Expect A Slugfest Between The Packers and The Bucs

After shellacking the Chicago Bears last week -- in related news, water is wet -- the Green Bay Packers will travel to Tampa Bay to face off against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 3. The last time these two teams faced off against each other, cornerback Kevin King was getting smoked every which way, or at least it seemed that way, and the Packers failed to capitalize off of Brady's three interceptions with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The past is the past, though. I think the Dalai Lama said it is important to focus on the present, which I will do. And to that end, Sunday should be a good ole fashioned rock-and-sock-em type of game.  

To put it bluntly, Green Bay's offense will face its toughest test of this young season on Sunday by a wide margin because Tampa Bay's defense is a wagon. The unit has only allowed 13 points, which is the lowest amount of points that the team has allowed over a two-game span since head coach Todd Bowles joined the team in 2019 (57 games), according to the Athletic. Not to mention, they have been relentless at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. After finishing the 2021 season seventh in the NFL in sacks (47), the Bucs already have 10 sacks, tops in the NFL. Linebacker Devin White leads the team in that department with three, followed by Shaquil Barrett (2) and DT Vita Vea (1.5). They have also forced six turnovers, five of which came against the Saints last week (three turnovers and two forced fumbles). Their six takeaways are tied for second in the NFL. 

How can the Packers combat this wagon of a defense? For starters, they can, and should, ride the wave of Aaron Jones. You saw last week how explosive and shifty he was with the ball in his hands. He finished Sunday's contest with 15 carries for 132 yards and one touchdown along with three receptions for 38 yards and another touchdown, totaling 18 touches for 170 yards (9.4 yards/touch) and two touchdowns. Through two games, the six-year pro is averaging an absurd 9.5 yards per touch (26 touches for 246 yards). Jones is a big reason why Green Bay is second in the NFL in "big" plays. 

While the Packers ran the ball 38 times last week (33 carries between Jones and Dillon) compared to only 25 passing attempts for Aaron Rodgers, those numbers may have to be flipped against the Bucs given how stout their front seven is, led by Vea, a human wrecking ball. The unit ranks ninth in rush defense as they have allowed an average of 85.5 rush yards per game. Thus, given that the Packers' offensive line still seems to be a work in progress, it would be advantageous for Matt LaFleur & Co. to employ quick and intermediate passes. Nothin' wrong with dippin' and dunkin' down the field. 

On the another side of the ball, let's focus on the positive(s) first for Joe Barry's defense.  

I do not know about you, but that seems pretty pretty good. And those numbers may continue to rise. Starting left tackle Donovan Smith missed practice on Wednesday after missing Week 2 due to an elbow injury and was a limited participant at Thursday's practice. The team placed his back-up, Josh Wells, on injured reserve earlier this week. If Smith is unable to go, the next man up is Brandon Walton, who replaced Wells in the second half last week against the Saints, his first career NFL regular season snaps. Moreover, left guard Luke Goedeke and center Robert Hainsey are both inexperienced. Advantage: Kenny Clark & Co. "It always starts with the offensive line, what those guys are able to do, how they're able to control the line of scrimmage," Brady said, according to the team website. Well, good news for the green and gold because the offensive line, without a doubt, is the team's Achilles heel. 

Beyond the offensive line, Tampa Bay will be down at least one wide receiver and possibly more. The NFL suspended wide receiver Mike Evans for one game because he could not properly control his emotions in a scrum, aggressively shoving Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Hate to see it. Plus, WR Chris Godwin did not practice on Thursday for the second straight day due to a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 1; WR Julio Jones (knee) did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, either; and WR Russell Gage was a limited participant during Wednesday and Thursday practices. Altogether, it may be tough sledding for Brady, who has only completed 59% of his passes thus far, boasts a measly 82.8 passer rating, and is surprisingly only averaging roughly 200 passing yards per game. (Through the first two games in 2021, Brady's line for the aforementioned statistics: 65% completion percentage, 113.1 passer rating, and an average of 327.5 pass yards.) All of this is to say, expect a heavy dosage of Leonard Fournette on Sunday, which brings me to the negative: the Packers' ability to stop the run. 

As I am sure you recall, the Packers allowed Bears running back David Montgomery to look like shades of Walter Payton-lite in Week 2. The Iowa State product carried the ball 15 times for 122 yards (8.1 yards per carry) and the team as a whole rushed for 180 yards on 27 carries. For the season, the numbers appear as if Dom Capers or Mike Pettine are still employed. 

A get-right spot for Uncle Lenny, indeed. While Fournette was bottled up last week, as the Saints' front limited him to 65 yards on 24 carries, he turned in a strong performance against the Cowboys. The former top-10 selection had 21 carries for 127 yards. Fournette's 24 carries last week were the most he received since joining the team in 2020. His career high in carries is 29, which he achieved twice in 2019 while with the Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 4 against Denver: 29 carries/225 yards; Week 7 against Cincinnati: 29 carries/131 yards). Can you expect to see Fournette receive the same amount of carries on Sunday as he did in those games? It is certainly possible. Let's hope, for all of our sanity, that Barry's unit brings their hard hat and comes ready to play. It is going to be a slugfest.  

 

__________________________

Rex is a lifelong Packers fan but was sick of the cold, so he moved to the heart of Cowboys country. Follow him on Twitter (@Sheild92) and Instagram (@rex.sheild). 

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Comments (11)

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Swisch's picture

September 23, 2022 at 01:08 pm

I'm rooting for Aaron Rodgers to outsmart the Bucs rather than trying to heroically (but futilely) beat them by too many long passes.
I'm not so sure Rodgers is all that fantastic against a fiercely physical pass rush, so it behooves him to keep the Bucs defense guessing with an intellectual array of creative play calling that gets the ball out of his hands (with passes and handoffs) without much ado -- stretching the field horizontally more than vertically.
Then, after frustrating the Bucs by outsmarting them, selectively try the long ball -- with Christian Watson getting at least one of the deep targets as an opportunity to make up for his big drop against the Vikings.
A trick play or two would be a nice change of pace for the Packers as well. It seems even the staid Bill Belichick doesn't disdain a little trickery.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 23, 2022 at 04:46 pm

I just hope when the chips are down and everybody is tired from the heat but they need just one more big play for victory that Rodgers looks deep within and asks himself "what would Bart Starr do?"

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Swisch's picture

September 23, 2022 at 05:32 pm

Actually, wouldn't that be a great idea?
What Bart Starr did was to do whatever it took to win, regardless of whether it put him as the center of attention.
Don't we need more of that in sports these days, and more of that in society?
***
I want Rodgers to be himself, the best of himself, but that could well include emulating his storied predecessor to a healthy degree.
By the way, Rodgers seemed to do at least some of that against the Bears to good success, whether intentionally or not. I hope it's the start of a larger and longer trend.
I hope for the day, LLCHESTY, when you won't ridicule such a notion.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 23, 2022 at 01:32 pm

I think our victory recipe is pretty clear. Don't turn the ball over, get it to Jones and Dillon a lot, block people, keep our defense resting on the sideline.

Sadly, we also have a recipe for failure. Turn it over, abandon the run, fail to protect the QB, and put our defense defending short fields.

We don't have a very good history in Florida. We've played poorly in Miami, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay.

https://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/2021/09/09/whats-green...

This was written before last year's opener against the Saints. We've been unsuccessful in Florida, as the article points out.

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Eric Zenk's picture

September 23, 2022 at 04:26 pm

Ok so the 9-23-22 final injury report is out for both teams.

Packers
Out: Watkins
Questionable:
1. Watson
2. Cobb
3. Lewis, M

In:
1. Lazard
2. Clark

Bucs
Out:
1. Evans
2. Goodwin
3. Hicks

Questionable:
1. Jones, J - Game Time Decision
2. Hainey -Starting center
3. Brady - Finger

Doubtful:
1. Smith, D - Starting left tackle

Packers O Line
LT: Nijman
LG: Runyon
C: Myers
RG: Newman
RT: Jenkins, E

Bucs O Line:
LT: Walton - No. 3 tackle
LG: Goedeke - No. 2 Guard
C: Hainey - Starter (questionable)
RG: Mason - Starter
RT: Wurf - Starter

The Bucs O line will be starting their 3rd string LT, their back-up LG and Leverett in place of Haney, (their starter) if Haney can't go. That's 3 of the starting 5 who are backups. If the Packers defense CANNOT take advantage of that potential mismatch then they are same old terrible defense the Packers have put on the field in each loss to the Bucs.

Whereas the Packers o-line gets a bit of relief in that Hicks won't be lining up next to Via to raise hell on the Packers left side of their o-line. If ever there was a time to beat the Bucs, it appears Sunday might be that day. And Brady's back-up receivers, Gage & Miller are also questionable along with starter Julio Jones besides the guys already ruled out.

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 23, 2022 at 05:02 pm

Miller I think is gtg. Perriman is questionable

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 23, 2022 at 01:54 pm

This was the one game that I thought the Packers would definitely lose a few months ago, but it now seems very winnable with all of the Bucs’ injuries at WR and OL. Fournette is also not fully healthy, but will likely play, so it should be easier to slow him down. Brady is dealing with a hand problem, so we’ll see about that. Akiem Hicks is out for a month too. Also, Godwin hasn’t practiced, and is likely out, and Jones is a game time decision (he was for last week too, though).

As for our WRs, they are game-time decisions as well.

The key to victory will be to hand the ball off to Jones and Dillon a lot, as the Bucs’ defense has surrendered 5+ yards per carry on average. No Hicks will help. Any passing plays should be strategically called. The o-line will need to show up, but they did well last week vs the Bears’ front and mor time for Jenkins should only make it better. Myers will need to show up in a big way vs. Vita Vea. Our front 7, though, will determine if we win or lose this game. Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, and Kenny Clark will have a great opportunity to wreak havoc on the Bucs’ injured o-line and make life uncomfortable for Tom Brady. They, along with Reed and Lowry, will need to show up in a big way for us to win the game. I think it is definitely a manageable feat for this team.

Also, there was a recent article about the Packers’ lack of OLB depth. What would you all think of re-uniting with Blake Martinez and converting him to OLB? He did get 8 sacks between ‘18 and ‘19 with the Packers, and three more with the Giants in ‘20, his last full season he’s played. The Packers, to strengthen Safety depth, could also consider signing Jaquiski Tartt or Anthony Harris (who’s on the Broncos’ PS)

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Lphill's picture

September 23, 2022 at 02:43 pm

I think it’s a victory for the Packers if they can protect Rodgers and run the ball but I expect more passes than the Bears game.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 23, 2022 at 04:20 pm

The Defense has to create turnovers and show up in the run fits.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 23, 2022 at 04:40 pm

Packers are tied for 4th in the league in explosive passing plays and tied for 5th in the league for "big" runs over 10 yards. 2nd in big plays overall to the Lions(?!?). Clean up the turnovers and hit a couple big plays and this should be a win in spite of the heat.

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jont's picture

September 24, 2022 at 02:27 pm

That QB-pressure list was an eye opener. Somehow it didn't seem that way as the first two games went on. It's encouraging.

With his receiver list short, Brady will be looking to throw early and short. He does this most of the time, but with limited deeper options and a good Packer pass rush, this will be very important to the Bucs. I think they won't score many points.

Alas, I could write the same about Rodgers and GB.

Low scoring slugfest with GB wining by two good running backs to one.

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