The media — myself included — loves to paint the QB-matchup narrative, but contrary to popular belief, it is not Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers for the chance to go to the Super Bowl. It’s the Green Bay Packers vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
These teams are obviously led by arguably the two greatest players ever at their position, but football is the ultimate team sport for a reason.
Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will never share the field at the same time on Sunday, so let’s talk about the real matchup. How does Green Bay’s defense try to exploit the weaknesses’ in Tampa Bay’s offense.
Packers need to exploit an immobile Brady
At 43-years-old, Tom Brady has clearly ditched any effort at leaving the pocket, according to @NextGenStats.
Throwing from the pocket is hardly a weakness, it shows the offense is on time, but an immobile quarterback can be pressured if the checkdowns are taken away. Brady has been sacked 25 times on the season, 2nd most of remaining quarterbacks.
The Packers can take advantage of this by dropping seven into coverage and getting pressure with their four best pass rushers: Za’Darius Smith, Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. These four are extremely adept at collapsing the pocket and need to replicate their performance from the Divisional Round.
Packers not worried about Bucs’ run game
Packer fans were traumatised by the rushing performance the 49ers put together in the NFC Championship Game last year. But the Bucs are not adept at running the ball. The Bucs finished 29th in rushing attempts, 28th in rushing yards and 25th in yards per carry. Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones are violent and explosive ball carriers (Jones had a 98-yard touchdown run this year), but the lack of opportunities resulted in sporadic results.
Packers need to take advantage of turnover opportunities
Tampa Bay’s offense finished with the third most points scored in the league, but they turned the ball over at a high rate — 8.9% of drives ended in a turnover (27th highest in NFL). Brady has 12 INTs and four fumbles on the year. This offense will put the ball into danger, so the Packers need to be ready to capitalize. A wise man (Charles Woodson) once said, “If you catch the ones they throw to you you’ll lead the league.”
Packers need to limit big plays
Packer fans scream at DC Mike Pettine through their TVs every Sunday because of his refusal to play tight coverage. However, this might be the perfect matchup for Pettine’s scheme.
Tampa Bay’s offense was explosive this year. They scored the third most points, but their average drive only lasted two and a half minutes and five plays.
Pettine’s scheme — while annoying — will take Tampa Bay’s biggest strength — the big play — away from them.
In the week six meeting between these teams, the Packers jumped out to a double-digit lead — and were looking for more — when the turnover fairy bit the Packers in the ass.
As Michael Johrendt mentioned, Green Bay’s offensive key is to take care of the football. The Bucs led the league in takeaways this year, but they also allowed opponents to score on 33.7% of their drives (27th worst in NFL). They also allowed their opponents to score a touchdown on 62.7% of their red zone appearances (20th in NFL). There will be plenty of points to be had if the Packers protect the ball on Sunday.——————
Kirien is a big fan of the Packers, Beer, and Battlestar Galactica. You can follow him on twitter at @KirienSprecher.