The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play in the NFC Championship game on Sunday, and it almost doesn’t seem real. It’s been 18 years since Tampa has played in a title game, spawning the famous Ronde Barber pick six in Philadelphia.
On Sunday, the Buccaneers will face the Green Bay Packers, a team they destroyed 38-10 early in the season. But that means absolutely nothing now. Both teams have improved drastically since then, and a trip to Lambeau field will make the task even more difficult.
If the Buccaneers want to play in their second Super Bowl in franchise history, they will need to exploit vulnerable matchups, and keep doing what works. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here, lets get into it.
Establish the Run
As someone who is a stat nerd, I can’t believe I just typed that heading. I usually like when teams throw the football early to set up second and third and short, but Green Bay is susceptible on the ground. Last week against the Rams, Cam Akers rattled off five yards a clip for 90 total yards on the day.
During the regular season, Green Bay ranked 18th in rushing defense DVOA. Their 15th rank in passing defense DVOA isn’t inspiring either, but their 4.5 yards per carry given up on the ground rank in the bottom of the NFL.
Long story short, I want to see a full dose of Ronald Jones.
Leonard Fournette has played well over the past two weeks, but Jones’ explosiveness and burst are a clear upgrade over Fournette on even the live broadcast.
Now to be clear, I’m not advocating for more first down runs, I don’t think I can handle any more without pulling my hair out. But keeping Rodgers on the sideline while pounding the rock will only weaken the defense for the fourth quarter, and take the pressure off Tom Brady.
I have a feeling this will be the game plan anyways, and I can’t argue against it this week. But this game will be dictated by the Buccaneers defense. Here is how they can repeat their performance from week six.
Rattle Rodgers Early
Aaron Rodgers was a very different quarterback against the Buccaneers. He was hit in the mouth early, and never really recovered.
Matt LeFleur had no answer for Todd Bowles’ blitzing scheme, and he left his offensive line on an island all afternoon.
The Packers will likely have a better answer this weekend, but much of their ideology is using play action. Going down early eliminates much of that threat.
Devin White will need to play to the caliber of last week’s superstar performance against the New Orleans Saints. Stopping the run will be manageable, but tracking Rodgers in the pocket will be a completely different task.
The Packers are the number one offense in the league, but the Buccaneers are humming on defense after rattling the Saints. If Todd Bowles can call a game like he did in week six, Tampa Bay will win this game, and ride home to the Super Bowl.