NFC CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT GREEN BAY PACKERS
BY ADAM GREENE
While the Championship Sunday nightcap boasts two young superstar quarterbacks, the opener is a battle of first ballot Pro Football Hall of Famers. Tom Brady makes another run at a Super Bowl, but his first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They’ll have to get through Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to do it.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT GREEN BAY PACKERS (-3, O/U: 51)
Location: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisc.
Kickoff: Jan 24, 3:05 p.m. EST
The Bucs and Packers have been facing off since 1977 and used to meet up regularly before 2002 as Tampa Bay and Green Bay were both in the old NFC Central. As such, this will be the 57th all time meeting between the two squads with Green Bay holding a 33-22-1 advantage.
They’ve met in the playoffs only one other time, a 21-7 Packers win 1997-98 NFC Divisional Round. Brett Favre didn’t light up the scoreboard, throwing for 190 yards, one TD and two interceptions, but Tampa’s Trent Dilver wasn’t much better as he hit 200 yards and two picks. Pack runner Dorsey Levens was the offensive star for the day, rushing for 112 yards and a touchdown.
The two franchises played back on Oct. 18, with the Bucs embarrassing Green Bay to the tune of 38-10 in Tampa. Brady threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns, with Ronald Jones rushing for 113 and two scores. Rodgers tossed 160 yards and two picks with no TDs in the loss. This will only be the fourth meeting between Brady and Rodgers and Tompa holds a 2-1 advantage.
As the only Wild Card team left in the playoffs, the Bucs are battling a little extra history. Only 10 Wild Cards have made it to the Super Bowl in all of NFL history and just six have won it. The last team to do both was the… checks notes… Green Bay Packers, quarterbacked by some dude named Aaron Rodgers. They won it all on the road in the 2010-11 season.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (13-5)
Tampa Bay ended Drew Brees’ career last week with a 30-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. Brady passed for 199 yards and two touchdowns, but it was the Bucs defense that dominated the game. Tampa picked Brees off three times and held him to just 134 yards passing.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (14-3)
The Packers knocked off the top defense in the NFL in a 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams last Saturday. Green Bay took advantage of an injured Aaron Donald to unleash what might have been one of Rodgers’ finest playoff performances. He threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Aaron Jones rushed for 99 yards and a score. Allen Lazard caught four passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. The Packers defense sacked Jared Goff four times.
Over the last month or so of the regular season, these two teams were the best in the NFC. Green Bay has won seven straight to get to the NFC Title game and the Bucs have reeled off six victories in a row. Their previous match up wasn’t close, but I think this one will be and Rodgers, smile and all, will earn his second trip to the big dance. Packers 27, Buccaneers 24
Straight up: 3-1
Against the spread: 2-2
Straight up: 6-4
Against the spread: 3-7
Straight up: 176-89-1
Against the spread: 134-132