Tampa Bay Buccaneers The Buccaneers will be playing for the conference title on Sunday at Lambeau Field as they take on the NFC’s top seed. Here are a few things to know going into the matchup. Carmen Vitali 1. The Bucs have been successful on the road this season.
The Buccaneers now have the second-most wins in a single season in franchise history, second only to the 2002 Super Bowl XXXVII Championship team. That, in itself, is neat. But what's even cooler, especially as the Bucs head into foreign territory on Sunday in Green Bay, is that their eight victories on the road this season are the most road wins they've ever had. They have won seven-consecutive road games now, which is the longest streak in franchise history. It's good news considering as the fifth seed in the NFC, all of their playoff games thus far are on the road.
Quarterback Tom Brady has a 114.3 passer rating on the road this season, throwing for 2,659 yards and 23 touchdowns against just two interceptions.
Sunday at Lambeau Field will be the Buccaneers' last and final road game of the season one way or the other. After all, should they advance, they'd be coming home.
2. It will be another quarterback matchup for the ages.
Much was made about last week's matchup between Brady and Saints' quarterback Drew Brees - and for good reason. The two signal callers litter the pages of NFL history books, exchanging one record for the other among them as they'll both go down as two of the best quarterbacks the league has ever seen. Especially given how long they've been in it.
And while Aaron Rodgers might not be over 40 yet, he's still in that elite category of seasoned veteran quarterbacks that are producing at a high level well into what is considered 'old age' in the NFL. Heck, Rodgers was just named PFWA MVP on Wednesday. He leads the league in passing touchdowns with 48 this year and quarterback rating, averaging 121.5 for the season, while he captains the highest scoring offense in the NFL.
But Brady isn't far behind him in 2020 numbers, which is impressive considering he has more than six years on Rodgers. Brady finished the regular season with 4,633 passing yards, the third most in the league and most in the NFC. Rodgers finished with 4,299, the seventh-best mark in the league. Brady trailed only Rodgers in the regular season for touchdowns, passing for 40 to Rodgers' 48.
The two have played each other a total of four times, with Brady's squad coming out victorious in three of those four. This is the first time the two will meet in the postseason and is yet another historic quarterback matchup that we are all collectively lucky to be able to witness.
3. The Green Bay Packers have the league's highest scoring offense.
With the aforementioned MVP at the help, the Packers are averaging 31.8 points a game, the most in the NFL. And it's not just because of Rodgers, either. No, Green Bay has had a lot of success on the ground thanks to running back Aaron Jones, who had the fourth most rushing yards in the regular season with 1,104. The Packers' rushing offense ranks eighth, averaging 132.4 yards per game.
You might have heard success on the ground can 'open up' a lot for an offense and that's certainly the case with the Packers' play action game. According to SportRadar, the Packers use play action at the sixth-highest clip in the league, with 25.5% of their passing plays coming on play action.
This is exactly why the Buccaneers had some success against Green Bay in Week Six. Though players and coaches alike have dismissed that game from placing any weight on that contest, the fact that the Buccaneers have the number one rushing defense remains. That rendered the Green Bay ground game ineffective, which in turn, affected the success of a significant part of their passing attack in play action. If you know the offense isn't actually going to run the ball, you'd never bite on a fake, right?
Then, once Green Bay got down as the Bucs' offense found a groove and built a lead, they had to resort to throw after throw in order to attempt to catch up. That's when the Bucs' pass rush kicked in, sacking Rodgers four times - the second-most of any team in 2020.
The Packers score points based on a balanced offense. If the Bucs can disrupt that, they can disrupt the scoreboard, too.
4. The Packers have championship experience on their side.
This is just the Buccaneers' fourth trip as a franchise to the NFC title game. They've only won this game once before and that was the season they won it all. Conversely, the Packers have played in the NFC Championship three times in the last seven years and their most recent appearance was just one year ago. They fell to the San Francisco 49ers, who earned the right to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LIV. And you know that is still fresh in Green Bay's mind.
They don't want a repeat of that season.
5. The Buccaneers beat the Packers in their last matchup.
For what it's worth let's just examine the last game between the two teams and talk about the differences now. After struggling in the first quarter and finding themselves down 10-0, Tampa Bay stormed back to score 38 unanswered points. That's right, the defense didn't let up another point as they pressured and harassed Rodgers for the rest of the night. They'd pick him off twice - including just the third pick-six of Rodgers' career thanks to cornerback Jamel Dean jumping a route he had keyed in on earlier in the game. The Bucs' defense brought Rodgers to the ground four times, the last of which was an 11-yard sack by Devin White early in the fourth quarter that got Rodgers pulled from the game for safety reasons. They also knocked left tackle David Bakhtiari, one of the best at his position across the league, out of the game. Bakhtiari ended up on Injured Reserve later in the season, where he remains for this matchup.
But the Packers have learned to deal with his absence. Rodgers has taken the second-fewest sacks of any quarterback this season, with his offensive line allowing just 21.0 across 16 games. Offensively, the Packers will also likely have wide receiver Allen Lazard back, who they were without in Week Six. In Saturday's divisional round game against the Rams, Lazard had four catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Couple him with Davante Adams, who is widely considered one of the best wideouts in the league, and you've got a dangerous duo. The pair, along with running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, have helped Rodgers to that league-leading 31.8 points per game. They'll surely be a handful for the Buccaneer defense come Sunday.
The good news is that the Buccaneer defense is coming off one of their best games of the season in New Orleans. Though they weren't able to get a sack on Saints' quarterback Drew Brees, they were able to pick him off three times. A forced fumble upped that takeaway tally to four. They didn't allow a passing touchdown by Brees and held New Orleans' star receiver, Michael Thomas, to zero catches.
With the way this Packers team is playing now, the Bucs will have to do the same this Sunday in Lambeau.