Tampa Bay Buccaneers Faces Powerhouse Packers In Green Bay
Saturday, November 19, 2011
by Aengus Moorehead
The Packers were allowing 33 points over the previous two games before an emotionally-charged 45-7 romp of Minnesota Monday night. Veteran cornerback and former Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson said change had to be made and defensive coordinator Dom Capers obliged by turning it up a notch and getting the unit back to its intimidating manner.
It worked against the lowly Vikings and Capers' unit will shoot for an encore performance Sunday versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field. One aspect Woodson deemed necessary was unleashing Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews on Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. Woodson wanted to get his teammate back to his 2010 Defensive Player of the Year status by rushing the quarterback more often.
It worked to the tune of two sacks and a forced fumble, making Woodson a happy man following the team's first 9-0 start since opening the 1962 championship season with 10 straight victories.
The unselfishness of Woodson has resonated deep within the organization, which rode his spirit to a Super Bowl title last season. Woodson unfortunately broke his collarbone in the historic win over Pittsburgh and now he's full of vim and vigor physically and vocally. Teammate and nose tackle B.J. Raji doesn't mind the criticism and said the Packers are still the defending champions. Raji's right, but it does take two to tango when it comes to both sides gelling for the stretch run.
Speaking of stretches, the Packers extended their winning streak to 15 straight games dating back to last year's postseason surge. They are off to just the fourth 9-0 start in franchise annals (1929, 1931, 1962, 2011) and the much-discussed offense has scored at least 24 points in every game this season. Green Bay is 4-0 at home this season and is riding a nine-game winning streak at Lambeau Field.
The last time Green Bay suffered a setback at Lambeau Field was a 23-20 overtime loss versus Miami on Oct. 17, 2010. It will hit the road for two games against the Lions and Giants after Sunday's bout with the Bucs.
It appeared Tampa Bay was set to make a big push after winning three straight and four of five games, but things have turned ugly for the Buccaneers with three straight losses for a 4-5 record.
One of the lowest scoring teams in the league, Tampa Bay is averaging 14 points per game during its current losing streak and suffered an embarrassing 37-9 home loss versus Houston on Sunday. The Bucs were down, 16-3, at halftime and couldn't find a way to stop the big play. That's not a promising sign for a defense that has to face the NFL's most potent offense in the Packers.
Center Jeff Faine agreed with his teammates sentiments and added that the team has a "huge" challenge ahead with the Packers. Focusing on the basics, playing with more discipline and cleaning up mistakes were some of the areas of concern for Faine heading into this week's matchup. Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said Faine was one of a few veterans who entered his office looking for a solution to the team's current slump, and was happy to see his leaders searching for answers instead of complaining.
Practicing with pads this week is one way Morris is trying to get that "physical brand" back into his players. How well a team practices in the week is a measuring stick for what to expect on Sunday's and the Bucs will get a few more hours of heavy hitting in to prepare for the Packers.
Morris added that he would like to make the media love him again after this week. If the Bucs can knock off the hottest team in the league on the road, there will be more than just the media falling head over heels for Morris.
Time & Venue:
- 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, November 20, 2011. Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
NFL Football Odds: Packers -14.5, O/U 48.5
- Tampa Bay at Tennessee, Sunday, November 27
- Green Bay at Detroit, Thursday, November 24
The wheels have fallen off for the Buccaneers. They've been outscored 88-43 during a three-game losing streak. Tampa Bay yielded 420 yards in a 37-9 loss to Houston and is allowing a whopping 6.39 yards per play. Aside from the defensive woes, third-year QB Josh Freeman has regressed. He threw three interceptions last week. Freeman, who’s dealing with a sprained thumb, now has nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions after throwing 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2010. Newly acquired DT Albert Haynesworth, who was cut from the Patriots last week, had four tackles and a blocked extra point vs. Houston. He was claimed off waivers after rookie DT Gerald McCoy (torn biceps) was placed on IR.
Rodgers (2,869 yards, 28 TDs, 3 INTs) continued his record-setting pace with four more touchdowns in a 45-7 win over Minnesota on Monday night. He is the first quarterback in league history to compile nine straight games with a quarterback rating of at least 110. Two of Rodgers’ touchdown passes went to Jordy Nelson, who has four scores in as many games and is tied for the team lead with seven. Rodgers has been uncharacteristically bad against Tampa Bay, however. He’s 0-2 with a 54.6 quarterback rating versus the Buccaneers – his lowest against any opponent. Green Bay entered Monday’s contest 30th in total defense, but held Adrian Peterson to 51 yards and sacked rookie Christian Ponder (191 yards) three times. LB Clay Matthews broke out of his slump with two sacks. He had managed a mere three sacks after compiling 24 in his first two seasons.
Nothing beats playing in your own backyard. The Packers have averaged a league-best 40.0 points per game at home this season and are off to their first 4-0 start at home since 2002, when they went 8-0 at Lambeau. One of only three teams with an unblemished record as the host, Green Bay has an excellent shot at continuing that trend with a shaky Bucs on the docket.
Will Morris' padded practices pay off against the Packers? Who knows, but it's a great way to get back to basics and work on consistency. Freeman said he had trouble executing against Houston's man coverage and will prepare each week the same regardless of who's next on the schedule. He may not want to overlook a Packers team that can jump out to a double-digit lead in minutes.
The odds of the Buccaneers coming out on top are stacked against them. They won their last visit to Lambeau Field in 2005, snapping a 13-game road losing streak. Tampa Bay's last win prior to that monumental victory was in 1989.
We're mad about the way we've been performing." – Packers CB Charles Woodson, on Green Bay's defensive struggles.
Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris plans to practice in pads two days this week to in an effort to correct some tackling issues (per the new CBA guidelines, teams are only allowed to do that once a season).
Rodgers, who's completing an NFL-best 72.9 percent of his passes, is just 43 of 62 for 431 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions vs. Tampa Bay.
Green Bay is 2-5-1 ATS in its last 8 games when playing Tampa Bay
Green Bay is 13-1 SU in its last 14 games when playing at home against Tampa Bay
The total has gone UNDER in 13 of Green Bay's last 19 games when playing Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is 2-3-1 ATS in its last 6 games when playing on the road against Green Bay
Tampa Bay is 9-4 SU in its last 13 games on the road
Tampa Bay is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games
The Packers are due for a clunker and prognosticators could predict that will happen Sunday with a Thanksgiving showdown against Detroit on the horizon. However, Mike McCarthy has prepared his team well for any circumstance and will match the 1962 squad's 10-0 start with a convincing win over a Buccaneers team in shambles.Predicting another strong performance from Rodgers is too easy and it's time for someone else to step up in his place. Jonathan Starks has yet to have a breakout game since last year's playoff run and getting him started early will be key to Green Bay's success. The Bucs will hang around for some time until one of the Packers' defenders puts a stop to it.
NFL Football Pick: Take points and Buccaneers.
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