaways (6), first in total team sacks (10), eighth in passing defense (189.5 ypg), and tenth in rushing defense (86.5 ypg). Without the spark the defense provided on Sunday, the Bucs probably don’t go on to win that game. They’ve been suffocating and opportunistic through two games and look to continue that trend this week against Rodgers and the Packers.

Jamel Dean has been a standout through training camp and into the first two weeks of the season. He’s allowing 45.5% completion percentage for just 31 yards and a quarterback rating of 12.9 when targeted. He already has two interceptions on the season and back in 2020, he had a pick six off Rodgers that sparked the comeback win after the Bucs fell behind 10-0 early in the game. He’s been the perfect compliment to Carlton Davis, who has been tasked with covering the opposing team’s number one receiver and has allowed 52% of passes to be completed and a quarterback rating of 87.4 when targeted. The only touchdown the Bucs defense has given up this season was a pass to Michael Thomas who was covered by Davis at the time.

Aaron Rodgers will be looking to get back on track against the Bucs having lost three of his five career matchups against them. He’s 0-2 against the Brady era Bucs including that NFC Championship. While he inexplicably received two MVP’s over Brady the last two years, he can’t seem to beat him head to head. In his career against the Bucs, Rodgers has eight touchdown passes and nine interceptions while having been sacked sixteen times.

This game lends itself to one that will be slow, methodical, and heavily focused on the run game. Given the struggles of both offenses to get the pass game going, there will likely be a more conservative approach as they try to lull the other into a mistake that can be capitalized upon. They’ll pick their spots to attack down field or go for the big play, but it’ll be far and few between. Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillion will get a lot of work in the run game while also being a key focus in the short passing game, trying to set up for chunk plays to move down the field.

For the Bucs, it will be much of the same. Leonard Fournette – who said after the Saints game it felt like he was running on one leg – will again be asked to carry the bulk of the load. However, with the Bucs placing Gio Bernard on injured reserve, Ke’Shawn Vaughn will get an opportunity to see the field while the Bucs continue to try and get rookie Rachaad White going.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bucs currently sit at -1 point favorites in their home opener with the over/under set at 42. Six of the Bucs’ last seven home games in September have hit the over, while the Packers have failed to cover the spread in their last four road games.

Green Bay holds the all time series lead at 33-23-1 but the Bucs have won five of the last eight meetings as well as the last two. When Tampa is the home team, the Bucs are 15-13-1 all time against the Packers. The Bucs have also won four of their last five home openers.

The Bucs and Packers will kickoff in Raymond James Stadium at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday as FOX’s America’s Game of the Week with Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews, and Tom Rinaldi on the call.

By admin