The appetizer on Championship Sunday will feature the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. The Packers are listed as 3-point favorites at home, with the over/under set at 51.5 points. Kickoff is set for 3:05 PM EST.
The Packers were impressive in their first playoff game last week. Green Bay’s offense scored 32 points against the best defense in football, knocking off the Rams 32-18. Aaron Rodgers and company find themselves back in the NFC Championship Game for the second straight season. Alas, the Packers have lost their last three trips to the NFC Championship Game.
Meanwhile, the Bucs won their second straight road playoff game last week, overcoming a 20-13 deficit in the third quarter to win 30-20. Going back to the regular season, Tampa Bay has won six in a row. The Bucs are now one win away from their second Super Bowl in franchise history and being the first team to play a Super Bowl on their home field.
Not Just Brady
The narrative of Tom Brady taking a second team to the Super Bowl is a strong one. But Tampa’s chances don’t hinge entirely on the aging quarterback. With Ronald Jones returning from injury last week, he and Leonard Fournette created a formidable backfield duo. Fournette, in particular, has come on strong late in the season, showing signs of being the back who helped lead Jacksonville to the AFC Championship Game a few years ago.
Establishing the run early could be Tampa’s ticket to Super Bowl LV. While the Green Bay defense can be lethal when defending a lead with pass rushers like Za’Darius Smith, the Packers have been vulnerable against the run this season. That was the case last week until they forced the Rams to become one-dimensional offensively. If the Buccaneers can run effectively and take away the Green Bay pass rush, Brady will be in a position to do serious damage with the receivers at his disposal.
On the other side of the ball, not even the Rams had an answer for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense. The highest-scoring offense in the NFL is also the most balanced. The Packers utilized three running backs last week who combined for 185 rushing yards on 32 carries. They also have Davante Adams, who has been close to unstoppable at times this season.
The Bucs will undoubtedly have their work cut out for them defensively in this game. Tampa’s been up and down on that side of the ball this season, although the Bucs will feel better after forcing four turnovers last week. The return of linebacker Devin White has also changed the entire look of the Tampa defense. They also seemed to have Green Bay’s number when they limited them to 10 points and 201 total yards in mid-October.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, that 38-10 win over Green Bay earlier in the season isn’t a good indicator of the Packers. Rodgers isn’t likely to play that poorly and throw two interceptions again. Offensively, Green Bay is at another level right now, and even Brady and Tampa’s exceptional group of playmakers won’t be able to keep up all game. Especially with wide receiver Antonio Brown being ruled out. Bet on the Packers to win and cover in the NFC Championship Game.