The Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have somewhat of a forgotten history between each other. The two teams used to be in the same division from 1977-2001, formerly known as the NFC Central. The Packers hold the edge in the all-time series, sporting a 33-21-1 all time record against Tampa.
Memories of Brett Favre sparring with Warren Sapp symbolized the teams’ rivalry in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I remember a lot of gritty, hard nosed games between the talented Packers offense and the formidable Buccaneers defense.
In 2020, the players are different but you can identify similarities. A guy named Ndamukong Suh plays for the Bucs; you may remember him having somewhat of a history with Rodgers and the Packers. Additionally, this Sunday includes an excellent Packers offense going against a Buccaneers defense that is yet again, talented.
All week long, Packers fans and players have heard a lot of talk on the Buccaneers defense and how they’ll be a “real” test for the Packers offense. Today, we’ll look at some of the key players on the Bucs defense and some matchups to watch on Sunday.
Aaron Jones/Jamaal Williams vs. Bucs Front 7
It’s no secret that the Buccaneers have one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Losing DT Vita Vea for the season hurts Tampa immensely, one of the best Defensive Tackles in the game. With that said, they still have a ton of talented players and poise a huge challenge for the Packers on Sunday.
The Bucs defense has seen talented running backs this season, going against Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, Melvin Gordon and David Montgomery. Here’s how those backs did in their games against Tampa:
Kamara: 16 yards rushing
McCaffrey: 59 yards rushing
Gordon: 26 yards rushing
Montgomery: 29 yards rushing
Impressive is an understatement. 6th year man Rakeem Nunez-Roches will take Vea’s spot this Sunday and presumably the remainder of the season. Nunez-Roches may not be a household name but he’s proven to be valuable enough to stick around in the league and has played on 38% of Buccaneers defensive snaps this season.
Aaron Jones is averaging a league high 5.8 yards per carry and 93.5 yards rushing per game. If Jones and the Packers plan to continue that trend on Sunday, the Packers will need to set up the run with the pass. Balance will be key, execution will be pivotal and play-calling can’t be vanilla.
Jones and Jamaal Williams have been great as receivers this season, sometimes being utilized out of the backfield and other times split out wide. The challenge this week for the Packers is that they’re going against Lavonte David and Devin White, possibly the best Inside Linebacker tandem in the league. Both players are fast, sure tacklers and fine in coverage. In fact, David was graded as the best coverage linebacker in the NFL in 2019 by Pro Football Focus.
— The Scouting Academy (@TheScoutAcademy) July 14, 2020
Will the Packers still try to utilize their talented running backs any way they can? Absolutely. However, there’s no getting around the facts that they will be going up against some of the league’s best on Sunday. Something to watch.
David Bakhtiari and Billy Turner vs. Shaquil Barrett and JPP
The Bucs will count on their best pass-rushers, Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, to pressure Rodgers on Sunday. More than likely, the matchups we’ll often see on Sunday will be JPP going against Bakhtiari and Barrett against Turner.
JPP is an 11 year veteran and it won’t be the first time he’s gone up against Bakhtiari. JPP had 12.5 and 8.5 sacks in his first two seasons with the Bucs (18′, 19′) and is off to a good start in 2020 with 4 sacks thus far.
Even if JPP wants to pretend that he doesn’t know who Bakhtiari is (look up his comments this week if you want), he surely, does. As Packers fans know, Bakhtiari might be the best pass-blocking OT in the NFL. The charismatic Packers Left Tackle has gone up against great players week in and week out in his career. The edge goes to the Packers.
On the other side, RT Billy Turner will be up against Shaquil Barrett, who led the NFL in sacks last year with 19.5. Turner is an incredible comeback story from 2019 to 2020. He was a major disappointment last season and it was far from a guarantee that he would be a starter in 2020. He won the starting RT job over newly acquired veteran Rick Wagner and has done far more than simply “hold his own”.
In fact, Billy Turner has the Highest “Pass Block Win Rate” in the entire NFL right now. That’s really good. He has yet to allow a QB Pressure or a Sack. Bad Man SZN said what we’re all thinking:
Billy Turner man. I could not have imagined this in my wildest dreams https://t.co/fWszbGg6tv
— Bad Man SZN (@BaddestMan4ever) October 10, 2020
It’s been that kind of year for the Packers. When the offense ranks 1st in the league in yards (445.5 yards per game) and points (38 points per game), these things happen.
As incredible as Turner has been this season, Shaq Barrett isn’t someone to take lightly. There will absolutely be plays on Sunday when Barrett and Turner are going at it 1 v 1. I would expect to see a number of double teams and/or chips on Barrett through out the game to help Turner out.
As a whole, I acknowledge that the Buccaneers pass rush vs. the Packers offensive line is more than the matchups I highlighted. Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles likes to bring 5 man pressures and do it in creative ways. As I said earlier, the Packers will need to be balanced, execute and Matt LaFleur will have to call a good game.
Packers WR’s/TE’s vs Bucs Secondary
Davante Adams comes back this week. Let’s Ride!
Adams is a Top 5 receiver in the NFL and Packers fans don’t need me to explain how nice it is to have him back in the lineup. I’ll take my chances with Adams against anybody. Who will be matching up against Davante this week?
Carlton Davis is the Buccaneers #1 cornerback and for good reason. In 2019, he had the highest incompletion rate among all NFL cornerbacks on passes thrown his way. In the Bucs week 1 matchup against the Saints this season, he limited All-Pro WR Michael Thomas to 3 catches for 17 yards. He’s tied for the league lead in interceptions (3). The 3rd year pro from Auburn is only 23 years old and is a very exciting and ascending player.
The other starting Cornerback to watch for Tampa is Sean Murphy-Bunting. Although only in his 2nd season, he’s been impressive. Murphy-Bunting made the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-rookie team in 2019. Keep an eye on him. The Bucs will play him on the perimeter and in the slot. He has good closing speed and a knack for making plays.
— NFL (@NFL) December 15, 2019
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Darrius Shepherd, Robert Tonyan and Jace Sternberger will have their opportunities on Sunday. As usual, the success for the Packers will come down to execution. Who can make the plays? Who will win their 1 v 1 matchups?
The game this Sunday is poised to be one of the best games of the season thus far. Packers vs. Bucs, Rodgers, Brady. It could be an NFC Championship Preview. Also, Tampa is hosting the Super Bowl this year. I believe us fans will be treated to a great game on Sunday. Hopefully for the Packers, this is only their first trip to Tampa in the 2020-2021 season.——————
Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a Packers guy. Alex\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.