Key Packers Who Will Change Fortune in the Battle of the Bays

The Packers got into the win column Sunday night with a resounding 27-10 win. The Packers finally looked like what most expected going into the season; a strong defense coupled with an offense that is still trying to find its identity. The Packers leaned on the strength of their running game, a trend that we will likely see continue for the coming weeks. Things don’t go easier, as the Packers going into the dragons den this week in Tampa Bay. The Packers have struggled mightily against the Bucs the past couple of years need to wipe the slate clean. In particular there are several key Packers players who need to exorcise their demons this week to secure win number two.

Aaron Rodgers  

To no-one’s surprise, Aaron Rodgers tops this list. Some of his worst performances over the past couple of years have come against Tampa Bay. Whether the regular season or in the playoffs, he has routinely turned into a shell of himself. Throwing interceptions, missing open receivers, taking needless sacks; you name it and it’s happened. It’s been a thoroughly frustrating experience for Rodgers, and he will want for nothing more than to take his frustrations out on the field Sunday.

The Packers will need him to put the past behind him in a big way this week. With young inexperienced weapons and a still recovering offensive line, they will likely go with a similar game plan that worked in Chicago. Rodgers will need to guide an offense that may not put the passing game in the center of attack. His patience and ability to take second string early in the season to the running game will define whether he can get over his Buccaneer sized case of the yips.

Jaire Alexander

While Jaire himself didn’t have a particularly poor performance against the Bucs, he’s a placeholder for the entire secondary. Coverage breakdowns in NFC championship game cost the Packers a chance at a Super Bowl. Repeatedly Packer corners were beat in key moments that proved costly. As the Packers prepare to head south, they will undoubtedly watch that game to see what not to do.

The secondary has been off to an up and down start. After getting torched by Kurt Cousins and Justin Jefferson, they turned around and shut down a struggling Justin Fields. It was clear in week two that the fire is back in the hearts of the secondary. They will need to bring the heat on Sunday, even if the Bucs receiving core is depleted, because Tom Brady is still one of the best in the business even at age 45.

Preston Smith

Coming of one of his best games of his career, Preston Smith will look to stack success and turn over a new leaf against the Bucs. The last time he lined up against Tampa Bay he, along with the rest of the pass rush, simply disappeared. While it was made worse by the coverage breakdowns in the secondary, the impactful pass rush the Packers boasted didn’t show up in the biggest moments. Preston will undoubtedly want to make his presence known early and often this week.

He will have plenty of opportunities going against a banged up offensive line. Coupled with Rashan Gary they both should be able to be in the face of Brady from the first drive to the last. At this point, Brady is a quarterback that crumples under consistent pressure, so it will be key that Smith and Gary have big games Sunday.

Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.

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