If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can win for the second time this season against the Green Bay Packers, they will be able to create a first in NFL history. They will become the first team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. And maybe that produces a bigger home field advantage than usual.
Obviously we're not talking about something that is easy - not when they will have to navigate their way through some possible snow. That represents the conditions we may see at Lambeau Field for the NFC title game, which gets underway at 3:05 PM ET on Sunday.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS at GREEN BAY PACKERS, 3:05 PM ET (Fox)
BetAnySports NFL Playoff Betting Odds: Packers -3.5, Total 52
The Bucs really created a rough situation for Aaron Rodgers when these teams met previously; they intercepted him twice and sacked him five times, limiting him to 16 completions in 35 attempts.
Think about that for a second. Rodgers was a 70.7% passer this season, and hit just 46% in that game. He got sacked 20 times, with 25% of those coming in this one game. And he was only picked off five times total.
Well, we know that the Tampa Bay defense is good, but are they THAT good? And can they be counted on to completely disrupt Rodgers again?
Somehow I trust Rodgers and coach Matt LaFleur a little more than that.
The Packers have played against defenses with better numbers, as recently as last week. The Rams were #1 in the NFL in a number of categories, including points and yards allowed on a per-drive basis, three-and-out percentage (28.2%) and forced punt percentage (46.4%). On top of that, they basically run the same kind of offense Green Bay does, so there was nothing surprising in the package they saw.
And still, the Pack rambled for 484 yards, and was not imbalanced in the least, with 296 through the air and 188 on the ground.
Obviously you know what Rodgers can do. And the numbers don't lie very much - Green Bay scores points of some kind on 49.7% of its drives. And more often that not; in fact, this team scores four touchdowns for every field goal. And why not? They have an 80% red zone touchdown percentage. And by the way, the Bucs are just 20th in the NFL in red zone TD defense.
Yup, as far as touchdowns per drive, the Pack is out there well ahead of everybody else. LaFleur's scheme knows how to move the chains; these guys are 49.4% successful on third down. And Rodgers' receivers have averaged 6.1 yards after the catch, which also leads the league.
Contrast that with Tom Brady, who throws his passes an average of 9.1 yards beyond the scrimmage line, and has gotten just 4.5 yards after the catch. That adds up at the end of the game.
Ultimately, more is expected out of Brady in Bruce Arians' offense than LaFleur expects out of Rodgers. By that, we mean in executing these routes. We know that it DID snow in Green Bay, and it has cleared up. But there are still going to be freezing temperatures, and that will likely make longer routes more difficult. Advantage Packers?
We don't want to disparage anything the Bucs have done. But we somehow do not see them duplicating the previous defensive effort. And the absence of Antonio Brown mitigates the upgrade they had experienced when they acquired him. Jaire Alexander figures into this prominently, especially if he can do a respectable job against Mike Evans.
Rodgers takes advantage of his own "home cookin" better than any other quarterback. Over his long career, he has covered 64% of the time in Lambeau.... Reversal!
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