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Countdown to Kickoff: Packers-Buccaneers, Week 3 2022

Despite two legendary quarterbacks under center in Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, this contest will presumably hinge on two defensive juggernauts and ground attacks…Key stats, lineup notes and more

C2K week 3 Packers

The highly-anticipated spectacle has arrived. In Week Three, the Buccaneers will host Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Tampa Bay's home opener at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, September 25 at 4:25 p.m. ET. Both clubs are touted as contenders in the NFC and the Bucs will strive for their first 3-0 start in 17 years. The matchup is headlined by two legendary quarterbacks, however, the clash may hinge on two formidable defenses and rolling ground attacks. With both teams undergoing an offensive transition out of necessity, this marquee matchup will likely stray from tradition or preconceived notions accompanying the phrase, "Brady-Rodgers." After a week of preparation, here is what it comes down to:

4 Stats That Matter

  • 9.7. Aaron Jones ran outside the tackles on 12 of 15 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown, gaining 9.7 yards per carry per such runs in Week Two, according to Next Gen Stats. Schematically, Green Bay has structured the offense to get Jones on the perimeter to maximize his ability to make defenders miss in the open filed. Both setting the edge and disciplined pursuit angles will be keys for the Bucs' defense.
  • 19 percent. The Packers have been able to generate pressure with four up front. Nose tackle Kenny Clark has the highest-pressure rate among defensive tackles at 19 percent in 2022. Additionally, Rashan Gary is fourth in pressure rate amongst 3-4 edges at 20 percent and linebacker Preston Smith is fifth in the NFL in pressures with 11 – leading the league in pressure rate at 26 percent. Green Bay's scoring defense currently ranks seventh, at 16.5 points allowed per game.
  • 6.5. The Buccaneers' defensive onslaught has allowed a league-low 6.5 points per game through the first two weeks of the 2022 season and have only allowed one touchdown. The Tampa Bay defense has accrued a league-high 10 sacks, spearheaded by Devin White and Shaquil Barrett. Conversely, the Packers have had trouble keeping Rodgers clean in the pocket, resulting in the fifth worst sack rate allowed in 2022 (10.94 percent).
  • 20th, or the Packers ranking in passing yards per game through the first two weeks. Aaron Rodgers has accumulated just two touchdown passes as the Packers have taken a run-heavy approach out of necessity. With a rebuilt receiving corps, the Packers' offense has been led by a two-headed monster in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon as Rodgers seeks to form synergy with a new surrounding cast.

3 Lineup Notes

  • The Buccaneers' final injury report of Week Three listed eight players with either questionable, doubtful, or out designations. Four of those on the compilation were receivers. Chris Godwin has been ruled out of the game as expected after not practicing for the second straight week due to a hamstring injury. Additionally, Julio Jones (knee), Russell Gage (hamstring) and Breshad Perriman (knee) are all questionable to play vs. the Packers. With Mike Evans serving a one-game suspension, the Bucs have a thinned room. Tampa Bay elevated Cole Beasley from the practice squad to the active roster in order to contribute on Sunday, adding a new wrinkle to Byron Leftwich's offense.
  • Donovan Smith, the Buccaneers' starting left tackle since 2015, is listed as doubtful to play. Smith practiced in a limited fashion on Thursday and was downgraded to a non-participant in Friday's practice at the AdventHealth Training Center. After suffering a right elbow injury in Week One against Dallas, Smith missed the Week Two matchup with the Saints in New Orleans. The mainstay tackle has never missed two consecutive games, however, with inactivity on Friday, he may be closer to breaking the streak.
  • For the Packers, receiver Sammy Watkins was ruled out due to a hamstring injury. Green Bay listed several as questionable to play on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium including receivers Christian Watson (hamstring) and Randall Cobb (illness), tight end Mercedes Lewis (groin) and tackle David Bakhtiari (knee). Cobb did not practice during the week and Bakhtiari was a limited participant on Friday for the second consecutive day. With Watkins out of the lineup and two additional receivers with questionable designations, Head Coach Matt LaFleur told local media prior to Friday's practice that fourth-round pick Romeo Doubs will have to "take more of a load" against the Bucs.

2 Challenges Presented by the Packers

The Packers have one of the best running back tandems in the NFL with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Their dual backfield has been effective in 2022 – Green Bay is ranked sixth in rushing yards per game and third in yards per carry. Both Jones and Dillon pose an upside as receiving threats, tying for the team lead with six catches each. The backs have complimentary styles, with Jones' shiftiness in the open field and Dillon's one-cut downhill prowess. Against the Bears in Week Two, the Packers utilized counter pulls, crack back blocks, jet sweeps and screens to get the running backs on the perimeter. The dynamic duo can carry the offensive load if necessary. Green Bay has a revamped receiver room with the departures of Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. Free agent acquisition Sammy Watkins and rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are undergoing an acclimation period, gaining chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. It remains to be seen if they can foster the Packers' high-powered offense, placing emphasis on a run-heavy formula. Whichever team can run the ball successfully on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium will likely dictate who leaves the matchup victorious.

Despite the Packers' reliance on the run as of late, the team still has Aaron Rodgers at the helm – a future Hall of Fame quarterback. With an illustrious career spanning 18 seasons with the Packers, Rodgers has thrown for 55,789 yards and 451 touchdowns. He has been selected to eight Pro Bowls and has won four MVP Awards, among other notable accolades. With a quick release, Rodgers can mitigate pressure. Last season, Rodgers tallied the fastest time of his career from snap to throw (2.59 seconds) in releasing the football. When opponents do bring extra rushers on blitzes, Rodgers processes and exploits. He scans the field, knows where his second, third and fourth options are - a rarity at the position - and can make a throw from any angle with pinpoint accuracy. That is daunting for any defensive coordinator to contend with, however, Todd Bowles' disguises and multiple-look fronts with adapted personnel have caused the Packers' fits. In the two contests between Rodgers and a Bowles-led defense, No. 12 has been sacked nine times, including five in the 2020 NFC Championship Game that provided the Bucs with a trip to the Super Bowl. Another chess match awaits on Sunday, as the masterminds go head-to-head, this time on the Bucs' home field.

1 Key Thought from Todd Bowles

Preparing for the Packers' one-two punch of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon:

"They both can do everything. Obviously, Aaron [Jones] is faster – he plays wideout, he plays running back, he moves inside, he moves outside, he plays the slot – he does a lot of things great. He's very explosive when he catches the ball and when he runs the ball, he can break it and he can turn a four-yard gain into a 60-yard gain. AJ [Dillon] is just tough to bring down. He's tough – not only is he tough, he has very good feet. He can catch the football as well. Those two, along with Aaron [Rodgers] and the rest of the guys – it's going to be a tough draw."

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