Well, the Green Bay Packers really took it on the chin when they met with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a previous meeting. And BetOnline customers might be wondering whether that is something that will tell them a lot as we go into the NFC Championship Game.
Obviously the winner punches a ticket to the Super Bowl, and things will get underway at approximately 3:05 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
These squads met up in Week 6. And really, the story was the Tampa Bay defense, which held Green Bay to just 201 yards, translating to 3.3 yards per play. Aaron Rodgers completed only 16 of 35 passes, with two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He was also sacked 5 times and had just 160 yards on the day. The Packers punted on seven of their last eight possessions.
There was only one “explosive” play on the entire day, and that was supplied not by a wide receiver, but running back Aaron Jones, who only wound up with 15 yards rushing. On second down, Green Bay was absolutely pounded, averaging only 2.9 yards her play, while Tampa Bay averaged 6.7 yards in their second down situations.
It was indeed a rough day for Rodgers, but it was not exactly a banner day for Tom Brady either. He threw for just 166 yards on 17 completions, and wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans combined for only 58 yards. But Tampa Bay DID dominate much of what went on at the point of attack, with 158 rushing yards, 113 of them supplied by Ronald Jones. Green Bay scored the first ten points of the game, but after a 28-point second-quarter, the Bucs coasted to the 38 -10 victory.
At BetOnline, Green Bay is only favored by a field goal in this title encounter:
Green Bay Packers – 3 (-125)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers + 3 (+ 105)
Over 52 points – 110
Under 52 points – 110
Multiple All-Pro Antonio Brown, who was acquired about midway through the season and wound up with 45 receptions, did not play in the initial meeting, and he won't here either, because he's been ruled out with a knee injury. Jaire Alexander, Green Bay's top cornerback, might find himself trying to shut down Evans, who has started his NFL career with seven consecutive 1000-yard seasons.
Since that disaster, Rodgers has thrown for 37 touchdowns with only three interceptions. On the season he has suffered only 20 sacks, and even though observers believe the offensive line is compromised with the loss of David Bakhtiari at left tackle, the Packers seem to have adapted better then they had in the past when the All-Pro was missing.
You might be able to make a real case that this is the smoothest-functioning offense in football. Green Bay has scored more per game than anybody; they have scored points on 49.7% of their drives, which is best in the NFL, yet at the same time they have committed fewer turnovers than any other team. In the red zone, they are stellar, scoring touchdowns on 80% of their trips, and preventing the opposition from scoring on 42.3% of them. These Packers are 49.4% successful on third down, and a lot of that has to do with favorable situations set up by the ground game, which is underrated.
Aaron Jones averaged 5.5 yards per carry and topped the 1000-yard mark, which earned him a Pro Bowl nod. But there is support there in the persons of Jamaal Williams (505 yards) and rookie AJ Dillon, who mowed down Tennessee to the tune of 124 yards just about a month ago.
Rodgers leads the NFL in yards-after-catch per completion (important), and he is 77% accurate when looking for wide receiver Davante Adams, who has scored 18 touchdowns. Certainly a great matchup to watch will be Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay's best cornerback, as he tries to deal with Adams. Rodgers has connected with tight end Robert Tonyan for eleven touchdowns, and they have been successful on an insane 88% of their attempted connections.
Head coach Matt LaFleur has obviously proven himself to be a very fertile offensive mind, and for that reason, we don't expect there to be a duplication on the part of Green Bay's offense or Tampa Bay's defense of the previous meeting.
There are other factors as well. The early weather reports call for snow on Saturday night, starting at about midnight and extending to about noon Saturday. That will have an effect on the conditions. And remember that Brady is playing in a different kind of offense this season under Bruce Arians. He is throwing it a little farther down the field, and in fact leads the NFL in air yards per pass (9.1). In bad weather, it's harder to complete passes like that with a lot of consistency. And not having Brown will prove to be a bigger challenge for that reason.
We don't doubt Tampa Bay's ability to run on Green Bay, which is allowing 4.5 yards per rush attempt. But in this particular situation, it's hard to imagine even someone like Brady out-dueling Rogers, who has become so lethal in this system. For that reason, we feel compelled to lay the points and watch Green Bay take a trip to the Super Bowl.
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