This weekend’s NFC Championship matchup between the Packers and the Buccaneers should be one for the ages- the matchup that everyone wanted to see as soon as it was announced that Tom Brady was taking his talents to Tampa Bay.
The winner will advance to the Super Bowl (which coincidentally will be played in Tampa Bay) in a couple of weeks. Below are betting odds for the matchup as well as my picks.
Spread- Packers are 3.5 Point Favorites (-175)
NFL odds show the Packers as the favorite this weekend, with the line moving from 3 to 3.5 over the course of the week.
The first place I would look at this matchup will be the Tampa Bay offense specifically the play of Tom Brady and the play-calling of Bruce Arians since their bye late in the season. Early in the year Brady and the Bucs receivers struggled to get on the same page and it looked like an offense that was being constructed on the fly. Ever since the bye however offense has been gelling as well as any other unit in the NFL- and Tom Brady is on pace for his second-best season ever according to PFF.
This Tampa Bay offense was able to take advantage of the Packer’s defense early in the year, even before the offense started playing well. In fact, you can argue that it took the Packers game in order for the Buccaneers to turn their offense around and put together their first complete performance of the season. Given Tom Brady’s record in playing in cold weather and the depth chart of receivers the Buccaneers possess, I think that they will put the game in Tom Brady’s hand early and allow the receivers to put their defenders in bad positions.
Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II form a fearsome tandem in the backfield and the Buccaneers offensive line is able to keep Tom upright not just because they have a solid unit but also because he stays within the pocket more than any other passer in the league. It will be interesting to see how the front four of the Packers defense is able to get home on Brady because if they are unable to without another Defender coming down and taking them out of the pass defense I think that the Buccaneers have the tools and the capability to absolutely pick apart this Packers defense. If Brady starts getting greedy and throwing downfield the Buccaneers will be in trouble but if they are able to take what’s the Packers are going to give them underneath which Tom Brady is one of the best in the history of the game in doing so, I think the Buccaneers offense will have no problem putting up points.
Next up is a Tampa Bay defense which is one of the few teams in the NFL to actually stop the Packers for an entire game. As everyone is aware by now the Buccaneers were able to hold Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur in hand during their week 6 matchup, winning 38-10. The Packers opened up the first two possessions scoring points and got shutout for the rest of the game by Todd Bowles and the defense. What happened after those first two drives? The answer is Todd Bowles started blitzing for the rest of the game. Tampa Bay brought multiple defenders down either from secondary or linebacker positions and completely overwhelmed the Packers. You often see the Packers keep either a tight end and/or a running back in the backfield to help with pass protection especially when they call long developing route combinations. However, if the Bucs are able to create pressure by bringing 5 and 6 man pressure packages against the Packers that is going to force Aaron Rodgers to move quickly and get rid of the ball even quicker.
The bad news for the Buccaneers defense? Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur have learned from their past mistakes and ever since their week 6 matchup has been the best team in the NFL at beating the blitz with Rodgers. From recent comments made by Davante Adams and others on the team, it sounds like the Packers for the first time in their young season got punched in the mouth when they played Tampa Bay and frankly did not have a response ready. This is a different team from that one and the Packers offense will have plans and adjustments at the ready this weekend.
3 and 1/2 points seems a little rich for me as far as the line goes. I’m not sure if that half-point is Lambeau Field’s expected home field advantage or if there’s something else about this matchup that makes Vegas confident that this will be more than a field goal spread. While I do think the Packers are the favorite here and should be the favorites I do believe that this will be a close game and that this will be less than a three-point spread.
I take the Packers to win outright but will take Tampa Bay to cover as well.
Over/Under- 51 Total Points
The weather report for this weekend is cold but not windy which should be favorable for points. As I mentioned earlier in this article, when there is snow on the ground that generally favors the offense. Receivers have better footing because they know where they’re going and defenders have a harder time tracking opposing receivers and getting into advantageous positions. Tom Brady knows this as he was able to master taking advantage of isolated man-on-man defenders in cold snowy weather and wreck them for Championship drives.
If the weather holds and the wind isn’t too heavy I think that both the Packers and the Buccaneers are going to put on a light show. Hammer the over.
Last Week 2-1 | Season Total- 28-19 (60%)
——————Joe Kelley is a lifelong Packer fan born in Wisconsin and currently living surrounded by Patriots fans in New England- please send messages of support to @Jkelleylol on Twitter or @j.k.lolz on Instagram.