It's not primetime but it is FOX's NFL Game of the Week and when the Buccaneers take on the Green Bay Packers at home on Sunday, there will be a significant number of fans in the stands. The Bucs are currently tied for first in the NFC South three ways with a 3-2 record while the Packers come into town undefeated and off a Week Five bye.
The Bucs are coming off some extra rest too and it shows. Wide receiver Chris Godwin returned to practice this week and wide receiver Mike Evans, who has been battling through an ankle injury sustained against the Chargers, said on Thursday he plans on playing Sunday. Tampa Bay should also have its full lineup of running backs available with both LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette progressing in practice.
The Packers are also returning a big-time playmaker in Devante Adams, who has been nursing a hamstring injury. Though these two teams once shared a division, the last time they met was in 2017 where Green Bay pulled out an overtime victory at Lambeau Field. The Packers have won their last three matchups with the Buccaneers, with the Bucs handing them their last loss at Raymond James Stadium in 2009.
Whether or not you'll be able to make it Raymond James Stadium this Sunday, read on for what to watch for and how to watch it.
Green Bay Packers (4-0) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)
All-time record: Green Bay leads the all-time series 33-21-1
Home record: 14-14
Key Matchups (via Scott Smith):
1. Packers RB Aaron Jones vs. Buccaneers LB Lavonte David
Once again, Lavonte David and the Buccaneers has to face one of the NFL's best all-around backs, one that can do just as much damage in the passing game as on the ground. Overall, Jones was third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (509), before the Packers went on their bye week. He was also second in rushing yards, with 374, while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. With the Packers' receiving corps thinned by injuries lately, Aaron Rodgers has targeted Jones frequently, a total of 23 times, second-most among all Packers players. And these are not all screens and swing passes, as Rodgers is averaging 5.7 air yards per target when throwing to Jones, the highest figure for any running back in the league. What this means is another very busy day for David, who will have to use his incredible sideline-to-sideline range to keep Jones in check on runs and passes. David and Devin White have nearly identical tackle totals so far, but White is easily the team leader with 24 tackles (18 solos) on run plays. David also has a team-high three tackles for loss on opposing running backs. David is a big key to the Bucs' run defense which, as noted above, will now be without the massive inside presence of Vita Vea. Vea helped keep blockers off David and White, which means the level of difficulty will probably rise for the Bucs' linebackers.
2. Buccaneers G Ali Marpet vs. Packers OLB Za'Darius Smith
The Packers made several uncharacteristic deep dives into unrestricted free agency in 2019 and one of their best additions proved to be former Ravens pass-rusher Za'Darius Smith. Smith led the Packers with 13.5 sacks and tied the Bucs' Shaquil Barrettfor the NFL lead with 37 QB hits. Smith is listed as an outside linebacker, which would lead one to think he'll be the main responsibility of the Bucs' tackles, but it's much more complicated in his case. The Packers move Smith all over the line, both sides, inside and outside, and he actually be a more effective pass-rusher on the interior. Last year, as noted by NFL.com's Nick Shook, Smith led the entire NFL with a 19.4% pressure rate on pass-rushes on the inside. Fortunately for the Buccaneers, their offensive line has provided strong protection across the board in 2020, ranking sixth in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play. Marpet in particular has been a force in both the run and the pass game, putting together a season that might end in his first Pro Bowl. Stopping Smith, particularly when he slides inside, will be a major key on Sunday, as he has accounted for five of the Packers' 12 sacks so far.
3. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Buccaneers S Antoine Winfield, Jr.
Buccaneers rookie safety Antoine Winfield, the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month in September, has drawn raves for his veteran-like awareness and understanding of what the opposition is trying to do. Of course, few players in the NFL have more veteran savvy than Aaron Rodgers, the Packers' 16th-year quarterback. Rodgers' career TD-INT ratio of 377-84 (including 13-0 this year) is an indication of how he can move defenders around with his eyes and fakes. That will be a stiff challenge for a young safety even if he does seem capable of playing beyond his years. The Buccaneers' defense has been pretty good at limiting big plays, other than a couple of impressive shots by Chargers' rookie Justin Herbert in Week Four. Overall, Tampa Bay's defense has only allowed five completions of 30 or more yards. Winfield, who is more often in deep coverage than fellow starting safety Jordan Whitehead, has been an important part of that with three passes defensed. Winfield and Rodgers could also do battle in the Packers' backfield, as the Bucs' rookie has already proved to be an excellent blitzer off the edge or from the slot. Winfield's two sacks are tied for the second most among NFL defensive backs.
4. Buccaneers WR Mike Evans vs. Packers CB Jaire Alexander
Jaire Alexander is the Packers' best cornerback and there's a reasonable chance that Green Bay will choose to assign him to Mike Evans, who has scored in every game this season. Alexander most often lines up at left cornerback, to the right side of the offense, but his pre-snap location heat map in the NFL's Next Gen Stats database show him getting a good amount of action on the other side, too. That suggests there are times that Alexander shadows one particular player, and in fact in Week Four he covered Calvin Ridley (with a banged-up Julio Jones only playing 15 snaps) on 23 of Ridley's 27 routes. After three straight 100-yard games to open the season, Ridley was held without a catch on five targets. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers employ Evans almost equally to both sides of the formation, occasionally in the slot but mostly on the outside. Evans has played 125 snaps on the right side and 150 on the left, so even if Ridley doesn't shadow Evans – perhaps a less effective strategy if Chris Godwin is back – they'll still get plenty of one-on-ones. The 5-10 Alexander will give up seven inches to Evans, and Evans is one of the NFL's best at winning on contested catches, so it will not be easy for the Packers' corner to shut down the Bucs' top pass-catcher the way he did to Ridley.
Uniform Combination: White jersey, pewter pants, black socks
Watch on TV:
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
Location: Raymond James Stadium
Television Network: FOX
Broadcast Crew: (FOX) Joe Buck (play by play), Troy Aikman (color), Erin Andrews & Kristina Pink (reporters)
Watch on Mobile
The stream is available through Yahoo Sports, the Buccaneers Official App and online at Buccaneers.com.
Yahoo! Sports (mobile browser or app)
Bucs Official App
*Please check local listings to confirm availability. Geographic and device restrictions apply. Local & primetime games only. Data charges may apply.
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Sirius/XM Channel 88
On the Bucs Official App*
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Follow the club for live gameday updates, videos and behind-the-scenes photos.
Who's playing who in Week 6?
Sunday, October 18
- Denver Broncos at New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET on CBS)
- Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (1 p.m. ET on CBS)
- Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (1 p.m. ET on CBS)
- Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles (1 p.m. ET on CBS)
- Washington Football Team at New York Giants (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Detroit Lions at Jacksonville Jaguars (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
- New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (4:05 p.m. p.m. on CBS)
- Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX)
- Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (8:20 p.m. ET on NBC)