Early Bird Breakdown Week 16: Green Bay Packers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Hello all! Welcome to another Early Bird Breakdown! Let’s begin with the recap:
Last week the Green Bay Packers lost an ugly one in Buffalo. There were some good silver linings amidst the loss. First, the offensive line was terrific in stopping the NFL leader in sacks. Second, the defense was outstanding, holding buffalo to only 253 yards and only 12 points (the other nine were a punt return touchdown and a safety). Eddie Lacy was also very effective in the game. The rest of the offense was a disaster. Rodgers was off of his game and had more than a few errant throws. Most of the issues fall on the receiving corps. Seven recorded drops against seven separate receivers, not counting others that should have been caught. While the 90 yard touchdown drop that Nelson easily should have had will haunt him, there was another early in the game that went right between his arms. The receivers all day were not running the routes Rodgers wanted and Rodgers missed some he should have had.
As for the Packers opponent this week, Tampa Bay lost in Carolina to fall to 2-12 on the season. It was a tough and well fought game by Tampa who lost 19-17.
Packers’ Offense vs. Buccaneers’ Defense:
I would imagine the Green Bay offense would have quite the chip on its collective shoulders after laying an egg in Buffalo. Aaron Rodgers looked bad, the receivers looked worse, but Eddie Lacy and the offensive line did very well in the game. Those last two positives should transfer over, as injured right tackle Bryan Bulaga is probable after sustaining an injury in the Buffalo game.
The Buccaneers defense has a star defensive tackle in Gerald McCoy but he is now out for the year with an injury. While Tampa’s defense has played better as of late, it has been no where near the level of Buffalo and their most impactful player in McCoy is out which should give Rodgers plenty of time in the pocket against a poor secondary.
The combination of a poor defense (25th overall, 366.7 yards per game) and a very motivated Packers offense should be just what the doctor ordered after the Buffalo game. I expect Rodgers and the Packers to come out slinging against a poor secondary for the Buccaneers.
Eddie Lacy will be able to run against this defense, despite some talent in the front seven even without McCoy. Part of that is due to the incredible offensive line play as of late, but the majority of the credit goes to Lacy, who is finding his holes quicker and more efficiently as well as bouncing off tacklers like a wrecking ball. The offense should be in perfect sync today for the first time on the road since week four in Chicago.
Packers’ Defense vs. Buccaneers’ Offense:
Last week in Buffalo the Packers defense was exceptional and needs to keep that momentum going forward more so for the playoffs. If Green Bay plays with remotely close to the same intensity they should easily shut down Tampa Bay, the NFL’s third worst offense in yards gained (305.9 total per game). The one thing the Buccaneers do have on offense is a pair of twin towers in Vincent Jackson (6’5”) and Mike Evans (also 6’5”). The rookie Evans has quickly established himself and is the one to watch, as he has caught 11 touchdowns this season, tied for fifth among all players. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has for no rhyme or reason decided not to give his corners help physical freaks at the wide receiver position (see Julio Jones for best example). While he has the defense playing hot right now, Evans is a matchup nightmare and an excellent chance to practice scheming against a monster in lieu of the game next week against Calvin Johnson and the Lions.
Last season, Josh McCown went into Lambeau field and lead the Bears to a victory. This season he looks like a completely different player. With only ten touchdowns to twelve interceptions, all signs point to the 2-12 Buccaneers to be drafting quarterback as early as they can in the upcoming draft.
Tampa Bay is also one of the worst rushing offenses in the league, despite having a talented back in Doug Martin. The Buccaneers only averaging 84 yards per game. While before the Matthews move this was the achilles’ heel, this offense is not prepared to dictate the run against Green Bay which will allow the secondary to play the pass first, jumping routes and snatching an interception or two in the process.
The Weather Factor:
The expected weather for the game is a warm 78o and cloudy, with an expected 30% chance of humidity. Potentially could cause some cramping as the Packers are not used to such warm conditions this time of year in Wisconsin.
Green Bay enters Tampa after disappointing to say the very least game last week in Buffalo. While they have played poorly all year on the road except for Chicago this week they should see a significant bounce back against Tampa and former Chicago head coach Lovie Smith. This game is substantially more important for Green Bay than Tampa as well, as Tampa Bay is playing for the worst record to get a franchise quarterback and Green Bay is looking to still potentially snag home field throughout, let alone the division. With Detroit likely winning this week in Chicago, Green Bay will need to win this game to keep their division championship chances alive. A win here also secures a spot for them in the playoffs with Philadelphia’s loss on Saturday.
The Packers boast the hotter and better of the two defenses. Despite last weeks performance, the offense is significantly better in all phases than the Buccaneers. While the Packers historically have looked very beatable on the road, this is not the team to do it unless they can play as good as Buffalo did and get the breaks Buffalo had. Remember, last week the Packers would have most likely won if not for the dropped touchdown by Nelson. Also, tampa has not won a game at home this season, so the traveling fans for the Packers should be able to make it feel like, “Lambeau South.” Expect the Packers to look to send a statement and pummel Tampa Bay in their own house. If this was in Lambeau it would be a bigger landslide, but as is I have the Packers winning 41-13 over the Buccaneers.
Also, side note Packers fans, make sure to tune in and root for Arizona to beat Seattle. While that would knock Green Bay out of the one seed, Seattle currently controls its own destiny for the one seed (a win here and next week against St. Louis puts them in first seed and the Packers cannot win in Seattle during the playoffs). Green Bay can, as well as many other teams, travel to and beat Arizona in Arizona against their second or third string quarterback. If Arizona can beat its biggest rival on Sunday Night Football, the Packers’ best shot at a Super Bowl run will open up.
Everyone who let Rodgers down last week – Seriously, everyone will be looking to make a statement after last week, especially Jordy Nelson
Eddie Lacy – A Packer on offense who actually deserved a game ball, Lacy has been tearing it up lately as a dual-threat option and will score this week in Tampa
Mike Evans – The only real weapon on Tampa who can damage the Packers, and the Packers tend to inexplicably cover talented receivers one-on-one.
Packers defense – despite lighting up the Packers last year in Lambeau, McCown is not the same and I expect some turnovers today for this now hot defense.
Packers tight ends – Too many wide receivers will be begging Rodgers for the ball this week against a weak secondary to gamble on a tight end here. If you have to, choose Quarless.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University