The Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Lambeau Field as they take on the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon. The winner will advance to the Super Bowl in two weeks. Here's my preview for the NFC title game.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are playing in a conference championship game for the first time in four years and its first home title matchup since 2007. Even though they’re 1-4 in this round in the 21st century, QB Aaron Rodgers is playing at an entirely different level. The 37-year-old QB tossed a career-high 48 TD in the regular season and is the clear front-runner for MVP. Rodgers has clearly flourished in his second season in HC Matt LaFleur’s offensive system.
However, one of the few blips on the Packers’ season was its week six matchup in Tampa Bay. Rodgers, who tied for a league-low five INTs among starters, had two including a rare pick-six against the Bucs allowing them back in the game after going up 10-0. Although since that matchup, Rodgers has gone on to throw 35 TDs and only three INTs as the Pack went 9-2 over its final 11 games.
X-Factor: Turnovers/Pass rush
In order for Green Bay to advance to its first Super Bowl since 2010, the Packers are going to need to win the turnover battle. Both of Rodgers' INTs in week six proved to be a huge difference as the Bucs scored a quick 14 points off of those turnovers.
Another reason the Packers were unsuccessful in its first matchup was that it forced no turnovers and generated little to no pressure as Bucs QB Tom Brady wasn’t sacked once. Green Bay’s front four will need to force some type of pressure to make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are playing in only its second title game of the century (2002) and its first one on the road in its 44 year history. Fortunately for them they have arguably the best QB in NFL History in Tom Brady. Fortunately for Tampa Bay, Brady is an astounding 9-4 in Championship games over his 20 career with the New England Patriots.
The Bucs better be prepared for the cold weather as it's only projected to be a high of 29 degrees with a chance of snow on Sunday. This is gonna be a huge test for Tampa Bay as they haven't play outside on the road in more than two months. The temperature and weather difference will be dramatic as its last matchup was week 10 against the Carolina Panthers.
While the Bucs have one of the best trios at the position in the entire NFL, that unit took a massive hit on Friday afternoon as WR Antonio Brown was ruled out with a knee injury for the title game. This is certainly a significant impact for the Bucs as Brown continued to have an established role week-to-week since his signing in week 9. Even though he wasn’t there in Tampa Bay’s regular season matchup against Green Bay, this now means depth WRs’ Scotty Miller or Tyler Johnson will now have to play a much bigger role. This is also additional pressure on superstar WRs Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to show up in the Championship game after combining for five catches and 37 yards in the Divisional Round.
The other major x-factor on the Bucs side has to be this ferocious defense. The unit was a big reason why the Bucs advanced to the title matchup as it forced four turnovers against the New Orleans Saints last week and the main reason why Tampa Bay was able to come back and win against the Packers in week six. In order to advance to its first Super Bowl in almost 20 years, the Buccaneers defense must come up huge yet again versus Rodgers but this time on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.