The weather forecast in Tampa on Sunday, January 24? Partly cloudy with a high of 77 degrees. The weather forecast in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Sunday, January 24? Snow. With a high of 32 degrees – also known as freezing.
The Buccaneers will travel to the Frozen Tundra this weekend to take on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game at historic Lambeau Field. It's the fourth time the Buccaneers will play for the conference title. The last time they were in it? That was also on the road… in the last game at Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia. The infamous game now known as, "Shutting down the Vet" propelled the Buccaneers to Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego, Calif. Now, they're hoping the results are the same, except this time, they would come home to Tampa to be the first team in NFL history to both play in and play host to a Super Bowl.
Green Bay won't make it easy. Both with the weather forecast and because they boast the league's top-ranked scoring offense, averaging 31.8 points per game thanks to MVP-candidate Aaron Rodgers, who leads the league in passer rating (121.5) and passing touchdowns (48). But the good news is, the Bucs sit just behind this Packers offense, averaging 30.8 points per game of their own for the third spot in the category. Better news is that the Bucs' defense is only letting up an average of 22.2 points per game – good for the eighth best mark in the NFL.
The last time these two teams met resulted in a very lopsided loss for the Pack that was clearly not indicative of the success they'd end up having. Rodgers was sacked four times in the game before he was pulled. He threw two interceptions, one of which was just the third pick-six of his entire career. The Tampa Bay offense hung 38 points on them and they won with a score of 38-10, after scoring 38 unanswered points after the first quarter.
The Packers are a much better team at this point in the season. Then again, so are the Buccaneers. It will be a testament of wills in some extreme conditions. Here's how to watch Championship Sunday.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-5) vs. Green Bay Packers (14-3)
- Postseason Record: 0-1
- All-Time Record: Green Bay leads series 33-22-1
- Road record: 7-20
Key Matchups (via Scott Smith)
1. Packers WR Davante Adams vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis
Davis has had his share of shutting down opposing number-one receivers – most recently taking the lead in pitching the first-ever shutout against the Saints' Michael Thomas in the Divisional Round – but if the Bucs choose to have him shadow Adams it might be the most urgent assignment of his young career. Adams was the NFL's most unstoppable receiver in 2020. He has caught at least six passes in all but one game so far this year, including the playoffs and, incredibly, he has scored in 14 of the Packers' 17 games. Adams finished the season with 115 catches for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns, the last total leading the league, all while missing two-and-a-half games. Adams is extremely good at beating press coverage at the line, but laying off in coverage allows him to utilize his sharp cuts, which he makes without telegraphing his intentions. And Green Bay's incredible red zone offense – a league-leading 80% touchdown rate – has a lot to do with the connection between Adams and Aaron Rodgers, who hooked up for 14 touchdowns on red zone passes. That's the most for any receiver in the league. Davis has the size to match up with the 6-1, 215-pound Adams and is very good in press coverage, which could set up some interesting battles at the line of scrimmage. Davis is also adept at mirroring receivers in their routes, a rare skill that has helped him rank second in the NFL passes defensed in each of the past two seasons. According to Next Gen Stats, Davis allowed just one reception for 16 yards in last weekend's win at New Orleans and receivers could get only 1.1 yards of average separation from him when they were targeted with him in coverage.
2. Buccaneers C Ryan Jensen vs. Packers DL Kenny Clark
The 6-3, 314-pound Clark showed his potential for disrupting an offense in the Divisional Round when he hit the Rams with 1.5 sacks, providing the Packers with the kind of up-the-middle pressures that is hard to come by. After he racked up 16.5 sacks and 22 QB hits from 2017-19, Green Bay locked him down with a four-year, $70-million contract. The Packers' defense is simply more effective at getting to the quarterback when he's on the field, perhaps because of the attention he draws away from the edge rushers. From the start of 2018 through the midpoint of 2020, Green Bay's defense had a pressure rate of 31.7% with Clark on the field and a 22.3% rate without him, according to Next Gen Stats. With two legendary quarterbacks who each topped 40 touchdown passes this year playing at a very high level, the game could be decided by which defense is able to pressure the opposing passer into more miscues. Fortunately for the Buccaneers, their offensive line has played at a high level most of the season and particularly down the stretch and into the playoffs. The Bucs finished second in the league on offense in sacks allowed per pass play and have held up very well against two of the league's best pass-rushing teams in Washington and New Orleans. Jensen has been a key part of that effort and is also the emotional leader for that line, a blocker who will stay engaged right up to the whistle. Jensen and guards Ali Marpet and Aaron Stinnie also helped the Buccaneers put together a very strong running game between the tackles in the win over the Saints, with Leonard Fournette getting 63 yards and Ronald Jones adding 62. The line of scrimmage will be a battleground on Sunday afternoon and Jensen is the anchor that holds the Bucs' blocking wall intact.
3. Packers T Billy Turner vs. Buccaneers OLB Shaquil Barrett
On the other side of the ball, the Buccaneers hope to generate more pressure than they have in recent weeks. According to Next Gen Stats, the Buccaneers had a pressure rate on its pass rushes of less than 20% just one time in their first 10 games, but then fell below that mark four times over the next seven contests, which stretched into the Wild Card game at Washington. The Bucs then failed to get a sack and had just three QB hits on Drew Brees last Sunday. Of all the Tampa Bay defenders who could break the team out of this mini-slump, Barrett is the most likely. He racked up 59 quarterback pressures during the regular season despite missing the Week 17 game against Atlanta, which ranked third in the entire NFL. He was the one who got closest to Brees last Sunday, with an average separation from the quarterback at the time of the pass of 3.79 yards. That was by far the best of any Bucs' pass-rusher and significantly better than the NFL average of 4.52 yards. Barrett and fellow outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul have switched back and forth from the right and left sides based on matchups this season, but both saw close to half their snaps on each side in New Orleans. When Barrett is rushing off Aaron Rodgers' blind side he will have to contend with Billy Turner, who is holding down the left tackle job after the loss of Pro Bowler David Bakhtiari to an ACL tear in Week 16. Turner had mostly played guard before 2020, including starting every game at right guard for the Packers last year, but he has played primarily at the two tackle spots this year and has been a savior for Green Bay through various injury issues. Turner is athletic and nimble and he moves well on the run, which helps in the Packers' zone blocking scheme but also makes him tough to get around for speed rushers on the edge.
4. Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate vs. Packers S Adrian Amos
Brate had 282 receiving yards during the entire 2020 regular season. He already has 130 yards through two playoff games, the most any Buccaneer tight end has ever had in a single postseason. It's not that Brate was struggling during the regular season and has suddenly found his footing; it's a simple matter of defensive priorities and the Bucs' run-blocking schemes. In Washington, Rob Gronkowski spent most of his time as a blocker on the end of the line and was superb in that role, helping keeping the Football Team's fierce pass rush at bay and create a strong ground game for the Bucs. In New Orleans, the Saints focused on limiting Tampa Bay's outside receivers, creating opportunities over the middle for the likes of Brate, running back Leonard Fournette and slot receiver Chris Godwin. Always a sure-handed receiver who could make catches in traffic and hold onto the ball despite hard hits, Brate has been finding more open holes in opposing defenses in the playoffs and is averaging an impressive 16.3 yards per catch. If the Packers choose a similar strategy to what the Saints employed, Brate could become a favored target yet again. However, Green Bay's secondary does include two safeties who are strong in coverage and who are playing their best football near the end of the season. A 2019 free agency acquisition, Amos made an instant difference in Green Bay's overall coverage upon his arrival and has continued to do so in 2020. Amos did it all this season, leading the team with 83 tackles while adding two sacks, two interceptions and nine passes defensed.
Watch on TV:
- Sunday, January 24, 2021
- Kickoff: 3:05 p.m. ET
- Location: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisc.
- Television Network: FOX
- Broadcast Crew: Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (color), Erin Andrews & Tom Rinaldi (reporters)
Watch on Mobile/Streaming:
The stream is available on mobile through Yahoo Sports, the Buccaneers Official App and online at Buccaneers.com.
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*Please check local listings to confirm availability. Geographic and device restrictions apply. Local & primetime games only. Data charges may apply.
The stream will also be available Over-The-Top on the Fox Sports app - just sign in with your TV provider credentials.
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