Do Your Job.

Is it worth looking at how the Packers and Buccaneers got here?  Typically, I’d spend some time reviewing, however, let’s do just a quick review.

Review~ Green Bay was the far superior team (v LA), it showed, and there was never a reason to be nervous.  Even when the Rams cut it to 7, the stats and flow of the game was all on Green Bay’s side.  As for Tampa Bay, they benefitted from a weak arm from Drew Brees, and forced 4 turnovers, converting the first 3 for touchdowns, and the fourth and final one to run out the clock with a 10-point lead.

So here we are.


#5 (13-5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #1 (14-3) Green Bay Packers

It’s not difficult to scare Packer nation as we’re used to our team choking in January.  No team has lost on the last play of the game in the NFL postseason than the Green Bay Packers.  Some may say, “Well, that’s because we’re always in the postseason!  So of course, you’re going to have heartbreak!”  While true, how much easier was it to stomach the beating from the 49ers last year vs. the giveaway to Seattle in the 2014 (Jan. ’15) title game?  The main component, and those that talk with me about the NFL know I put essentially everything on the QB and Rodgers had played awfully in his previous 4 NFC title game bouts.  To paint a more accurate picture, I’ve taken out the garbage time stats he accrued in the blowout losses to Atlanta (2016) and San Francisco (2019).  

Rodgers in NFC Championship Games

A 78.0 rating is terrible, even for average QBs.  Now let’s take a look after removing the 2016 and 2019 garbage time stats.  Keep in mind, in 2016 @ Atlanta, it was 24-0 at halftime, Green Bay got the ball after half, went 3-and-out, and got it back down 31-0 before Rodgers started putting some stats up.

As for last year, it was 27-0 at half, so he began after halftime.

True Stats: Rodgers in NFC Championship Games

That’s how you go 1-3 in NFC Championship games; a 59.2 rating.  However, while he may not be able to completely erase his ineptitude in the previous 4 games, there’s a serious opportunity to rewrite his legacy, and it can take a fairly big step in the proper direction, come Sunday.  Outduel Tom and you win.  Obviously, I’ll “settle” for winning even if he plays awfully, but the likelihood of playing well results in a W is quite high.  Play well, and you move on to play in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV. 

Speaking of Tom Brady, it’s truly remarkable a 43-year-old QB has led his team into a Conference Championship, and even though I didn’t think they’d get here (I picked Tampa Bay to go 9-7, get the 7th seed and lose in the divisional round, not too shabby) is anyone really surprised?  Obviously, everyone’s eyes will be glued to see the matchup of each QB vs the opposing defense, which is how it should be.  The Bucs seems to have the more-balanced, consistent, team, but the difference is minuscule.  Tampa’s D surrendered 30 or more points 3x this season, whereas Green Bay’s wasn’t far behind with 4 occasions. 

There are a couple of wrinkles that are throwing me for a loop, and I’m chucking it up to each of these teams are far different from their early season forms…for instance, in week 5, Tampa lost to Chicago…the Bears, remember were 5-1 at one point this season, ended 8-8, and really were never a good team – which was easy to see for many fans.  The Bucs’ dismantling of the Packers is well-known; again, I chalk that up to Rodgers seemingly giving up after his 2nd consecutive drive resulting in essentially a 2nd pick-6.  I’m willing to bet the farm he doesn’t throw back-to-back INTs on consecutive drives again, in his career, let alone this NFC title game.  Speaking of NFC Championship game performances, how do these guys fare in such games?

Brady in AFC Championship Games

 The fact this graph is this long is far past impressive.  However, as you can see, he’s very up-and-down, and has thrown his share of interceptions.  Also, I’d argue this Packers team is far superior to all of the opponents Brady faced in each of his previous FOURTEEN conference title games, except maybe outside of the 2013 Broncos…but even then, that team got destroyed by Seattle in the Super Bowl.  What I pull from this chart is Tom isn’t unbeatable in these games, yet the man has found a way to win 69% of them, more than impressive.

What does this all mean as for today?  Probably nothing.  However, I do think it’s important to understand the value and impact a QB’s play influences the team’s outcome.

Two more points before the Matchup (if you haven’t blown over this already). 

  1. The week 6 beating is hard to overlook (and shouldn’t be), whether it was Rodgers not caring, Josh Jackson starting and has essentially been a “healthy scratch”, or it was Kenny Clark’s 1st game back from a groin, which hampered him until last week (and it showed)—this Packers team is different.  In essence, if King plays, instead of Josh Jackson at CB2, or even recently signed Tramon Williams… and instead of 10% Clark, we’ll have 90+% Clark.  Lastly, Ty Summers started at ILB that game and since the group of Barnes, Kirksey, and Martin have been close to “Very Good.”
  2. Since 2011, the Packers have only won the rematch in the postseason from a team that defeated them in the regular season, twice.  Once in 2012 when they beat Joe Webb and the Vikings in the Wild Card from having lost in week 17 to Christian Ponder, in what was a meaningless game for Green Bay.  The other came in 2016 after Green Bay got pounded by Dallas, in Lambeau and we all remember Rodgers going down to Arlington and put on a show (that throw to Cook) and upset the #1 seeded Cowboys.  It’s been ugly otherwise.   

Matchup~ the chart has incorporated each teams’ postseason game(s) and where they ultimately would’ve ranked had those been their final regular season statistics:

Champ.TB D v GB O   TB O v GB D   
TB245.8 (21st)82.2 (1st)327.9 (6th)22.1 (T-7th)287.8 (4th)99.3 (25th)387.1 (6th)30.8 (3rd)
GB258.9 (9th)135.7 (8th)394.6 (4th)31.8 (1st)216.9 (5th)111.8 (12th)328.7 (7th)22.8 (12th)

Typically, the points are the rankings of where to keep an eye on, however, here it’s too close to pass up…the TB D vs GB O, in yardage (6th vs 4th, respectively) is awfully tight, and even more constricted the TB O vs GB D (6th vs 7th, respectively) is as tight as can be.  Since both the Bucs’ and Packers’ special teams’ units suck, the eye will be on each offense’s ability to move the ball down the field and thus bringing us to Red Zone execution.  The Bucs are very good, meanwhile the Packers are exceptional (best in the NFL).  As always, turnovers will be the difference-maker.

Prediction~ think I covered everything?  Prob not.

Buccaneers 21
Packers 30

Season: 14-3
Overall: 69-35

It Is Time. ~ Kevin Greene

The Green Bay Packers have enjoyed their well-earned bye in the 2020 NFL playoffs (yes 2020 as that’s how the NFL tracks their entire season of when they kick-off, I like it).  It’s been well-documented now, but Green Bay signed T Jared Veldheer from Indianapolis’ Practice Squad (he started at LT @ Buffalo in the Wild Card Round).  He has since tested positive for, well yeah, I’ll leave it there.

When working to figure out how the Packers will fare in each match-up, if you’ve been reading along, you’ll see I track their rankings in the major categories (Offensive and Defensive ranks among yardage and points).  With an entire season under our belts, teams’ rankings give more light to that and I think is a very good gauge as to a team’s quality (likeliness to win and move on). 

Of the main stats to track, especially the deeper in a season you are, is total point differential.  While it could be a bit misleading, you’ll notice a trend in the top 10:

  1. Ravens +165
  2. Saints +145
  3. Packers +140
  4. Buccaneers +137
  5. Bills +126
  6. Chiefs +111
  7. Steelers +104
  8. Colts +89
  9. Seahawks +88
  10. Rams +76

While each of these team made the postseason, you can see the rankings of these teams seem rather accurate on a strength basis, aside from Kansas City, whom sat their starters in week 17 and lost by 17 points.  It’s safe to assume they would’ve won, had they tried, thus giving them at least a 20-point swing (putting them about +131).  Which puts them right at or near Tampa Bay, with whom they clashed and won by a close margin after a record-setting 1st half performance.  My point, is while this is nothing to live by, it’s a great barometer of each team’s power potential. 

I’ve taken this a step further and averaged in their Offensive and Defensive rankings to give a true Power Ranking of sorts. Without getting into the details (I’m happy to share if you ask), it determines the most balanced team.  For example, the Packers finished the season with a 6.00 power ranking; i.e., they had the 1st ranked offense, 13th ranked defense, finished 7th in turnover differential, and 3rd in net points.  Add those together and it averages to a 6th ranking…of course many teams will have similar numbers as they’re averages, but in the graph below, you get an idea of true strength/balance of each team.  Pretty nerdy stuff, but some may like it.

2020 NFL Playoff Teams
TeamO rankD rankTO rankPt Diff RankTotal Power Rank
Football Team254231416.5

To give this further context, you can see the top 4 teams all remain, with the lowest remaining of Cleveland and LA Rams (also low seeds, 6s).  How have the last 10 Super Bowl champions ranked in this manner?  Glad you asked:

Super Bowl Champs Last 10 Years
YearChampO rankD rankTO rankPt Diff rankTotal Power Rank

They averaged 6.6 ranking, which gives you an idea of teams that truly “Got in and got hot.”  I’ve always claimed that 2010 Packers team was far better than revered.  Had Rodgers not been concussed, they go 12-4 with the likely 2 seed and nothing is considered an upset.  However, looking at those BAD teams that won (2011 Giants, 2015 Broncos, and 2012 Ravens), those are the outliers.  Meaning 30% of the past winners wouldn’t be considered Legit Contenders.  What does this all mean for Saturday?

 LA D v GB O   LA O v GB D   
LAR190.7 (1st)91.3 (3rd)281.9 (1st)18.5 (1st)250.9 (13th)126.1 (10th)377.0 (11th)23.3 (23rd)
GB256.6 (9th)132.4 (8th)389.0 (5th)31.8 (1st)221.2 (7th)112.9 (13th)334.0 (9th)23.1 (13th)

Everyone will highlight the Packers’ 1st scoring offense vs. the Rams’ 1st (in pass, total yards, and points) defense.  However, the key may be the other match-up.  Yes, everyone should be well aware of ALL WORLD DL #99 Aaron Donald and superstar CB #20 Jalen Ramsey, and the key offensive component LA features is WR #10 Cooper Kupp.  He’s a modern-day Wes Welker or poor man’s Julian Edelman.  Very effective and crucial on 3rd downs for the Rams offense.  What (it seems like) EVERYONE is forgetting, is that Jaire Alexander is arguably every bit as good as Ramsey.  While not as tall, just as effective.  Also, to note, the previous matchup from these two teams, could be considered Jaire’s coming out party.  Alexander had 5 passes defensed, and made his mark as a rising star.  Actually, the Packers (at the time, a far inferior team) controlled that game essentially throughout.  The Packers put such pressure on LA, that they were down 10-0 and faked a punt just to get momentum.  The momentum swung, twice, once when GB had the ball, up 10-0, on their own 1 and on the first play, Aaron Jones was tackled in the backfield for a safety.  Then the final dagger, was after GB had driven down for a go-ahead TD (27-26), LA rebutted with a FG drive of their own (up 29-27) with 1:56 left in the game, KR Ty Montgomery fumbled and the offense never saw the ball again.  What’s changed since then (aside from the Rams updating their logo and jerseys) is LA getting Jalen Ramsey on defense, and the Packers completely flipping the roster (for the better, obviously) and becoming far more balanced. 

Now this game is at Lambeau, and while the forecast isn’t too lethal (high of 36°and a low of 25°), the Packers will deem this to be “warm,” whereas the Rams will think this is “cold,” or at least “not that bad.”  Is there much stock to put into it?  Probably not, but the Packers are (finally) built for this weather.  They feature as good a backfield as anyone in the NFL, and all 3 backs offer different attributes.  Aaron Jones is dynamic, Jamaal Williams is steady (pass blocking too, which can throw teams for a loop when in), and A.J. Dillon is a bruiser.  All capable of being a feature back in any given game.  LaFleur has been masterful in utilizing them to produce maximum results—couple that with a QB who’s fully bought in and in sync—it seems that Packer nation should have little to worry about. 

Bravo if you’re still here with me.  When discussing with a good friend this week, he mentioned “I like our chances too, beat this team 9 times out of 10…but football.” Yes, the wording is intentionally choppy, and it’s important because the message is delivered.  If you’re still scared/worried, keep in mind this Rams team lost to the Jets just (what will be) 27 days earlier, at home, in a must-win, when the Jets were benefitting from losing…Devil’s Advocate: The Jets beat the LA Rams.  Aka, the far inferior team can win, sometimes.

Rams 17
Packers 24

Season: 13-3
Overall: 68-35

*Yes, I believe I’ve picked the Packers every game so far, it’s technically worked. *

Secure the 1.

A confidence-builder, and possibly a crow serving to the entire Packer nation (yours truly included). 

Review~ the Packers’ offense did what many expected them to do, but the defense pleasantly surprised many.  While the game was essentially meaningless (entering both weeks 16 and 17, Green Bay still needs to beat Chicago to secure the 1 seed- or needing Seattle to lose). 

Defensive Coordinator, Mike Pettine, has been outspoken about his focus on getting to the passer even if it’s to disregard stopping the run.  This past week showed he’s willing/capable of committing to stopping the run, and the Packers showed how effective it can be when you take away your opponents’ strength.  Keep in mind, Tennessee entered the game with the highest scoring offense in the league (tied with KC).  They’re a balanced offense with a solid TE (Smith), 2 solid WRs (Davis and Brown), the NFL’s best HB (Henry), and a very solid QB (Tannehill).  14 points.  If the Packers hold their opponents to 14 points, I’ll guarantee a victory every time.

From my statement above, Crow-Server.  There were a select-few who thought the A.J. Dillon pick was awesome.  Goes without saying, he proved why.  However, I admit that Rashan Gary has seemed to arrive, and I whiffed there.  While I wasn’t sure if he was going to be downright awful, I’ve always graded him vs. Christian Wilkins (DT from Clemson, drafted by Miami 1 pick after Gary).  It seems that Gary is now a legit pass-rusher, getting constant push, which disrupts the passing game in the best way.  He had, possibly, his best game as a pro vs. Tennessee.  While the Titans’ OL isn’t meant for pass-blocking, Gary did what he was supposed to do and got after the QB, and created havoc in the backfield to not allow Henry to keep in rhythm. 

All in all, a great confidence-booster, but other than that, a meaningless game as week 17 is still a must-win.

Preview~ Bear week!  Chicago enters the game with their season on the line.  If they win, they’re in (7th seed).  If they lose, they’ll need Arizona to lose to Los Angeles.  Expect Chicago, and Nagy, to pull out all the stops.  When it comes to that, Nagy usually gets way too cute and completely bites him in the ass.  Also, while Mitch has played well since “earning” his starting job back (3-2, with a 99.3 passer rating), the one game where he wasn’t so great was vs. Green Bay.  This is typical, as for some reason (not a surprise to me or many of you), if you keep a QB like Mitch in the pocket and force him to throw, consistently over the course of a game the odds are vastly in your favor.  He’s not consistently accurate and will not always make the obvious-right decision which leads to awful turnovers or a lack of 3rd down conversions.  Where Mitch is effective is when he’s running/scrambling AND has a clean pocket – however, he needs wide-open targets to do damage and the Packers have been far better with coverage than in years passed…

 GB O v Chi D   GB D v Chi O   

By now you’ve heard the earth-shattering news about all-world LT David Bakhtiari suffering a season-ending knee injury.  While this is an epic blow, the Packers have gone 3 games without #69 this year and fared OK.  They were weeks 7-9 (@ SF, v Min, @ Hou), and while the competition is none in the playoffs, the Packers won 2 of those games, and would’ve won all 3 if not for Dalvin Cook going bonkers.  In those games, the Packers gave up sacks: 1 for no loss; the other for a loss of 11 (which might’ve been on Rodgers).  The Packers also were without C Corey Linsley for 3 games and fared very well.  With the return of Linsley last week, really boosting the OL, it mitigates the blow of the loss of Bakhtiari.  There are options of what Green Bay can do, but Pro Bowl Guard (2nd year man) #74 Elgton Jenkins, is so versatile and special that he can fill-in quite nicely at LT if that’s what’s asked of him.  Packers OL coach, Adam Stenavich, has done a remarkable job since joining the staff.  Everyone should have the utmost confidence in him that he’ll get the Packers’ strength (yes, the OL) in top form.

The other news was Green Bay adding Snacks (Damon Harrison #98).  He’s a huge body that can only add depth in the DL rotation.  Listed at 6’3” 339lbs, and with quite a bit of experience playing at a high-level, his production will be called upon and likely have a positive effect come January.  Running the ball is essential to win in cold weather, and stopping the run (see week 16 vs. Derrick Henry) is the best way for the defense to dominate. 

The major difference between this match-up and last is the Bears will have their stud DL, Akiem Hicks #96, back.  He’s a major force in the middle and dictates what the offense is able to do.  He’s such a disruptive force that just pounding away up the middle may not be the best method. 

Sticking with the Bears’ defense, they’ll be without 2 of their top-3 cornerbacks.  Buster Skrine and solid standout rookie, Jaylon Johnson are set to miss week 17, thus opening up MVS for some major action…  I doubt the Packers will be able to hang 41 again, mainly due to Hicks playing and Bakhtiari missing, but the Packers offense should be able to move the ball and control the game.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but win the turnover battle and win the game.  It’s that simple. 

Expect to get the Bears’ best shot.

Packers 27
Bears 21

Season: 12-3
Overall: 67-35