The Packers take on the Bucs at Raymond James stadium this Sunday and the stakes could not be higher. Green Bay is a game behind the Lions with an epic match-up coming the following week against that same team. Packers fans will also be watching the Arizona Cardinals who need to drop a game but if they drop it to Seattle, the Packers would lose the tie breaker because of the head to head loss to Seattle. Best case scenario would be for the Cards to beat the Seahawks and then lose to the 49’ers, a scenario that seems highly unlikely. But a chance to avenge an ugly early season loss at Seattle seems likely but the Packers could still get a round one bye out of the deal.
The captains have been chosen, and while the poor showing against the Bills is in the rear-view mirror, that loss had a big impact on the Packers’ post season scenario as they are no longer in the driver’s seat. The Bucs, on the other hand, seem like the perfect tonic for a Packers team that was over-penalized, undisciplined, and mistake prone last Sunday. But we can’t fall asleep on this one. Here is what I will be watching for:
1. Take what the defense gives you
Lovie Smith runs a Tampa two…if he leaves two safeties high…run the ball! Eddie Lacy looked like he could have single handedly won last Sunday’s game but he was not given the chance. If the Bucs stack the box, the Packers need to take advantage of their 24 ranked pass defense and throw the ball. I know this sounds rudimentary but there are some who are calling for the Packers to “take what they want” and that is not how successful football is played. This is a match-up game and any game against Lovie Smith will be a chess match as much as a full-on brawl.
The Packers defense has continued to improve this season and in point of fact had a great game against the Bills last Sunday. Kyle Orton and the Bills offense has been treated like the red-headed stepchild of the NFL but they are not. They are efficient and Sammy Watkins is one of the several great wideouts to come out of this year’s draft. The Bucs are not in the same league. This is a chance for the Packers defense to have a statement game going into the Detroit game and take with it the confidence that brings. Detroit’s offense has been barely beating teams and if the Packers can manhandle the Bucs, they will be happy to come back home to Lambeau and do the same to the Lions.
3. Offense…get back in sync
It was crazy to watch the Bills game and see Aaron Rodgers out of sync with his receivers. So many dropped passes and so many miscues on the back-shoulder pass. The Packers beat themselves last Sunday and still had an opportunity to win the game at the very end. Playing the Buccaneers at Raymond James stadium gives the Pack the perfect opportunity to get back together away from Lambeau Field. This team, if it has to travel during the playoffs, cannot afford ONE dropped pass, much less the multiple drops and miscues of this past week. Look for Aaron Rodgers to get back in the saddle and make a statement in this game.
All in all, the Packers have every opportunity to secure a playoff spot and make a statement in this game. We need a dominant though unemotional performance in this game to set us up for the season finale versus Detroit. It feels like the playoffs are already here and the Packers are right in the mix!