The Buccaneers may not be on primetime this week but most of the country will get to tune in to see them take on the Green Bay Packers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. It'll be another must-see quarterback duel between the Buccaneers' Tom Brady and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers. And while the former appears on the list below, because of course he does, there are some other Bucs' players that will be worth keeping an eye on.
See below for (six) Buccaneers to watch against the Packers.
1. QB Tom Brady
Well, this is an obvious one. Brady is coming off a loss and is also going head-to-head with another future Hall of Fame quarterback. I'd say the motivation is there to go off to the tune of what we've already seen he's capable of this year. He will also have a lot more options than he had on a short week against the Bears in Chicago. The Bucs had the opportunity to get healthier with 10 days in between games and as of Friday's injury report, only running back Leonard Fournette is questionable on offense. That means both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans will be able to play together again, along with a complementary rushing attack led by Ronald Jones, who's coming off back-to-back 100-yard games.
Despite that ever-changing cast of characters around him, Brady has still managed to put up the numbers that a Bruce Arians offense is conducive to. He is tied for the fourth-most passing touchdowns so far this season with 12, which is also tied for the most through the first five games in franchise history. Brady has also passed for the most yards of any Buccaneers quarterback in that span and he and the Bucs' offense have a perfect red zone scoring percentage and the second-most red zone passing touchdowns. History has shown Brady doesn't like to lose (he has the best regular season win-percentage in NFL history) – much less lose two games in a row. He's only done that seven times in the last 10 years. And this week, he'll have the opportunity to attack Green Bay's 19th ranked passing defense with all the aforementioned players at his disposal.
2. WR Chris Godwin
And let's talk about those players a little more, starting with Godwin. Arians said on Friday that "people don't realize how big a part of our offense he is," and it's because of how versatile a player Godwin is. Arians went on to call him 'a different animal' because of how effective he is as an outside receiver and a slot receiver, how well he blocks and how many yards after the catch he's able to muster. There aren't many players in the league that can boast the same.
He's been fighting through a hamstring injury sustained against the Broncos that held him out of both the Chargers and Bears games. After the extra rest, he was able to practice fully on Friday for the first time and Arians said he looks the best he's looked in a long time. He'll be a crucial part of Brady trying to pick apart the Packers' passing defense. Both Godwin and Evans on the field will force Green Bay into making some tough decisions in coverage and it's something Godwin has greatly benefitted from in the past. He has yet to surpass 100 yards this season so far and what better time to do that than coming off a couple weeks of rest?
3. RB Ronald Jones
Jones is coming off those back-to-back 100-yard games mentioned earlier and shows no signs of slowing down. His coaches say he's taken a big step forward in his recognition and how he runs. He's also got a lot more lanes opening up with how well the offensive line is blocking in front of him. The Packers are allowing 105.8 rushing yards per game, good for a top 10 ranking so it won't necessarily be easy for Jones, but he'll also have a supporting cast around him with both McCoy and likely Fournette able to play, though the latter is questionable. The Buccaneers will likely have to go toe-to-toe with one of the league's best offenses to pull this game out and as such, will need a complete and balanced game against a better-than-you-think defense.
4. S Antoine Winfield Jr.
You've likely heard a lot about how well Rodgers is playing and how well he spreads the ball out among the weapons he has and how much the Bucs' defense will need to contain him, yadda yadda yadda. But of those weapons, some of the hardest to defend are guys like running back Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, who are just as much receiving threats as they are rushing threats. You need a do-it-all defender to take on do-it-all backs and though he's a rookie, Winfield Jr. has proved that's exactly the type of player he is.
There's also a fun storyline here that Winfield Jr.'s dad, Winfield Sr., picked off Rodgers back in his playing days. It'd be the first father/son duo in the history of the league to pick off the same quarterback, which would be *checks notes* neat. Plus, Jr. has yet to record an interception this season after recording pretty much every other stat you could want out of a safety. I think he's due. Never mind that Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception all season.
5. ILBs Lavonte David & Devin White
These two are also going to be tasked with containing Green Bay's ground game. Especially with the absence of defensive tackle Vita Vea up front and the propensity the Packers have to utilize screens to running backs, inside linebackers that can cover laterally and the underneath zones are going to be crucial.
Lucky the Bucs have two of the best.
Both have been getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, too, despite it not showing up in the sack column. That's something White especially has been itching for, telling Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles to "unleash" him this week. Unfortunately for White, Rodgers is the least-sacked quarterback in the league. Credit his offensive line and his incredibly quick decision-making for that. Getting him uncomfortable is important, but making the Packer offense one-dimensional and shutting down the run may be the biggest key for containing the league's number one scoring offense.