Packers May Get a Break Against Loaded Bucs

There is little doubt that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of the best rosters in the NFL at the moment. With an offense full of star skill players led by Tom Brady, and a defense that has appeared to be better than any other in the league in these first two weeks, the Green Bay Packers anticipate having their hands full as they travel to Tampa Bay this weekend. The good news for the Packers is that they aren’t facing a squad that is likely to be at full strength.

As the Packers work to get all of their rookies up to speed, they’ll take all the breaks they can get early in the season. With what is being touted as a heavyweight matchup between two all-time NFL greats, the Packers are currently listed as 2.5 point underdogs on the road. It is safe to say the Buccaneers aren’t exactly looking at an easy win due to the current state of their roster.

Injuries

The Bucs are already dealing with some injury issues early in the season. While this isn’t the only looming concern for their roster as they prepare to take on the Packers, it is one that has struck multiple key players on their roster.

WR – Chris Godwin

Star wide receiver Chris Godwin — who has been as reliable for Brady as any slot receiver, Welker and Edelman included — suffered a hamstring injury in week one, and his game status is obviously in doubt.

It is said that Godwin avoided serious injury, but the team doesn’t seem to be hopeful that he’ll make a full recovery 13 days after suffering the injury. Godwin was out of action since December of last year when he tore his ACL, and since he suffered an injury to the same leg in his first game back, it’d be surprising if he returned soon enough to play against Green Bay. Their first injury report for week 3 will be out some time today, but it is probably a safe bet that Godwin won’t be returning to action this week.

WR – Julio Jones

This is one where we’ll just need to keep an eye on the injury report. Jones was questionable entering the Buccaneers’ week 2 matchup with the Saints, and he ultimately did not suit up for the game. With that being said, not much is known about the severity of his knee injury, and whether or not he practices today will at least be some indication.

Offensive Line

Bucs starting LT Donovan Smith didn’t suit up last week due to an elbow injury, and he’ll likely be questionable to suit up against the Packers. The Buccaneers may be in a position to rush him back this week due to their backup LT Josh Wells suffering an injury last week against the Saints.

With Ryan Jensen — their preferred starter at center— already being on injured reserve, it is possible that they don’t want to shift their line around too much, and in this case it is probably likely that Donovan Smith makes a return if he is even remotely able to.

DT – Akiem Hicks

Akiem Hicks, who the Packers know well as a formidable defensive lineman, will be out for this Sunday’s game against Green Bay. The former Bears Pro Bowler “tore the plantar fascia in his foot” according to Adam Schefter, and will in fact be sidelined for about a month.

The Packers will still have a hefty task in minimizing the efforts of the incredibly talented DT Vita Vea this Sunday, but there should be a bit less pressure on the interior of their offensive line with a backup playing in place of Hicks.

WR Mike Evans Suspended for One Game

We’ll likely know more at some point today if this suspension will stick, but as it stands right now the Buccaneers are preparing to be without their top wideout heading into Sunday’s matchup.

Evans was suspended for one game following his scuffle on the field with Saints CB Marshon Lattimore which resulted in an ejection for both players. Mike Evans appealed his suspension yesterday morning, but with him being a repeat offender for this kind of ejection, it doesn’t seem likely that his suspension will be lifted. (Update – His suspension was upheld, he will miss week 3.)

Predictions

With all of the issues on the roster the Bucs are coming down to Earth in a way, as they certainly have one of the NFC’s most talented rosters when fully healthy. The Packers have looked as young and inexperienced as one would think through two weeks of the season, and they will undoubtedly still have a meaningful test in front of them when they face this Tampa Bay squad.

Green Bay will need to win this game in order to look like they deserve one of the top spots in the NFC this year. Although Tom Brady is still the quarterback for the Bucs, I’d predict a somewhat moderate score as well as a win for the Packers in this contest. I’ll continue my trend of predicting game scores, and I’ll say the Packers win this game 20-17, and escape Tampa with a win, assuming the Bucs don’t benefit from a miraculous comeback from Evans or Godwin.

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Zack is a college student and cheesehead from California. When he’s not in class or writing, you can find him talking about the Packers on Twitter at @Zack_Upchurch.

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