Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers
8:05Ppm GMT Sunday – Sky Sports and NFL Gamepass
What more can you ask for? Two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, an opportunity for revenge, and a battle of wills between a two time Lombardi winning coach and the former QB of the Omaha Beef.
There are few words to offer justice to the playoffs record of now Buccs QB Tom Brady. 77 touchdowns, just shy of 12,000 passing yards, 9 – yes – 9 Conference Championship wins in 13 previous contests and six rings.
Reaching the NFC Championship makes Brady only the fourth QB to play in both the AFC and NFC deciders, joining Craig Morton (Cowboys and Broncos), Jay Schroeder (Washington and Raiders), and the immortal Joe Montana (49ers and Chiefs).
Facing Brady and the Buccaneers, and trying to prevent the first team in NFL history from reaching a Super Bowl at their home stadium, will be the Green Bay Packers and the man who arguably should have more than one more ring, Mr Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers has one ring from 2010, having lost three of four NFC Championships (2014, 2016 and 2019), a record that prevents talks from Aaron being the goat. Rodgers is 12-8 in the playoffs, a respectable record, but not one that represents what he should have achieved if the Packers had a better defense over the last decade.
So, what are some of the storylines to look out for going into this unique NFC Championship, the first of the two championship games taking place on Sunday?
- Who will command the Tampa Bay backfield? Former Jaguars first round pick Leonard Fournette has had a huge role in the playoffs with 36 runs and 10 catches. Season starter Ronald Jones has recovered from injury to gain over 60 yards last week, following a 113 yard ground game against the Packers earlier in the season. A nightmare for DFS players, the two-headed monster will need to go over 120 yards between them to stand a chance of victory.
- Will the Packers be able to run the ball? The news that man monster Vita Vea has recovered from a long-standing injury will only make the Green Bay RBs groan a little bit louder. Tampa Bay allowed a league low 1,289 yards rushing in the regular season, and held Alvin Kamara to under 100 yards on the ground and 0 td’s. Controversial DT Ndamakong Suh has been a beast in the trenches. Ironically he was part of a Rams team that held Tom Brady scoreless but still lost Super Bowl LIII (53).
- Can the Buccs wideouts ball out without Antonio Brown? Having been held for a collective output of 8 catches for 81 yards (and a TD) the Tampa Bay WR corps will be seething, and desperate to show that they can deliver under the spotlight. With Antonio Brown ruled out pressure will grow on Chris Godwin to have a big game, with Mike Evans likely shadowed by the impressive Jaire Alexander (pictured below) all game. It’s time for heroes to emerge so look no further than rookie Tyler Johnson to have a special performance.
- Could the BAG unit do it again? Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski has been a magical duo, and earlier in the season RoboGronk had 5 catches for 78 yards and a score against Green Bay. Last week Gronk was targeted 5 times against the stingy Saints secondary and he only managed one catch, but now is the time to again come up big. You cannot underestimate the reliability of number two TE Cameron Brate, who has made 8 grabs in two playoff games so far. With AB out there will be plenty of Brady lasers heading to the TEs.
- What if the game comes out of the QBs hands and is a kicking battle? Buccs K Ryan Succop is on his third team. His longest kick this season has been 50 yards and he has missed 5 extra points. The good news is that he has not missed on any FG attempt under 39 yards. Packers K Mason Crosby has not missed a game for 14 seasons, and whilst he made only 16 field goal attempts, he converted them all. This makes Mason one of only 9 kickers in NFL history to go 100% on FG attempts. Crosby missed 4 extra points, but can be forgiven as he attempted (63) and converted (59) the most of any kicker in 2020. This game has all the traits of one that could come down to a FG to win. Crosby is going to be far more prepared to adjust to the conditions, but even he cannot control the wind, and possible snow.
No quarterback has ever reached 10 Super Bowls, and even typing this seems bizarre.
You have a living legend going up against a signal caller who debatably should have more than one ring, in a game that could see the first team to play a Super Bowl at home, in front of 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers and a giant pirate ship.
Get your popcorn, nachos, craft beer (ginger if you don’t drink) and your favourite pizza ready.
It’s going to be something special.
Writer’s Pick – Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro)
The battle of the Bays, between two teams that deserve to be where they are. Mega star WRs Davante Adams and Mike Evans will want to leave a legacy. Neither has been in a Super Bowl, Adams missing out last season in the same place. The Buccs are back in the NFC Championship for the first time since 2002. This is their fourth Conference title game. In their two previous losses they managed a total of six points. This will not be anywhere near the case on Sunday. Brady, if you include a game where Rodgers played against him (but did not start) is 3-1 in the battle of the stud QBs.
Without a rabid fanbase in Green Bay I may be called barking mad but I’m taking the underdog in this game. The Buccaneers, many experts prediction to win it all (not mine), have a coach in Bruce Arians who has two rings from his time in Pittsburgh, and a QB who has so many rings he has had to buy an extension to his right hand. Brady is the GOAT for a reason. Sorry Packers fans, another bunch of flowers for you.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 – 24 Green Bay Packers