3:05 p.m. ET – No.5 Tampa Bay at No.1 Green Bay (-3.5) O/U: 51.5
The NFC Championship game features a rematch of a Week 6 matchup n Tampa Bay where the Buccaneers routed the Packers 38-10. The Packers jumped out to a 10-0 lead in that one before the Bucs pass rush began wreaking havoc on Green Bay quarterback and likely NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers for the remainder of the contest.
Green Bay opened its postseason with a 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams last Saturday in Lambeau. Even though the Green Bay lead was cut to seven points late in the third quarter, the outcome never really felt in doubt. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, exacted revenge for two early-season losses against the NFC’s No. 2 seed New Orleans with a road upset of the Saints 30-20 last Sunday.
The Bucs defense was able to force four turnovers en route to the victory. Weather could play a role in Sunday’s game, with snow showers and bitter cold in the forecast for around kickoff at Lambeau Field.
Breaking Down the Buccaneers
The Bucs pass rush was disruptive in the last meeting between these two teams, forcing two interceptions and sacking Rodgers four times. Tampa Bay also was able to collect 13 quarterback hits, six pass deflections, six tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
This time around, left tackle David Bakhtiari will be on the sidelines for the Packers, which should make it even easier for Tampa Bay to apply pressure to the quarterback. Tampa Bay was able to rush 158 yards the last time these two teams met and controlled game tempo.
The Bucs rushing attack looked as good as it has all season last week against an elite Saints defense, with Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette combining for 135 yards on 30 carries. But statistics are not the only reason to like the Buccaneers in this game. There is another reason. Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady is under center for Tampa Bay and that always has to make one feel good about his chances – maybe not of winning the game, but definitely of hitting on the prop bet of Brady throwing for 285.5 yards or more.
Breaking Down the Packers
The Packers played a bad game back in Week 6. It happens. Rodgers is playing quarterback for them and they are hosting the 43-year-old Tom Brady into the “Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau with a chance to advance to the Super Bowl. The Buccaneers defense has allowed both offenses they played in the playoffs to move the football fairly easy. They have helped the Bucs survive ad advance because they have used forced turnovers to turn games in their favor.
The good news for the Packers is that Rodgers and the Packers usually take great care of the football. They also are more likely to not allow any adverse weather conditions to affect them in a negative way, while the same can’t be said of the warm-weather Bucs, Brady notwithstanding after all his years in New England.
The strength of the Green Bay defense lies within its ability to stop the rush, which they should be able to do with relative ease as the Bucs rank 28th in rushing yards per game this season. Meanwhile, the top player prop bet to consider is Green Bay running back Aaron Jones’ combined rushing and receiving Over total of 87.5 yards. He should easily surpass this, especially if the weather conditions force the Packers to rely on the running game and short passing game more than usual.
The Case for the Over
The Packers boast the top scoring offense in the NFL, while the Buccaneers rank third. The Bucs have allowed teams to move the football against them so far this postseason. If the Bucs can’t force multiple turnovers, the Packers should be able to finish most drives off with points. As the Bucs displayed last week, their offense can be two-dimensional when they need to be. With Brady running the offense, the Bucs are a points-producing machine in their own right. Expect the Packers to get ahead early and force Brady to throw the ball more than even he would like to. The end result is that there will be plenty of points scored between the two teams to surpass the Over of 51.5 combined points.
Aaron Rodgers is the best, or least hottest, quarterback in the NFL right now and Tampa Bay will be unable to catch lightning in a bottle against him twice. The Packers offense has become a freight train that mows down whatever comes in front of it. The Bucs will attempt to apply pressure on Rodgers again, but this time it will backfire on them and will instead open up explosive plays for Rodgers and the Packers offense. This time, Brady will fall short of producing enough of his own postseason magic and Rodgers will get that elusive second NFC Championship and head to Super Bowl LV. Lay the points and take the Packers on their home turf in what could be some real old-school playoff football weather.